Reps. Omar and Tlaib call on colleagues to visit Israel without them

They were denied entry over their support for a Palestinian-led boycott movement

August 19, 2019, 6:12 PM

Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar called on their congressional colleagues to visit Israel despite the country's decision to ban the two of them from visiting this week.

"The decision to ban me and my colleagues -- the first two Muslim American women elected to Congress -- is nothing less than an attempt by an ally of the United States to suppress our ability to do our jobs as elected officials," Omar, D-Minn., said Monday.

At the urging of President Donald Trump, Israel denied entry last week to the two Muslim representatives over their support for a Palestinian-led boycott movement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement last week that the congresswomen's itinerary showed "their intent is to hurt Israel" and that he backed a decision by Israel's interior minister to block their entry.

Tlaib and Omar are outspoken critics of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and support the Palestinian-led international movement boycotting Israel.

They had planned to visit Jerusalem and the West Bank over the weekend as guests of Miftah, a nonprofit Palestinian group that seeks a "sovereign, independent, democratic, tolerant and inclusive Palestinian state, which grants Palestinians their basic rights, preserves their dignity, and enjoys international recognition and respect."

Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar hold press conference on the ban preventing them from traveling to Israel, Aug. 18, 2019, in St Paul, Minn.

"Netanyahu's decision to deny us entry might be unprecedented for members of Congress. But it is the policy of his government when it comes to Palestinians," Omar said Monday. "This is the policy of his government when it comes to anyone who holds views that threaten the occupation. A policy that has been edged on and supported by Trump's administration."

She added, "We know Donald Trump would love nothing more than to use this issue to pit Muslims and Jewish Americans against each other. The Muslim community and the Jewish community are being othered and made into the boogeyman by this administration."

Tlaib, a Palestinian-American who represents Detroit, blamed Netanyanhu for obliging Trump’s request to ban them. Tlaib was later approved by the Israeli government to travel on a "humanitarian visit" to see her family, but ultimately decided not to go after speaking with her grandmother.

"She said I'm her dream manifested, I'm her free bird, so why would I come back and be caged and bow down?" Tlaib said of her grandmother, choking back tears.

Tlaib said she struggled with the decision not to go, but decided she couldn’t make the trip until she was a "free, American, United States Congresswoman."

Omar said that while she appreciates the outpouring of support from other members of Congress to cancel planned travel to Israel, she’s encouraging them to proceed as usual.

"We have a responsibility to conduct oversight over our government's foreign policy and what happens with the millions of dollars we send in aid," Omar said. "We cannot let Trump and Netanyahu succeed in hiding the cruel reality of the occupation from us. So I call on all of you to go. The occupation is real."

"Barring members of Congress from seeing it does not make it go away. We must end it together," Omar said.