Democratic congresswoman Rashida Tlaib says she won’t visit her relatives in the West Bank after Israel issued a permit on humanitarian grounds, citing “oppressive conditions meant to humiliate me.”
On Thursday, Israel had decided to ban Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar from visiting the West Bank over their support for the international boycott movement, but said Tlaib could visit her relatives in the West Bank on humanitarian grounds. The Interior Ministry released a letter purportedly signed by Tlaib in which she promised not to advocate boycotts during her visit.
In an official statement released later Friday, Tlaib said “visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions meant to humiliate me would break my grandmother’s heart.”
She added that “silencing me with treatment to make me feel less-than is not what she wants for me – it would kill a piece of me that always stands up against racism and injustice.”
The Israeli interior minister had said that he received and granted a request by the Palestinian-American lawmaker to visit her relatives, including her 90-year-old grandparent in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
Minister Aryeh Deri expressed hopes that Tlaib would “stand by her commitment and that the visit will be for humanitarian needs only.”
In a letter published by Deri’s office, Tlaib said she would respect any restrictions and would “not promote boycotts” during her visit.
“This could be my last opportunity to see her. I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit,” she said.
Shortly after the announcement, however, Tlaib tweeted that she wouldn’t allow Israel to use her love for her grandmother to force her to “bow down to their oppressive & racist policies.” It was not clear if she was rejecting the offer to visit.
Tlaib and fellow Democrat, Rep. Ilhan Omar, had planned to visit Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank next week on a tour partly organized by a Palestinian group. The two are outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and support the international movement boycotting Israel.
Tlaib and Omar are known as supporters of “boycott, divestment and sanctions,” or BDS, a Palestinian-led global movement. Supporters say the movement is a non-violent way of protesting Israel’s military rule over the occupied territories, but Israel says it aims to delegitimize the state and eventually wipe it off the map.
Omar, who became the first Somali-American elected to Congress, denounced the ban on her and Tlaib’s tour as “an affront” and “an insult to democratic values.”
In Israel, Netanyahu said Thursday that his country remains “open to critics and criticism,” except for those who advocate boycotts against it.