Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely on Thursday confirmed that Israel has made a decision to deny entry to US congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib over their BDS support.
“Israel has decided — we won’t enable the members of Congress members to enter the country,” she told the Kan public broadcaster.
“We won’t allow those who deny our right to exist in this world to enter Israel. In principle, this is a very justified decision.”
Reacting to the development, US Democratic lawmaker and 2020 White House hopeful Elizabeth Warren slammed Israel’s decision to ban congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering Israel, calling it “a shameful, unprecedented move.”
Warren said: “Israel doesn’t advance its case as a tolerant democracy or unwavering US ally by barring elected members of Congress from visiting because of their political views. This would be a shameful, unprecedented move. I urge Israel’s government to allow @IlhanMN and @RashidaTlaib entry.”
Less than an hour ahead of the announcement, Donald Trump put pressure on Israel to block his political rivals, saying “it would show great weakness” if it allowed them in.
Trump wrote: “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!.”
Israel passed a law in 2017 allowing the government to bar people who support a boycott of Israel or illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. The measure – widely condemned as anti-democratic and anti-free speech – was an attempt to combat the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
The congresswomen have said they support the use of boycotts to pressure governments on rights abuses.
The government has used the legislation to block entry to students and activists, but also foreign officials, including French parliamentarians and members of the European parliament. However, it is not clear if a US member of congress has ever been barred.
Ayman Odeh, who runs an Arab party in Israel, said the barring exposed “the true face of Israel’s occupation”.
Referring to Tlaib, he wrote on Twitter: “Israel has always banned Palestinians from their land and separated us from other Palestinians, but this time the Palestinian is a US congresswomen.”
Former Israeli diplomats also spoke out against a ban, arguing the country should instead attempt to show Israeli perspectives during the trip. And David Brinn, the managing editor of the right-wing Jerusalem Post, wrote that a ban would be “shortsighted and deeply flawed”.