Palestinian grandmothers trend on Twitter amid Tlaib uproar

Users share photos of their grandmothers in support of Democratic congresswoman who canceled visit to West Bank

Muftia Tlaib, the maternal grandmother of US Congresswoman Rashida, is pictured outside her home in the village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa West Bank, August 15, 2019. (Abbas Momani/AFP)
Muftia Tlaib, the maternal grandmother of US Congresswoman Rashida, is pictured outside her home in the village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa West Bank, August 15, 2019. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Twitter users of Palestinian descent were sharing photographs and stories about their grandmothers on the social media platform Saturday in support of US lawmaker Rashida Tlaib, who dropped her plan to visit her own grandmother in the West Bank, citing Israeli restrictions.

Tlaib requested and was allowed to visit her 90-year-old grandmother on humanitarian grounds after she and another Democratic congresswoman, Rep. Ilhan Omar, on Thursday were barred by Israel from visiting the West Bank and Jerusalem in their capacity as US lawmakers. But she changed her mind about the family trip hours after it was approved on Friday and, taking to Twitter, posted a photo of her grandmother.

Palestinian-American political activist Linda Sarsour followed up by sharing a photo of her grandmother in honor of Tlaib’s ancestor and attached the hashtag “#MyPalestinianSitty” to the message. “Sitty” is the Arabic word for grandmother.

“This #MyPalestinianSitty hashtag is in honor of Rashida Tlaib’s grandmother, Sitty Muftiya,” Sarsour wrote. “Her courage, clarity, and fierceness are inspirational. She reminded Palestinians how much we have to be proud of. Our grandmothers teach life.”

Tlaib retweeted the message and later posted a photograph of her other grandmother with the message “This was my other #MyPalestinianSitty who no one could mess with. She was proud of being from #BeitHanina and was one fierce woman.”

Twitter users quickly took up the trend, posting photos of their Palestinian grandmothers. Many included stories about how their grandmothers left Israel when the Jewish state was established in 1948.

Omar posted her support, writing, “MyPalestinianSitty is trending and I am overcome with emotions realizing how we are finally humanizing one of the world’s most dehumanized peoples.”

Some pro-Israeli activists also posted messages using the same hashtag while referring to their Jewish grandmothers and pointing out how Jewish communities in the Arab world were forced out of their homes in the backlash to the creation of Israel.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, justifying the unprecedented decision to ban the serving US legislators from Israel, said it was plain that Omar and Tlaib intended to use the visit to harm Israel. “Several days ago, we received [Omar and Tlaib’s] trip itinerary,” he said in a statement, “which clarified that they planned a visit whose sole purpose was to support boycotts and deny Israel’s legitimacy.”

Hebrew media reports claimed Netanyahu had been heavily pressured by US President Donald Trump to block the two congresswomen. The announcement that Israel would not allow the pair in came shortly after Trump had tweeted that the Jewish state would be showing weakness if it gave them permission to come.

Tlaib then submitted a letter requesting to be allowed in despite the ban, citing her elderly grandmother, and promising not to promote the boycott of Israel during her visit. The request was approved Friday morning by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, but the congresswoman backtracked hours later, saying she would not travel to see her grandmother in the West Bank village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa.

Trump on Friday weighed in on Israel’s decision to bar Tlaib and Omar, saying that Tlaib had “obnoxiously” turned down the chance to visit her grandmother.

“The only real winner here is Tlaib’s grandmother. She doesn’t have to see her now!” Trump wrote.

Her grandmother responded to Trump’s comments on Saturday, saying of the president “May God ruin him,” and expressing disappointment and confusion over the fact her granddaughter would not be visiting.

The Israeli ban on the two congresswoman was criticized by centrist, left-wing and Arab Israeli lawmakers, and by many prominent US Democratic leaders, notably including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who led a group of Democratic Congressmen on a visit to Israel just days ago. The ban was also criticized by the pro-Israel AIPAC lobby group, and was not backed by the umbrella Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, even after the Conference hosted a call by Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer seeking to justify the decision.

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