Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 14 November 2019

US congresswoman Rashida Tlaib rejects conditions for entering Israel

Democrat representative had hoped to visit her grandmother in the West Bank

Palestinian-American congresswoman Rashida Tlaib said she had decided against travelling to visit her family in the occupied West Bank, despite Israel's government agreeing on Friday to let her enter the country, because of the conditions that would be imposed on her.

Israel on Thursday barred Ms Tlaib and fellow Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar from making a planned visit this weekend, citing their support for the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli policies toward Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Besides private meetings with young Palestinians and Israeli and Palestinian civil society groups, Ms Tlaib had planned to see spend part of her time in the West Bank with her grandmother, who lives in the family home in village of Beit Ur Al Fauqa near Ramallah.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that if Ms Tlaib submitted a request to visit family on humanitarian grounds, Israel would consider it as long as she promised not to promote a boycott against Israel.

On Friday Israel said it had agreed to let Ms Tlaib visit the West Bank after she wrote to the interior ministry requesting permission "to visit relatives, and specifically my grandmother, who is in her 90s", adding that it "could be my last opportunity to see her".

"I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit," Ms Tlaib wrote in the request sent on Thursday, which was circulated by the Ynet website and other Israeli media.

But Ms Tlaib said in a series of tweets on Friday that making the visit under these conditions was not what her grandmother would want.

"When I won, 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 & use my love for my sity to bow down to their oppressive & racist policies, " she wrote.

"Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in - fighting against racism, oppression & injustice."

Ms Tlaib, who became the first Palestinian-American woman to enter Congress after being elected to the House of Representatives from Michigan last November, and Ms Omar, a Somalia-born American, have been outspoken critics of Israeli policies against Palestinians as well as of US President Donald Trump's actions to block the entry of migrants.

Pressure from Mr Trump is believed to have played a role in Israel's unprecedented decision to bar elected representatives from its biggest ally. Hours before Israel announced its decision on Thursday, the US president said in a tweet that allowing Ms Tlaib and Ms Omar into Israel would be a show of "great weakness".

The Israeli ban on the two congresswomen was widely condemned by fellow Democratic politicians as will as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a leading pro-Israel lobby group in the US that is supported by Democrats and Republicans alike.

Updated: August 16, 2019 06:35 PM

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