Tlaib balks at Is­raeli re­stric­tions

Dem law­maker cites ‘op­pres­sive’ terms, can­cels W. Bank trip

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD - By Joseph Krauss and Isaac Scharf

JERUSALEM — Demo­cratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib said Fri­day that she would not visit her grand­mother in the oc­cu­pied West Bank, de­spite be­ing granted an Is­raeli per­mit on hu­man­i­tar­ian grounds, say­ing Is­rael’s “op­pres­sive” con­di­tions aimed to hu­mil­i­ate her.

Is­rael barred Tlaib and an­other Demo­crat, Rep. Il­han Omar, from vis­it­ing Jerusalem and the West Bank over their sup­port for the in­ter­na­tional boy­cott move­ment fol­low­ing an un­prece­dented ap­peal from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to deny them en­try.

Is­rael had said Tlaib could visit rel­a­tives in the West Bank on hu­man­i­tar­ian grounds.

But then the In­te­rior Min­istry re­leased a let­ter pur­port­edly signed by Tlaib in which she promised not to ad­vo­cate boy­cotts dur­ing her visit. That ap­pears to have led to her de­ci­sion to can­cel the visit.

“Vis­it­ing my grand­mother un­der these op­pres­sive con­di­tions meant to hu­mil­i­ate me would break my grand­mother’s heart,” she said in a state­ment. “Si­lenc­ing me with treat­ment to make me feel less-than is not what she wants for me — it would kill a piece of me that al­ways stands up against racism and in­jus­tice.”

Tlaib and Omar had planned to visit Jerusalem and the Is­rae­lioc­cu­pied West Bank next week on a tour or­ga­nized by a Pales­tinian group. The two are crit­ics of Is­rael’s treat­ment of the Pales­tini­ans and sup­port the Pales­tini­an­led in­ter­na­tional move­ment boy­cotting Is­rael.

The two Mus­lim mem­bers of Congress have sparred with Trump, who tweeted be­fore the de­ci­sion that it would be a “show of weak­ness” on Is­rael’s part to let them in. Is­rael con­trols en­try and exit to the West Bank, which it seized in the 1967 Mideast war along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip — ter­ri­to­ries the Pales­tini­ans want for a fu­ture state.

Is­raeli In­te­rior Min­is­ter Aryeh Deri an­nounced early Fri­day that Tlaib had re­quested and been granted per­mis­sion to en­ter the West Bank to see rel­a­tives. The U.S.-born Tlaib’s fam­ily im­mi­grated from the West Bank.

Deri’s of­fice re­leased what it said was Tlaib’s re­quest, writ­ten on con­gres­sional sta­tionery and dated Thurs­day, in which she said she wanted to visit her grand­mother, who is in her 90s.

“This could be my last op­por­tu­nity to see her. I will re­spect any re­stric­tions and will not pro­mote boy­cotts against Is­rael dur­ing my visit,” she said.

Tlaib’s of­fice could not im­me­di­ately be reached for com­ment on the let­ter’s au­then­tic­ity.

Shortly af­ter the an­nounce­ment, Tlaib tweeted that she wouldn’t al­low Is­rael to use her love for her grand­mother to force her to “bow down to their op­pres­sive & racist poli­cies.”

“When I won (in 2018), it gave the Pales­tinian peo­ple hope that some­one will fi­nally speak the truth about the in­hu­mane con­di­tions. I can’t al­low the State of Is­rael to take away that light by hu­mil­i­at­ing me,” she wrote.

Bas­sam Tlaib, an un­cle who lives in the West Bank, ex­pressed sup­port for her de­ci­sion.

“If Rashida’s visit to her home­land is un­der con­di­tions, we re­ject that,” he said. “It’s Rashida’s right as a Pales­tinian to come and visit her fam­ily and coun­try.”

Some Pales­tini­ans had ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment with the let­ter.

Ali Abunimah, a Pales­tinian ac­tivist, tweeted that Tlaib should have used her plat­form to high­light Is­rael’s re­stric­tions “in­stead of writ­ing that hu­mil­i­at­ing let­ter ask­ing the oc­cu­pier to treat her as an ex­cep­tion in ex­change for abid­ing by its ‘re­stric­tions.’ ”

Deri said af­ter the can­cel­la­tion that her ini­tial re­quest was ap­par­ently a “provoca­tive re­quest, aimed at bash­ing the State of Is­rael.”

“Ap­par­ently her hate for Is­rael over­comes her love for her grand­mother,” he tweeted.

Trump’s re­quest to a for­eign coun­try to bar the en­try of elected U.S. of­fi­cials — and Is­rael’s de­ci­sion to do so — were both un­prece­dented and drew wide­spread crit­i­cism, in­clud­ing from many Is­raelis as well as staunch sup­port­ers of Is­rael in Congress.

Crit­ics said it risked turn­ing Is­rael into a par­ti­san is­sue and threat­ened to un­der­mine ties be­tween the close al­lies.

Tlaib and Omar are known as sup­port­ers of “boy­cott, divest­ment and sanc­tions,” or BDS, a Pales­tinian-led global move­ment. Sup­port­ers say the move­ment is a non­vi­o­lent way of protest­ing Is­rael’s mil­i­tary rule over the oc­cu­pied ter­ri­to­ries, but Is­rael says it aims to dele­git­imize the state and even­tu­ally wipe it off the map.

The con­gress­women are part of “the squad” of lib­eral new­com­ers — all women of color — whom Trump has la­beled as the face of the Demo­cratic Party as he runs for re­elec­tion. He sub­jected them to a se­ries of racist tweets last month in which he called on the women — all of them U.S. ci­ti­zens — to “go back” to their “bro­ken” coun­tries.

Is­rael an­nounced the ban Thurs­day af­ter Trump’s tweets.

Asked later if he had spo­ken to Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, Trump said, “I did talk to peo­ple over there,” with­out elab­o­rat­ing.

In a tweet, Omar dis­puted Ne­tanyahu’s claim that she and Tlaib didn’t ask to meet with Is­raeli gov­ern­ment or op­po­si­tion of­fi­cials.

She said they planned to meet with Jewish and Arab mem­bers of the Is­raeli par­lia­ment. She also said they were go­ing to get brief­ings on the ef­fects of Is­raeli set­tle­ments on Be­douins in east Jerusalem and U.S. hu­man­i­tar­ian aid cuts.

They also had planned to tour the West Bank city of He­bron with Is­raeli mil­i­tary vet­er­ans.

BREN­DAN SMIALOWSKI/GETTY-AFP

Rep. Rashida Tlaib re­jected Is­rael’s lim­its, tweet­ing that she would not “bow down to their op­pres­sive & racist poli­cies.”

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