On Monday, Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib strongly criticized Israel for denying them admission to the Jewish state and called on congressional fellow members to visit when they could not.
Omar, of Minnesota, claimed President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were suppressing the lawmakers’ ability to carry out their oversight role.
“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,” Omar said at a news conference. “We cannot let Trump and Netanyahu succeed in hiding the cruel reality of the occupation from us.”
In response to Omar’s claims, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley made a statement.
“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. “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.”
Israel denied entry to Congress’s first two Muslim women over their support for the Palestinian-led boycott movement. Tlaib and Omar, who had planned to visit Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank on a tour organized by a Palestinian group, are outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
Tlaib and Omar support “boycott, divestment and sanctions,” or BDS, a global movement led by the Palestinians. Supporters say the movement is a nonviolent way to protest Israel’s military rule over the occupied territories, but Israel said it aims to delegitimize the state and eventually wipe it off the map.
Last week, Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said that Tlaib had asked and been given approval to enter the West Bank to see her aging grandma. Deri’s office published a letter, which he reported was from Tlaib, promising to comply with travel restrictions during her visit. But following the announcement, Tlaib tweeted that she wouldn’t allow Israel to use her love for her grandmother to “bow down their racist and oppressive policies.”
President Trump criticized Tlaib’s request to Israel to visit her grandmother saying it was a “complete set up.”
“Israel was very respectful & nice to Rep. Rashida Tlaib, allowing her permission to visit her grandmother,” the president tweeted.
“As soon as she was granted permission, she grandstanded & loudly proclaimed she would not visit Israel. Could this possibly have been a setup? Israel acted appropriately!” President Trump added.
Includes reporting from the Associated Press