Israel will bar a visit by two Muslim U.S. congresswomen who have expressed support of a boycott of the country over its occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were planning to visit Israel and the occupied West Bank this weekend. Tlaib is of Palestinian descent and has family living in the West Bank.
Right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held consultations on the visit on Wednesday before announcing Thursday the representatives would be barred due to “suspected provocations and promotion of BDS,” a common acronym referring to the campaign to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.
In 2017, Israel passed a law banning entry to foreigners who support boycotting the country.
On Thursday morning, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham denied reports that President Donald Trump had urged Netanyahu to ban the congresswomen from the country.
But just over an hour later, Trump said in a tweet that “It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit.”
The president also claimed that the representatives “hate Israel & all Jewish people,” a baseless smear he has repeated multiple times in the past.
Banning Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib from entering Israel and Palestine is a sign of enormous disrespect to these elected leaders, to the United States Congress, and to the principles of democracy. The Israeli government should reverse this decision and allow them in. https://t.co/mvdcmnFBKU
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) August 15, 2019
Last month, Trump baselessly accused Omar and Tlaib, as well as Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley, of being antisemitic in defense of racist comments he made about them in which he said they should all “go back to where they came from.”
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, said in a statement that the decision to ban the congresswomen was “outrageous.”
“The Israeli decision to ban Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from visiting Palestine is an outrageous act of hostility against the American people and their representatives,” he said.
“This is a dangerous precedent that defies all diplomatic norms and an assault on the Palestinian people’s right to engage with the rest of the world.”
Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren quickly condemned the decision.
“Israel doesn’t advance its case as a tolerant democracy or unwavering U.S. ally by barring elected members of Congress from visiting because of their political views,” she tweeted, calling the move “shameful” and “unprecedented.”
Prominent Arab Israeli parliament member Ayman Odeh said: “A state that has nothing to hide would not think of preventing the arrival of two members of Congress.”
Prior to the decision, an Israeli official said that if Tlaib were to make a “humanitarian request” to visit her family, the request “will be considered favorably.”