After Israel granted United States Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib permission to visit her 90-year-old grandmother, the US lawmaker rescinded the request due to Israel conditioning the visit that she not use it to promote anti-Israel bocyotts. In response, US President Donald Trump accused Tlaib on Twitter of using her elderly family member in an anti-Israel ruse.
“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,” tweeted Trump on Friday. Previously, the American leader had speculated on the situation, noting on Twitter that “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!”
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clarified the decision to deny Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar was based strictly on their promotion of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, not their political party. “We respect all members of Congress. Our directive is to facilitate, on a regular and automatic basis, the entry of all members of Congress, Democratic and Republican,” said Netanyahu in comments released by his office. “…There is only one exception and it is the BDS law that obligates us to evaluate the entry of people who support BDS.”
Netanyahu said they reviewed the travel plan from Ilhan and Tlaib. “This was a principled, not a partisan, decision,” he said. “We respect all political parties in the US equally; however, we also respect ourselves. Whoever comes to impose boycotts on us and to deny the legitimacy of the State of Israel, we will not allow them entry.”
Israeli Interior Minister Ariye Deri, who granted the permission to Tlaib to visit her grandmother, took to Twitter in a series of posts to shed light on the events, saying, “Rep. Tlaib just tweeted that she won’t be coming to Israel. Just yesterday she sent me a letter, asking to visit her 90 year old grandmother saying, ‘it might be my last chance to meet her’.” He followed up by tweeting, “I approved her request as a gesture of goodwill on a humanitarian basis, but it was just a provocative request, aimed at bashing the State of Israel. Apparently her hate for Israel overcomes her love for her grandmother.”
Tlaib had posted on her Twitter page the image of a press statement in which accused Israel of trying to “silence” her, despite the fact that Netanyahu in comments released by his office last Thursday made it clear that criticism was not the concern, but promotion of boycotts against Israel.
The decision by Israel to bar the entrance of Rep.Tlaib and Rep. Omar from entering Israel due their plans to use the trip to promote the BDS efforts led to a political conflict in the US. American Ambassador David Friedman backed the Israeli decision, noting that BDS against Israel is “not free speech.”
“Rather, it is no less than economic warfare designed to delegitimize and ultimately destroy the Jewish State,” said Friedman in a statement posted to the Embassy website. “Israel properly has enacted laws to bar entry of BDS activists under the circumstances present here, and it has every right to protect its borders against those activists in the same manner as it would bar entrants with more conventional weapons.”
In response to Friedman’s comments, US Congress Rep. Ted Lieu took to Twitter and an interview with CNN’s “Situation Room” program to accuse Friedman of showing loyalty to Israel and not the US, according to a report on Fox News.
However, after it was pointed out to Rep. Lieu that the “dual loyalty” statement is a traditional anti-Semitic trope, he deleted the tweet and posted to Twitter on Friday, “I should have been aware at the time I wrote the tweet that, as applied to Amb Friedman, it raised dual loyalty issues that have historically harmed the Jewish community. I’m sorry for writing it. That’s why I deleted it.”
Amb. Friedman pointed out that while he was being accused of not showing his loyalty to the US, he was actually acting in sync with a resolution passed in Congress 398-17 opposing the BDS movement. Friedman tweeted on Friday, “Congress recently passed a resolution condemning BDS. Last night I was condemned by a US Congressman for ‘dual loyalty’ — classic anti-Semitic charge — simply because I followed US policy by supporting Israel’s right to oppose BDS. My head is spinning from the hypocrisy.”
In his statement backing Israel’s decision, Friedman contrasted the planned visit of Tlaib and Omar with those of other members of the US Congress engaging in a “balanced visit to Israel that includes meetings with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.”
Instead, he said that the Tlaib and Omar delegation “has limited its exposure to tours organized by the most strident of BDS activists. This trip, pure and simple, is nothing more than an effort to fuel the BDS engine that Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar so vigorously support.”
Netanyahu, in those comments published last Thursday explaining the decision to deny entry to Omar and Tlaib, noted that the planned visit had been rooted in the BDS movement.
“Israel warmly welcomed some 70 Democratic and Republican members of Congress, who expressed broad bipartisan support for Israel, which was also demonstrated a month ago in a resounding bipartisan vote against BDS in Congress,” said Netanyahu.
“However, the itinerary of the two Congresswomen reveals that the sole purpose of their visit is to harm Israel and increase incitement against it.
“In addition, the organization that is funding their trip is Miftah, which is an avid supporter of BDS, and among whose members are those who have expressed support for terrorism against Israel.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, August 18, 2019)