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Tearful Tlaib says grandmother advised her against visiting Israel

Israel denied entry to Congress' first two Muslim women (Getty)

Date of publication: 20 August, 2019

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A tearful US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib said that her Palestinian grandmother told her last week not to visit Israel under conditions demanded by the Israeli government.
Democratic representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib sharply criticised Israel on Monday for denying them entry to the Jewish state and called on fellow members of Congress to visit while they cannot.

Omar, of Minnesota, suggested President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were suppressing the lawmakers' ability to carry out their oversight role.

"I would encourage my colleagues to visit, meet with the people we were going to meet with, see the things we were going to see, hear the stories we were going to hear," Omar said at a news conference. "We cannot let Trump and Netanyahu succeed in hiding the cruel reality of the occupation from us."

At Trump's urging, Israel denied entry to Congress' first two Muslim women over their support for the Palestinian-led boycott movement. Tlaib and Omar, who had planned to visit Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank on a tour organised by a Palestinian group, are outspoken critics of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

Tlaib said she had considered accepting Israeli demands to not engage in politics so that she could travel to the West Bank and visit her grandmother, who is around 90 years old.

"She said I'm her dream manifested, I'm her free bird, so why would I come back and be caged and bow down, when my election rose her head up high, gave her dignity for the first time?" Tlaib told reporters.

"And so through tears, at 3:00 in the morning, we all decided as a family that I could not go until I was a free United States congresswoman."

"As a young girl visiting Palestine to see my grandparents I watched as my mother had to go through dehumanising checkpoints, even though she was a US citizen and proud American."

"I remember shaking with fear when checkpoints appeared in a small village tanks and guns everywhere. All I can do as the Grandaughter of a woman who lived in occupied territory is to elevate her voice by exposing the truth the only way I know how, as my teachers taught me, by humanising the pain of oppression."

"Our delegation trip included meetings with Israeli veterans who were forced to participate in military occupation. They also desperately want peace," she said.

Tlaib pointed out that it is common for US lawmakers to visit Israel and meet a wide range of activists.

"What is not common occurrence is members of Congress being barred from entering a country on these fact-finding missions unless they agree to strict set of rules," she said.

"It is unfortunate that Prime Minister Netanyahu is apparently taking a page out of Trump's book, and even direction from Trump, to deny this opportunity," she said.

Tlaib, of Michigan, and Omar were joined Monday by Minnesota residents who said they had been directly affected by travel restrictions in the past.

They included Lana Barkawi, a Palestinian American who's executive and artistic director of Mizna, a cultural group that sponsors the annual Twin Cities Arab Film Fest. The US government denied visas to several Mideast actors and directors who had been invited to participate last year.

The press conference included Jewish Americans, who criticised the Trump's administration discussion of anti-semitism when Trump has been accused of fostering white nationalism.

"Our community has been used as a tool by those pretending to be concerned with our safety to undermine the solidarity we know is needed to achieve justice," said Karen Ross, executive director of Jewish community action.

"We have been dehumanised in service of a white nationalist's agenda and our greatest power in resistant that is our solidarity."

Rosa Drukur also accused the Trump administration of "weaponising antisemitism".

"The occupation is a daily nightmare for those who live it. The Israeli government received millions of dollars from the US annually. When the Israeli government denied entry to our democratically elected members of congress, they show us that they have something to hide," she said.

"When the political right tells Jews to fear progressive leaders, they are weaponising anti semitism for their own gain. The same ideology that motivates anti-semitism motivates Islamophobia."

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley kept up the administration's criticism of the two lawmakers.

"Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar have a well-documented history of anti-Semitic comments, anti-Semitic social media posts and anti-Semitic relationships," he said in a statement.

"Israel has the right to prevent people who want to destroy it from entering the country — and Democrats' pointless Congressional inquiries here in America cannot change the laws Israel has passed to protect itself."​

Agencies contributed to this report. 

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