Tlaib won't visit West Bank under 'oppressive' Israeli conditions

US congresswoman says she will not be silenced and treated 'like a criminal' after receiving permission from Israel.

    US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib said she will no longer visit the occupied West Bank [File:Rebecca Cook/Reuters]
    US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib said she will no longer visit the occupied West Bank [File:Rebecca Cook/Reuters]

    US congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has said she will no longer visit the occupied West Bank under the "oppressive conditions" required by the Israeli government, who hours earlier said they would allow her entry on "humanitarian" grounds.

    Tlaib, who is of Palestinian origin, tweeted her decision on Friday, a day after the Israeli government barred her and her fellow congresswoman Ilhan Omar from entering over their support of a boycott movement seeking to pressure Israel to end its rights abuses against Palestinians.

    Under a controversial Israeli law, backers of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement can be denied entry to Israel.

    Following the move to bar the two Muslim congresswomen, Israel's Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said he had decided to allow Tlaib to make a "humanitarian visit to her grandmother" in the West Bank, but only after the legislator had sent him a written pledge "to respect conditions imposed by Israel".

    Tlaib had "promised not to promote the cause of the boycott of Israel during her stay", in the letter to Deri sent overnight, the ministry said in a statement. 

    But in the tweet on Friday, Tlaib said her grandmother would not want her to visit under those conditions. 

    "Silencing me and 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 and injustice," she said.  

    "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 and use my love for my sity [grandma] to bow down to their oppressive and racist policies," she also tweeted, 

    The US-born Tlaib, 43, has roots in the Palestinian village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa in the occupied West Bank. Her grandmother and extended family still live in the village.

    Ilhan Omar tweets itinerary

    Israel's widely condemned decision to bar the legislators' trip came after US President Donald Trump, a close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, attacked Tlaib and Omar, alleging that they "hate Israel and all Jewish people, and there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds".

    "It would show great weakness" for Israel to allow them in, he wrote on Twitter.

    Tlaib and Omar have repeatedly said their criticisms of Israel's government are based on policy differences and are not directed at Jewish people.

    On Thursday, following Israel's announcement that it was denying them entry, Tlaib called the move "a sign of weakness" while Omar said it was "an insult to democratic values" but unsurprising given the record of Netanyahu's policies against Palestinians and his alignment with "Islamophobes" like Trump.

    On Friday, Omar tweeted what she said would have been the itinerary of the cancelled trip, which included meetings with members of the Knesset and Israeli security officials, briefings from United Nations on the effects of funding cuts and on Bedouin communities who have been uprooted amid Israel's building of illegal settlements on Palestinian land, as well as a video conference with students in the besieged Gaza Strip.

    She added the US should be leveraging the over $3bn in mostly military aid it provides to Israel every year to require Israel halt settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and ensure "full rights for Palestinians."

    "Denying visits to duly elected members of congress is not consistent with being either an ally or a democracy," Omar tweeted. 

    Israel's move was also denounced by the BDS movement as "McCarthyite", as well as by politicians and advocacy groups.

    "Like all prolific human rights abusers, Israel wants to impose a blackout on the reality in occupied Palestine and prevent Congresswomen Tlaib, Omar from having direct contact with the Palestinian people, who are subject to Israel's cruel regime of colonisation, oppression and land grab," Miftah, the Palestinian group cosponsoring the planned trip, said.

    "This ban is a clear case of discrimination and hostility based on political views and ethnic background, deserving of moral indignation and unequivocal condemnation in Palestine and the United States."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies