U.S. Rep. Tlaib rejects West Bank visit, citing Israel's 'oppressive
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[August 17, 2019]
By Susan Heavey and Rami Ayyub
WASHINGTON/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - U.S.
congresswoman Rashida Tlaib on Friday rejected an offer by Israel to let
her travel to the West Bank, the latest twist in a dispute drawing
Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu together against U.S. Democrats
ahead of elections in both countries.
Tlaib, a Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives who has been
critical of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians, said she would not
visit her family there because the Israeli government had imposed
"oppressive conditions" to humiliate her.
She had planned to make an official visit to Israel along with fellow
Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, under public pressure from Republican
President Trump, on Thursday said he would not allow the pair to make
their trip. On Friday, Israel said it would allow Tlaib to visit family
in the Israel-occupied West Bank on humanitarian grounds.
The Michigan congresswoman rejected the offer, however.
"I can't allow the State of Israel to take away that light by
humiliating me & use my love for my sity to bow down to their oppressive
& racist policies," Tlaib tweeted, using the word sity to refer to her
"Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for
me. It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my
grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything
I believe in--fighting against racism, oppression & injustice," she
Israel's Interior Ministry said it had received a letter from Tlaib on
Thursday seeking permission to visit her family in the West Bank village
of Beit Ur Al-Fauqa, and it granted her request.
Tlaib did not outline what the conditions imposed on her visit were.
Israeli media reported that she had agreed not to promote boycotts
against Israel as part of her request to Israel's Foreign Ministry.
Trump criticized Tlaib for opting not to travel to Israel after she was
permitted to visit only her grandmother.
"As soon as she was granted permission, she grandstanded & loudly
proclaimed she would not visit Israel," Trump wrote on Twitter on Friday
evening. "Could this possibly have been a setup? Israel acted
Tlaib and Omar have voiced support for the pro-Palestinian Boycott,
Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement which opposes the Israeli
occupation and policies toward Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
BDS backers can be denied entry to Israel by law.
Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who approved Tlaib’s visit
request, blasted her decision not to come.
"It turns out that it was a provocation to embarrass Israel. Her hatred
for Israel overcomes her love for her grandmother," he wrote on Twitter.
The initial ban sparked an outcry among Democrats in the U.S. Congress,
who have largely been strong supporters of Israel, raising concerns
about straining the two nations' relationship as Netanyahu aligns
himself ever more closely with Trump.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer
have strongly backed U.S. aid to Israel, which totals $3.8 billion
annually, but both called on Israel to reverse the ban on their fellow
Democrats on Thursday.
U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer, the second-most powerful Democrat in
the House, said Israel's demands for Tlaib to visit her grandmother were
[to top of second column]
U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (R) stands with supporter Bridget
Huff during a ‘Shabbat in the Park’ in Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
August 16, 2019. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook
"Not only was this request disrespectful of Rep. Tlaib but of the
United States Congress as well," Hoyer said in a statement on
Friday. "This matter is a self-inflicted wound by one of America’s
closest allies, one of our closest friends, and a vibrant
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful Jewish
lobbying group, said while it did not support the two
congresswomen's views, they should be allowed to visit.
Most Republicans in Congress have largely remained silent about the
dispute. The fact that lawmakers are on a month-long recess has
allowed them to avoid pointed questions.
Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio was critical of Israel's move
but also of the two congresswomen.
"... Denying them entry into #Israel is a mistake," Rubio wrote on
Twitter. "Being blocked is what they really hoped for all along in
order to bolster their attacks against the Jewish state."
Tlaib and Omar are the first two Muslim women to be elected to
Congress, and the Detroit-born Tlaib is also the first
Palestinian-American congresswoman. Both are members of their
party's progressive wing and sharp critics of Trump and Israeli
Their official visit was to have included visits to the occupied
West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the
1967 Middle East war and which Palestinians envisage as part of an
independent state along with Gaza.
The moves by Trump and Netanyahu could help them whip up support in
their conservative voter bases as each heads into election
campaigns. Israel holds a national election on Sept. 17 and Trump
faces re-election in November 2020.
Trump has been attacking Tlaib and Omar, along with lawmakers
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of
Massachusetts - all women of color known as the Squad - for weeks,
accusing them of hostility to Israel in a barrage condemned by
critics as racist.
While most Democrats disagree with the views of Tlaib and Omar on
Israel, Trump's repeated attacks have rallied support. The president
in turn has tried to paint that support as an endorsement of the two
lawmakers' position and sought to make them the face of the party.
Tlaib and Omar represent districts in states Trump is aiming to win
in his 2020 re-election campaign: Michigan, which he narrowly won in
2016, and Minnesota, which he narrowly lost.
Tlaib "knows what she's doing and she believes so strongly in
justice in Palestine that she's giving up her chance to see her
grandmother," says Frank Smith, 65, a retired auto worker in
Detroit. “She must be doing something right because she’s driving
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub, additional reporting by David Morgan in
Washington and Steve Friess in Ann Arbor; Writing by Ginger Gibson;
Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Cynthia Osterman)
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