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Israel bars Democratic Muslim lawmakers from entering country

Benjamin Netanyahu

Jerusalem, Aug 16  Benjamin Netanyahu government in Israel has barred the entry of  two Democratic US Muslim lawmakers who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Officials announced the veto, on Thursday, shortly after US President Donald Trump publicly urged Israel to bar the visit by Democratic representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

“Representatives Omar and Tlaib are the face of the Democrat Party, and they HATE Israel!,” Trump tweeted.

“The decision has been made, the decision is not to allow them to enter,” Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told Reshet Radio.

Omar, a Somali refugee, and Tlaib, the Detroit-born daughter of Palestinian immigrants, made history last year when they became the first Muslim women elected to Congress.

Israel’s interior ministry said in a statement that the determination to exclude Tlaib and Omar was reached “after Minister (Aryeh) Deri was convinced that (the visit) was part of boycott activism against Israel.”

“The state of Israel respects the US Congress as part of the close alliance between the two countries. But it is inconceivable that Israel would be expected to let into the country those who wish to hurt it, including by means of the visit itself,” the ministry said.

Deri remains open to considering a request from Tlaib to visit her relatives in the West Bank “for humanitarian reasons,” the statement said.

Confirmation that the congresswomen would be kept out followed a Trump tweet urging Israel to exclude them.

“It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!,” the US president wrote.

 

AT home, Netanyahu has been criticized for not allowing US Muslim lawmakers to enter into the country . Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Arab Joint List in the Knesset said, “Israel has always banned Palestinians from their land and separated us from other Palestinians, but this time the Palestinian is a US congresswomen.”

“@RashidaTlaib didn’t even have to land to expose the true face of Israel’s occupation,” Odeh tweeted.

Joint List is a political alliance was the third-largest faction in the Knesset after the 2015 elections. In January 2019 Ta’al split from the alliance, and the remaining coalition was dissolved on 21 February 2019.

Nitzan Horowitz, who chairs the Democratic Camp in the Knesset, characterized the ban as a “grave mistake.”

“This isn’t just a confrontation with the (US) Democratic Party, which has always supported Israel, it’s also a more basic issue: Israel is a free and democratic country, and in such a country you don’t deal with criticism by entry or exit bans,” he wrote on Twitter.

The Israeli ambassador in Washington, Ron Dermer, said last month that Israel would not deny entry to a member of Congress even if he or she was a BDS advocate.

In 2017, the Knesset passed a bill authorizing the government to prohibited foreigners who support BDS from entering Israel, a measure cited by Netanyahu in defence of Deri’s decision.

“Israel is open to all critics and any criticism, with one exception: the law in Israel that prohibits entry to people calling and advocating for boycotting the country, just like in other democracies that bar entry to those who they believe will do harm to their nation,” the prime minister said.

Trump has accused the two Muslim women and their colleagues, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, of hating the US, telling them they should “go back” to their own countries, though all but Omar were born in the United States.

 

The decision has been criticised by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and AIPAC, the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying organisation in the US.

Pelosi also blasted Trump’s tweet advocating for the entry denial. “The President’s statements about the Congresswomen are a sign of ignorance and disrespect, and beneath the dignity of the Office of the President,” she said in a statement.

Omar herself later said in a statement that the decision is “both an insult to democratic values and a chilling response to a visit by government officials from an allied nation.”

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, a democrat and Jewish, said in a statement that the Israeli government “is missing an opportunity for engagement in dialogue with those they disagree with, instead empowering those who seek to create a wedge between our two countries.”

Republican Senator Marco Rubio called Israel’s decision to bar the two Congresswomen from entering the nation “a mistake.”

“I disagree 100% with Reps. Tlaib & Omar on #Israel … But denying them entry into #Israel is a mistake,” he tweeted.

 

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