Palestinians slam ‘outrageous’ Israeli decision to ban US congresswomen

Top PLO official warns move sets ‘dangerous precedent,’ while PA prime minister says barring entry to Omar and Tlaib indicates Israel afraid to expose its ‘tyranny’ to America

PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi speaks at a press conference in Ramallah on February 24, 2015. (WAFA/File)
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi speaks at a press conference in Ramallah on February 24, 2015. (WAFA/File)

Israel’s decision to bar entry to two US congresswomen who support a boycott of the country is “an outrageous act of hostility,” a senior Palestinian official said Thursday.

“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,” PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said the decision to bar entry to Omar and Tlaib “implies fear of exposing the tyranny of the Israeli occupation to the US public.

“Racism and democracy are incompatible,” he tweeted.

Reps. Rashida Tlaib, left, and Ilhan Omar at a rally with Democrats in the Capitol, March 13, 2019. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images, via JTA)

MIFTAH, a Palestinian organization that was set to host Tlaib and Omar in the West Bank, issued a statement saying that Israel’s decision was “an affront to the American people and their representatives” and “an assault on the Palestinian people’s right to reach out to decision-makers and other actors from around the world.”

The two newly-elected Muslim members of Congress are outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and have repeatedly sparred with US President Donald Trump over a range of issues. Tlaib’s family immigrated to the United States from the West Bank, where she still has close relatives.

They had planned to visit Jerusalem and the West Bank on a tour organized by a Palestinian organization aimed at highlighting the plight of the Palestinians. It was not immediately clear if they had planned to meet with Israeli officials, and spokespeople for the two congresswomen did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a statement explaining the decision to ban them, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed they had not intended to engage with any Israelis.

Earlier on Thursday, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri announced that Israel had decided to deny entry to Omar and Tlaib over their support for boycotting the Jewish state.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh speaking at a meeting of Socialist International in Ramallah on July 30, 2019. (Credit: Wafa)

Deri’s move was quickly endorsed by Netanyahu, who alleged that Omar and Tlaib’s itinerary showed they intended to seek to strengthen the boycott against Israel.

“As a vibrant and free democracy, Israel is open to any critic and criticism, with one exception,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

“Israel’s law prohibits the entry of people who call and act to boycott Israel, as is the case with other democracies that prevent the entry of people whom they see as harming the country,” he said.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said the US government supported and respected Israel’s decision to bar the two BDS-backing lawmakers.

Israel “has every right to protect its borders” against promoters of boycotts “in the same manner as it would bar entrants with more conventional weapons,” he said in a statement after the decision was announced.

Friedman said the movement calling for boycotts against Israel “is no less than economic warfare designed to delegitimize and ultimately destroy the Jewish State.”

US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu make their way to the Oval Office for a meeting at the White House on March 5, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

The decision was announced shortly after Trump tweeted that “it would show great weakness” if Israel allowed Omar and Tlaib to visit. “They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.” He went on to call the two congresswomen “a disgrace.”

Trump’s decision to urge a foreign country to deny entry to elected US officials was a striking departure from the long-held practice of politicians from both parties to confine their disputes to the water’s edge.

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