US congresswoman rebuffs Israeli offer of 'humanitarian visit'

Israel had earlier barred the planned visit by US congresswomen Rashida Tlaib (above) and Ilhan Omar (below), a Muslim, over their support of a boycott-Israel movement.
Israel had earlier barred the planned visit by US congresswomen Rashida Tlaib (above) and Ilhan Omar, a Muslim, over their support of a boycott-Israel movement.PHOTO: REUTERS, EPA-EFE
Israel had earlier barred the planned visit by US congresswomen Rashida Tlaib (above) and Ilhan Omar (below), a Muslim, over their support of a boycott-Israel movement.
Israel had earlier barred the planned visit by US congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar (above), a Muslim, over their support of a boycott-Israel movement.PHOTO: REUTERS, EPA-EFE

Lawmaker of Palestinian origin decides against visiting granny under 'oppressive conditions'

JERUSALEM • Israel yesterday said it will allow barred US congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who is of Palestinian origin, to visit her elderly grandmother in the occupied West Bank, following a pledge that she would respect its conditions, in an offer she later refused.

The decision came a day after a controversial Israeli announcement that it would bar a planned weekend visit by Ms Tlaib and fellow Muslim congresswoman Ilhan Omar over their support of a boycott of the Jewish state for its treatment of the Palestinians.

The decision to allow a "humanitarian visit" followed a pledge in a letter from the lawmaker to "respect conditions imposed by Israel", said the Interior Ministry.

Ms Tlaib had in a letter promised "not to promote the cause of the boycott of Israel" during her stay, adding that she wanted to visit her grandmother, who is in her 90s.

But Ms Tlaib later said she would turn down Israel's offer.

"Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in - fighting against racism, oppression & injustice," she wrote on Twitter yesterday.

The decision to bar the congresswomen, although encouraged by President Donald Trump, drew sharp criticism in the United States from several allies of Israel, including top Democratic lawmakers, presidential hopefuls and influential pro-Israel lobby AIPAC.

 
 
 
 

Officials had, however, said they would consider a separate humanitarian request from Ms Tlaib to visit her family, a trip for which she would have to pass through Israel.

Before Israel announced its decision on Thursday, Ms Tlaib's relatives in the West Bank village of Beit Ur Al-Foqa had been excitedly preparing for her visit.

"We are preparing a party," said Ms Tlaib's grandmother, Muftia Tlaib, in the family's stone home surrounded by olive trees.

Israel scrapped the visit by the two lawmakers shortly after Mr Trump weighed in via Twitter to say it would be showing "great weakness" if the Jewish state granted them entry.

Ms Tlaib and Ms Omar are outspoken critics of Mr Trump, who has a close relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi labelled the ban "an outrageous act of hostility against the American people and their representatives", while Ms Omar said it was a "chilling" decision and an "insult to democratic values".

But Mr Netanyahu defended the entry ban, alleging the lawmakers had intended to strengthen the boycott movement against Israel.

"Israel's law prohibits the entry of people who call and act to boycott Israel, as is the case with other democracies that prevent the entry of people whom they see as harming the country," he said.

In 2017, Israel passed a law banning entry to foreigners who support boycotting the country, a movement Israel sees as a strategic threat and accuses as anti-Semitism - a claim activists deny.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2019, with the headline 'US congresswoman rebuffs Israeli offer of 'humanitarian visit''. Print Edition | Subscribe