Lawmakers Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) will not be traveling to Israel. The excursion, slated for Friday, was nixed by Israel’s interior ministry headed by Aryeh Deri. Decisions to grant or deny visas to Israel are the domain of the Ministry of Interior but given the high-profile nature of the visit, it is a virtual certainty that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was consulted and had the final say.
The decision to bar entry for the duo – known for their frequent anti-Semitic outbursts – was not without controversy but demonstrated significant political fortitude. In 2017, Israel passed a law permitting the interior ministry to deny entry to those advocating for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Omar and Tlaib are among the most notorious advocates of this malign ideology. In fact, both sponsored a congressional bill in support of BDS and obscenely compared boycotts of Israel with boycotts of Nazi Germany.
Following the asinine comparison, the United States State Department updated its definition of antisemitism to include as an example, “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.” The malign positions held by both Omar and Tlaib place the two squarely within the State Department’s definition of antisemitism.
Last month, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, indicated that the Omar-Tlaib visit would be allowed to proceed unhindered “out of respect for the US Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America.” But circumstances changed measurably once Israel became aware of their malevolent itinerary.
The itinerary was titled, “U.S Congressional Delegation to Palestine.” The United States does not recognize a legal entity known as “Palestine.” Moreover, there was ominously no mention of Israel. The itinerary highlighted plans to meet with various heads of Arab governmental and non-governmental organizations with long records of hostility toward the Jewish State. No meetings were planned with any members of mainstream Israeli political parties. Finally, their trip was planned by MIFTAH, a Palestinian NGO headed Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian Authority lawmaker and PLO central committee member.
In 2013, MIFTAH (which publishes in both English and Arabic) featured an article in Arabic invoking an ancient antisemitic blood libel which claimed that Jews used the blood of Christian children as an ingredient in Passover matzah. Rather than apologizing, Ashrawi initially accused those exposing the hate-filled article of running a “smear campaign.” She ultimately issued a belated apology but only after being threatened with loss of Western funding for her antisemitic NGO.
Clearly, Omar and Tlaib, sponsored by an NGO that propagates blood libels and antisemitic conspiracy theories, had no intention of learning and educating. Their intention was to spread their venomous antisemitic and anti-American poison, and advocate on behalf of BDS and its pernicious ideological underpinnings.
The 2017 anti-BDS law was passed in Israel after robust parliamentary debate and several readings. That is how laws are passed in democracies and these laws should be respected. Israel is under no obligation to commit national suicide by allowing nefarious elements wishing to inflict harm on the Jewish people into the country. Every nation has the right to safeguard its borders and Israel is no exception. The law has been invoked on several occasions and validated by Israel’s supreme court, a highly regarded judicial institution known for its judicial independence.
In July, Israel expelled Fouad Ahmad Assadi, an anti-Israel Spanish lawmaker of Palestinian descent who landed at Ben Gurion airport to attend a socialist conference in the Palestinian-occupied settlement of Ramallah. Israel promptly handed him a one-way ticket back to Spain. Spanish BDS advocate Ana Sanchez Mera was refused entry into Israel in 2018 as was Jewish Voice for Peace (which is neither Jewish nor peaceful) activist Ariel Gold.
These individuals from disparate backgrounds maintained one recurring common denominator. They each shared a passionate hatred of the Jewish State and fanatically advocated for BDS.
Omar and Tlaib are deeply antisemitic. Both have repeatedly expressed anti-Semitic canards and conspiracy theories. Both have publicly argued that U.S. Jews maintain dual loyalties and their dollars (or “Benjamins”) are used to purchase political influence and votes. Both have compared Israel to Nazi Germany, and both have minimized the significance of the Holocaust by comparing the plight of illegal aliens housed in detention centers to those of Jews in Nazi death camps. Omar once alleged that Israel maintains hypnotic powers over the world while Tlaib asserted that the Holocaust gives her a “calming feeling” because it reminds her of how her Palestinian ancestors provided Jews with “safe haven.” Tlaib is apparently unfamiliar with personalities like Haj Amin al-Husseini, Fawzi Kaoukji and Hassan Samaleh nor is she familiar with events like 1929 Hebron massacre or the 1948 Hadassah medical convoy massacre. Perhaps a refresher course is in order.
These and other outrageous canards spewed by these foul-mouthed anti-Semites should have been reason enough to deny them entry into Israel. But it was their itinerary that sealed the deal for the interior ministry for it proved that these malign individuals wanted to spread their hate rather than learn and engage in productive dialogue. Bravo Israel for taking a principled stand and sticking by it despite intense political pressure.