US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has slammed Israel’s decision to ban Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from visiting Israel and the occupied West Bank.
In a television interview, Sanders said he was not shocked at the decision but “The idea that a member of the United States Congress cannot visit a nation, which by the way we support to the tune of billions and billions of dollars, is clearly an outrage.”
And if Israel doesn’t want members of the United States Congress to visit their country to get a first-hand look… maybe they can respectfully decline the billions of dollars we give to Israel.
WATCH: Bernie Sanders on Israel’s decision to deny entrance to two elected U.S. officials: “If Israel doesn’t want members of the United States Congress to visit their country…maybe they can respectfully decline the billions of dollars that we give to Israel.” #inners pic.twitter.com/m48djEhZjU
— All In w/Chris Hayes (@allinwithchris) August 16, 2019
Prominent figures such as democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and organisations Amnesty International, the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) also voiced their condemnation of Israel’s decision after it was revealed that Interior Minister Aryeh Deri had ruled that Tlaib and Omar could not join a tour of the country due to their support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).
Biden, a self-proclaimed “stalwart supporter” of Israel tweeted: “No democracy should deny entry to visitors based on the content of their ideas. Even ideas they strongly object to.”
I have always been a stalwart supporter of Israel—a vital partner that shares our democratic values. No democracy should deny entry to visitors based on the content of their ideas—even ideas they strongly object to. And no leader of the free world should encourage them to do so.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) August 15, 2019
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said that the decision to ban Omar and Tlaib was “discriminatory” and harmed international diplomacy.
“Sadly, I cannot move forward with scheduling any visits to Israel until all members of Congress are allowed,” she wrote on Twitter.
Netanyahu’s discriminatory decision to ban members of Congress from Israel harms int’l diplomacy.
Visiting Israel & Palestine are key experiences towards a path to peace.
Sadly, I cannot move forward w scheduling any visits to Israel until all members of Congress are allowed. https://t.co/WTP5vnt5IH
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 15, 2019
Condemning Israel’s decision, Amnesty International said: “The Israeli government allows free entry to world leaders accused of gross violations of human rights, war crimes, and crimes against humanity… but automatically calls anti-Semitic anyone who dare criticise it.”
Israeli rights human organisation B’Tselem Executive Director Hagai El-Ad, who was due to meet the congresswomen on their visit to the occupied territories, said in an opinion piece for the Washington Post: “Restrictions on the movement of two US lawmakers may be shocking, but it is a daily reality for the 2 million Palestinians caged on the Gaza Strip.”
Even pro-Israel organisations have felt compelled to respond critically to Israel’s decision, with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) tweeting that “every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand”.
However, American Jewish Congress (AJC) supported Deri’s decision, and accused the congresswomen of being anti-Semitic.
AJC President Jack Rosen said: “Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar are no friends of Israel. Had they shown a genuine desire to commit to open and honest dialogue, they could have better understood the true character of the Israeli people and the reality in which they live on a daily basis. But sadly this is not the case, and the Israeli government’s decision [to ban them access to illegally occupied Palestinian territory] is the right one.”
Others also rushed to support Israel, with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham saying: “From my point of view, there have got to be consequences to your behaviour. If you openly joined an international movement to destroy the state of Israel, then you’ll suffer the consequences.”
Deri has however since reversed the ban on Tlaib entering the occupied West Bank “on humanitarian grounds” to allow her to visit her aging 90 year old grandmother.
Tlaib submitted a personal plea to Israel to request she be allowed into the country and promising “not promote boycotts against Israel” during her visit.