Several LGBTQ members of Congress are objecting to the Israeli government’s decision to initially bar two of their colleagues from entering the nation.
Amid pressure from Donald Trump, Israel’s government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, announced Thursday it would not allow Democratic U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota to visit the nation. Israel had previously planned to let the congresswomen in, and this is apparently the first time it had barred a member of Congress.
Israel then reversed its decision for just Rep. Tlaib and said it would allow her in, but she couldn't publicly advocate for a boycott of the nation. She immediately declined.
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. https://t.co/z5t5j3qk4H
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) August 16, 2019
Tlaib and Omar are both major critics of Trump and of the Israeli government. They support a movement for a boycott of Israel unless it ceases occupation of Palestinian lands captured in the 1967 war and meets other conditions.
“Many who embrace [the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement] see it aimed primarily at ending Israel’s occupation of the West Bank,” The New York Times notes, although “many Israelis say the movement’s real goal is the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state.” Leaders of the movement, which was denounced in a House resolution earlier this year, say it is not anti-Semitic.
But Trump has leveled a charge of anti-Semitism against Tlaib and Omar, saying they hate Israel and “all Jewish people” (which they strongly deny) and that the nation would “show great weakness” if it allowed them to visit.
Netanyahu defended the decision to bar the representatives by saying, “Israeli law prohibits the entry into Israel of those who call for, and work to impose, boycotts on Israel, as do other democracies that prevent the entry of people believed to be damaging to the country,” according to the Times. Trump lauded the move, reiterating on Twitter that he believes they “HATE Israel.” Tlaib may still be allowed into the nation only to visit relatives.
But the action was condemned by many of their colleagues, including out Reps. Angie Craig of Minnesota, Sharice Davids of Kansas, and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin. All are Democrats.
Other critics of the ban on Tlaib and Omar included House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat and strong supporter of Israel who called the move “outrageous” and “wrong,” and even Republicans such as Rep. Kevin McCarthy and Sen. Marco Rubio, the Times reports.
Also, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which generally backs Netanyahu, issued a statement saying, “Every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.”