Israel’s ban on Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering the country is an effort to stop them doing their jobs, the officials said in a press conference yesterday.
Speaking to member of the media, the pair explained that they had planned a trip to meet with members of Israel’s Knesset, former soldiers, Palestinians groups, UN officials and international organisations in the occupied territories.
Omar said: “The decision to ban me and my colleague, the first two Muslim-American women elected to Congress, is nothing less than an attempt by an ally to the United States to suppress our abilities to do our jobs as elected officials.”
She went on to describe Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to issue the ban as “unprecedented” because it was against US congresswomen, adding that such bans are regularly issued against Palestinians.
She added: “It is the policy of his government when it comes to Palestinians.”
“This is the policy of his government when it comes to anyone who holds views that threaten the occupation.”
We must be asking, as Israel’s ally, that Netanyahu stop the expansion of settlements on Palestinian land and ensure full rights for Palestinians if we are to give them aid
Omar said, describing her Palestinian-American colleague Tlaib as “brave and resilient”.
Tlaib said: “What is not common occurrence is members of Congress being barred from entering a country on fact finding missions unless they agree to a strict set of rules curtailing their rights or being required to submit their itinerary for stop by stop pre-approval.”
She recalled an incident when former congressman Charles C. Diggs Junior was denied entry into Apartheid South Africa in 1972, saying: “History does have a habit of repeating itself.”
Tearfully discussing the conversation with her family, she said: “I think my grandmother said it beautifully when she said I’m her asfour. Asfour in Arabic means her bird. She said I’m her dream manifested. I am her free bird. So why would I come back and be caged and bow down when my election rose her head up high?”
“We all decided as a family that I could not go until I was a free, American, United States congresswoman.”
The two congresswomen were barred from entering Israel to join a fact-finding mission to the occupied West Bank last week.
Tlaib was offered entry on ‘humanitarian grounds’ to visit her grandmother, but rejected the offer on the grounds they had imposed harsh conditions which meant she would not be able to speak about politics.
The Israeli government has faced serious backlash from prominent figures and organisations, including Bernie Sanders and other Democratic candidates, Amnesty International, Palestinian Member of the Knesset Yousef Jabareen, and the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee.