Following a tweet from President Donald Trump, the Israeli government has officially barred two members of the United States Congress from entering the country.
The New York Times reports that Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich)—the first two Muslim women elected to the House of Representatives—planned to visit the “West Bank cities of Hebron, Ramallah and Bethlehem, as well as Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.” The Palestinian lawmaker who invited them, Hanan Ashrawi, is quoted in The Times saying that the purpose of the visit was “to engage with the Palestinian people directly and to see things on the ground.”
Both Tlaib and Omar have been vocal in their support for an economic and cultural boycott of Israel, a view recently condemned by a House resolution against the Boycott, Divest & Sanctions Movement (BDS). According to the movement’s website, BDS is inspired by the international fight to end apartheid in South Africa:
Israel is occupying and colonizing Palestinian land, discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel and denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law.
According to The Times, Trump stepped up his opposition to BDS while Israel’s embattled prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and other officials were deciding if they would allow the two women to enter the country. The Israeli government eventually denied them entry, citing their “boycott activities against Israel.” On Thursday (August 15), right before 10 a.m. ET, the president tweeted.
It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 15, 2019
About an hour later the BDS movement tweeted:
The Palestinian-led BDS movement condemns the far-right Israeli government’s McCarthyite decision to prevent Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar from visiting the Occupied Palestinian Territory over their support for Palestinian freedom. We call for cutting US military aid to Israel. pic.twitter.com/gJNQeitaGk— BDS movement (@BDSmovement) August 15, 2019
In a statement emailed to news outlets including Colorlines, Jewish Voice for Peace, a U.S.-based grassroots human rights organization, condemned the decision to lock Tlaib and Omar out of Israel:
This morning’s announcement that Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar will be blocked from entry by Israel is consistent with their increasingly authoritarian policies toward Palestinians and all those who support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). But for sitting Congresswomen to be prevented from entry is a new low that only serves to illustrate Israel’s racist and exclusionary practices. For Representative Tlaib, this means she will not be able to visit her family in the West Bank, a situation all too familiar for Palestinians due to decades of exclusionary practices by Israel. This is thus a personal tragedy for Representative Tlaib in addition to being an illustration of the Islamophobia and racism at the root of Israel’s policies.
Amnesty International reported in May that between March 30, 2018, and March 22, 2019, “at least 195 Palestinians were killed, including 41 children, and were 28,939 injured by Israeli forces” during weekly demonstrations aimed at securing Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes occupied by Israel.
*Piece has been updated after publication to include the BDS response that preceded the JVP statement.