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The Palestinians’ inalienable right to return is the real story

August 22, 2019 at 6:02 pm

US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib in Washington DC, United States on 10 January 2019 [Safvan Allahverdi/Anadolu Agency]

European settlers were behind the foundation of the United States of America and Israel, both of which are currently steering a path towards right-wing extremism fuelled by race hate. As such, perhaps we should not be in the slightest bit surprised at the blatant emergence of the three-headed monster representing white privilege, racism and nationalism in both countries.

The presence of this grotesque troika is undeniable. Donald Trump, the US President who has already banned millions of Muslims and people of colour from travelling to America has, this week, unveiled plans to detain asylum-seekers and their children indefinitely in his latest aggressive bid to discourage migrants from crossing the US-Mexico border. In Israel, his closest international political ally Benjamin Netanyahu is another unabashed white nationalist, who presides over the apartheid Zionist state which discriminates against its own Palestinian citizens — one-fifth of the population — using openly racist legislation.

If there was any doubt about the naked racism, misogyny and white supremacy at play with these two characters, it surely ended with the well-documented banning of US Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from making a visit to occupied Palestine and Israel. Both women are Muslim; both are women of colour; and they represent one half of the so-called “Squad” in the House of Representatives in Washington, the other members of which are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

Tlaib of Michigan — where she was born — is the first Palestinian-American Congresswoman. Both she and Somali-born Omar of Minnesota should have joined around 40 other US politicians for the traditional Washington freebie to Israel typically organised by AIPAC, the immensely influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee or one of its Zionist affiliates. This particular jolly is being funded by the innocuous sounding American Israel Educational Foundation.

READ: I do not ‘buy’ Tlaib’s emotional claims says Trump

The trip would have given Tlaib the opportunity to add on a private, two-day visit to her 90-year-old grandmother Muftiya in Beit Ur Al-Tahta, in the Occupied West Bank. Upon hearing of her plans, apparently, Trump was straight on the phone to his best friend Netanyahu in Tel Aviv. The outcome was predictable: both Tlaib and Omar were denied entry to Israel on the grounds that they support the peaceful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which stands up for Palestinian rights.

Quite why anyone should be surprised is beyond me. Not so long ago, Trump told Tlaib and the rest of the Squad to “go back” where they came from. It was an extraordinary outburst against democratically-elected members of the US Congress, which earned him condemnation from state leaders virtually everywhere in the world apart from — you’ve guessed it — his mate Netanyahu.

Palestinian protesters gather during clashes with Israeli security froces in a tent city protest where Palestinians demand the right to return to their homeland, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the "Nakba", and against U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem at Israel-Gaza border at the Israel-Gaza border, in al-Bureij in the center of Gaza Strip on 14 May, 2018 [Mahmoud Khattab/Apaimages]

Palestinian in Gaza protests the right to return to their homeland on 14 May 2018 [Mahmoud Khattab/Apaimages]

The most shocking thing is that these two white nationalists clearly no longer care what the rest of the world thinks about their unbridled misogyny, Islamophobia, racism and hate. Trump even mocked Tlaib’s obvious disappointment and tears over the decision not to let her visit her nonagenarian grandmother, claiming that the Democratic Congresswoman was merely “grandstanding”. It is worth pointing out that Tlaib had become visibly upset when she recalled how she and her mother had to endure “dehumanising checkpoints” in Israel, despite being US citizens simply visiting their Palestinian relatives.

And that is the real story in all of this. It’s not simply about two right-wing white nationalists blocking a couple of US congresswomen from visiting Palestine; it’s also about the millions of Palestinians who, from the 1948 ethnic cleansing of their homeland to this day are not allowed to exercise their legitimate right to return, even for a visit to family and friends.

READ: ‘May God ruin Trump’, Tlaib’s grandmother says

These diaspora Palestinians may or may not support BDS, but every single one of them is blocked by Israel if they try to exercise that right, despite UN General Assembly Resolution 194 passed on 11 December 1948, which makes it clear that everyone has the right, under international law, to re-enter their country of origin. The fact that this is denied to Palestinian refugees, and that Netanyahu is baiting Trump to annul their refugee status by, in the first instance, shutting down the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which provides essential services to “Palestine refugees”, should shame us all, especially those who claim to champion human rights and the rule of law.

It is outrageous that America’s closest ally is denying entry to two of its elected lawmakers, but it is even more outrageous that they are only experiencing what millions of Palestinians go through every day. In the rush to condemn Netanyahu about Tlaib and Omar, let us not forget to condemn him for Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing and colonisation of Palestine as well. The Nakba didn’t begin and end in 1948; it is ongoing. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar are important players, but the Palestinians’ inalienable right to return is the real story in all of this.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.