US Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar can now take part in a tour of the occupied West Bank as they had planned from the comfort of their offices.
A new app, Palestine VR, has been launched to allow the congresswomen and others to experience life as a Palestinian living under occupation.
Developed by the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy (PIPD), the app allows people to visit the occupied territories without fear of being stopped and interrogated by Israeli occupation forces while en route.
📲Introducing Palestine VR. With this app, you will be able to see what .@RepRashida & .@Ilhan would have experienced if they weren't denied entry into occupied #Palestine by #Israel. For more information, ➡️https://t.co/4gMQcapqaA #WitnessPalestine #PalestineVirtualReality pic.twitter.com/2csEyTKOFT
— Rābet by PIPD #SaveMasaferYatta (@rabetbypipd) October 30, 2019
The app includes a tour of occupied Hebron guided by a former Israel army soldier-turned activist; a walk through Ramallah with 13-year-old journalist Janna Jihad; and a visit to Jerusalem.
“Those who visit Palestine and are exposed to the reality of oppression, discrimination and displacement are always moved by what they see,” Time magazine quoted Salem Barahmeh, the executive director of the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, saying.
They became the first members of the US Congress to be banned by Israel, with US President Donald Trump, stating the Jewish state would show “great weakness” if it let them in.
Democrats Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar have repeatedly highlighted the injustice suffered by Palestinians at the hands of occupation forces. Both were banned from entering Israel and the occupied West Bank in August, with Israeli officials saying this was a result of the congresswomen’s advocacy for US citizens’ “right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights”.
Days later, Palestinian Tlaib was granted permission to enter Israel to visit her ailing grandmother on the basis that she would not take part in any political activity during her stay. She rejected the offer.
Diana Buttu, who was helping organise the US officials’ trip, said the congresswomen were banned because they wanted to “see the impact of US policy and specifically its support of unjust Israeli policies”.