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US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar to boycott Israel president’s speech

July 13, 2023 at 4:24 pm

US congresswoman Ilhan Omar in Minnesota, US on 4 October 2016 [Lorie Shaull/Flickr]

Democratic US lawmaker, Ilhan Omar, has announced she will not be attending Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s address to a joint session of Congress, condemning the state’s 2019 decision banning her and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib from entering Israel.

“There is no way in hell I am attending the joint session address from a president whose country has banned me and denied Rashida Tlaib the ability to see her grandma,” Omar wrote onTwitter yesterday.

In 2019, Israel announced that it was banning Omar and Palestinian-American Tlaib from entering its territory because of their support for the BDS movement.

Herzog is scheduled to address both houses of Congress next Wednesday to mark Israel’s 75th anniversary, as well as to meet with US President Joe Biden at the White House.

“Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s address comes on behalf of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, at a time when the government is openly promising to “crush” Palestinian hopes of statehood—essentially putting a nail in the coffin of peace and a two-state solution,” Omar added in her Twitter thread.

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She also noted the remarks made by Israeli far-right ministers, and the ongoing debate over the controversial “judicial reform” plan.

“It comes as extreme right-wing Israeli cabinet members directly attack [US] President Biden, saying Israel is ‘no longer a star’ on the US flag. It also comes as the Israeli government is pushing through what legal experts describe as a judicial coup to centralise power and undermine checks on their power, prompting months of mass demonstrations against the government throughout Israel,” she continued.

Biden’s views on the Netanyahu government were evident during an interview with CNN when he said Tel Aviv’s coalition government has some “of the most extreme members” he has seen in Israel.

In response, far-right National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, opened fire on the US president saying: “President Biden must internalise that Israel is no longer another star in the American flag.”

“In what way am I an extremist? By handing out weapons to the citizens of Israel so that they can defend themselves? In that, I give full backing to our soldiers and officers?”

In her tweets, Omar also highlighted the Israeli invasion of Jenin in the occupied West Bank that continued for approximately 48 hours on 3-4 July, resulting in the killing of 12 Palestinians – including 4 children, wounding 120 and the destruction of nearly 80 per cent of the Jenin Refugee Camp’s homes and infrastructure.

“These are all deeply concerning trends – especially considering the fact that we provide Israel with nearly $4 billion in annual military aid,” she stressed, adding, however, that the US “can and should use its diplomatic tools to engage with the Israeli government.”

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“Last month, I opposed the invitation for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address a joint session based on his government’s human rights record. And this month I will not attend a similar address from Israeli President Isaac Herzog,” Omar added.

There has been an increase in the number of Israeli raids across the occupied West Bank over the past few months, particularly in Nablus and Jenin, coupled with violence carried out by illegal settlers who have, at times, even turned against Israeli forces.

The latest killings have taken the total number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces this year to 98. Last year was deemed the deadliest for the occupied West Bank since 2015, but this year’s death toll has already exceeded the number of those killed in 2022.