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Israel refused entry to the two Congresswomen at Trump’s request and due to their support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Democratic Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib made sharp criticism of Israel Monday at a press conference in Minneapolis and called on the other members of Congress to go and visit the country as Israel denied them entry to its territory last week.
“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,” said Omar, Rep. of Minnesota, adding that “we cannot let Trump and Netanyahu succeed in hiding the cruel reality of the occupation from us.”
Israel refused entry to the two Congresswomen at United States President Donald Trump’s request due to their support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The movement opposes the Israeli occupation and policies toward Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Under Israeli law, BDS backers can be denied entry to Israel.
The two women were planning to tour the occupied Palestinian territories, namely the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Their trip, organized by the U.S. NGO Miftah, would have also included a visit to Al-Aqsa mosque, a holy site for both Muslims and Jews and a site of continuous conflict.
After denying the entry, Israel said it would let Tlaib visit her family under “humanitarian” reasons, but Tlaib rejected the offer and said Israel gave her permission on "oppressive conditions" that prohibited the politician from discussing BDS.
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The pair are the first two Muslim women to be elected to Congress, and Detroit-born Tlaib is the first Palestinian-American congresswoman.
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley maintained 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.”
Trump’s urging a foreign country to bar the entry of elected U.S. officials and Israel’s decision to do so was unprecedented and drew widespread criticism.
Tlaib, of Michigan, and Omar were joined at the press conference by Minnesota residents including Lana Barkawi, who said they also were affected by travel restrictions in the past. Barkawi who is the executive and artistic director of Mizna, a cultural group that sponsors the annual Twin Cities Arab Film Fest, said the U.S. government denied visas to various Middle eastern actors and directors who had been invited to participate last year.
The two congresswomen are part of a group of progressive House Democrats known informally as “the squad,” all black and Latino women whom Trump along with right-wing commentators frequently subjected to a series of racist comments or tweets.
Israel controls entry and exit to the West Bank, which is illegally occupied in the 1967 war along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories the Palestinians want for a future state.