Democratic congresswoman Rashida Tlaib met with supporters Friday at a Shabbat event in Detroit sponsored by a left-wing Jewish group that backs the boycott of Israel. The event took place after Tlaib said she would not visit her family in the West Bank despite being granted permission by Jerusalem.
Tlaib requested and was allowed to visit her grandmother on humanitarian grounds after she and Rep. Ilhan Omar on Thursday were barred from visiting the West Bank and Jerusalem in their capacity as US lawmakers because of their support for boycotting Israel. She changed her mind about the family trip hours after it was approved on Friday, citing its “humiliating” terms.
The Detroit News reported that around 60 people attended the event in Detroit’s Pallister Park organized by Jewish Vote for Peace, a new group that describes itself as the sister organization to Jewish Voice for Peace and as its political and advocacy arm. Jewish Voice for Peace supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
Organizers called the event “Shabbat in the Park with Rashida.” Video from the scene showed attendees reciting prayers and singing songs in Hebrew and holding signs with the slogan “Dignity from Detroit to Palestine” (Tlaib represents Michigan’s 13th congressional district, which includes parts of Detroit).
“Thank you for uplifting peace, love and justice. Thank you for not politicizing what has happened to me because I’m still a granddaughter,” a tearful Tlaib told the group. “I cannot tell you how much love I feel here.”
“More than anything, I’m a granddaughter. I’m also proud of my Palestinian roots,” she said, according to the Detroit Free Press.
US President Donald 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.
“Israel was very respectful & nice to Rep. Rashida Tlaib, allowing her permission to visit her ‘grandmother.’ As soon as she was granted permission, she grandstanded & loudly proclaimed she would not visit Israel. Could this possibly have been a setup? Israel acted appropriately!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
In a subsequent tweet he said: “Rep. Tlaib wrote a letter to Israeli officials desperately wanting to visit her grandmother. Permission was quickly granted, whereupon Tlaib obnoxiously turned the approval down, a complete setup. The only real winner here is Tlaib’s grandmother. She doesn’t have to see her now!”
Tlaib said to the Detroit Free Press: “I don’t respond to his tweets… I can’t waste my time responding to tweets.”
Her grandmother responded to the comments on Saturday, saying of the president “may God ruin him,” and expressing disappointment and confusion that the congresswoman would not be visiting.
Israel on Thursday barred Tlaib and Omar — the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress — after initially saying it would allow their visit.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, justifying the unprecedented decision to ban 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,” Netanyahu said in a statement, “which clarified that they planned a visit whose sole purpose was to support boycotts and deny Israel’s legitimacy. For example, they called their destination ‘Palestine’ and not ‘Israel,’ and unlike all Democratic and Republican members of Congress before them, they did not seek any meeting with any Israeli official, whether government or opposition.”
Omar contradicted the prime minister on Friday, saying she had planned to sit with Knesset members and security officials.
Hebrew media reports claimed Netanyahu had been heavily pressured by Trump to block the two congresswomen. The announcement that Israel would not allow the pair in came shortly after Trump 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 promised not to promote boycotting Israel during her visit. The request was approved by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri.
The congresswoman backtracked hours later. Taking to Twitter, Tlaib posted a photo of her grandmother and said Israel’s agreement to allow her to visit only under certain terms was humiliating. She stated that she would not “bow down to their oppressive & racist policies.” Tlaib had been heavily criticized by Palestinian groups for initially agreeing to Israel’s terms for a family visit.
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.