After initially barring Rep. Rashida Tlaib from visiting the country, Israel reversed course and now says it will allow the congresswoman to visit her 90-year-old grandmother — so long as she promised in writing not to promote an Israel boycott while on the trip.
But after Israel agreed to let her visit on Friday, Tlaib released a statement saying she has decided she now refuses to visit out of principle.
"The Israeli government used my love and desire to see my grandmother to silence me and made my ability to do so contingent upon my signing a letter — reflecting just how undemocratic and afraid they are of the truth my trip would reveal about what is happening in the State of Israel and to Palestinians living under occupation with United States support," she wrote.
"I have therefore decided to not travel to Palestine and Israel at this time," she added. "Visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions meant to humiliate me would break my grandmother's heart. 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."
Israel's reversal comes a day after it announced it would bar Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar from entering the country. The two Muslim congresswomen had been planning to lead the first-ever congressional delegation to the West Bank in order to get a feet-on-the-ground view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Tlaib previously told Jewish Insider.
"[It will help] people see the human impact on Palestinians, and what an opportunity of value to have a sitting congressmember that has a living grandmother in the Occupied Territories," she said.
On Thursday, Israel said it would bar Tlaib and Omar from visiting the country following pressure from President Donald Trump, who stoked racial tension by tweeting that "It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit" and "They hate Israel & all Jewish people." Previously, Tlaib and Omar voted against a House resolution to condemn the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
The announcement drew swift condemnation from the progressive left.
It is disgusting that a bigot like Trump is attacking @RashidaTlaib and @IlhanMN in this way. Opposing Netanyahu's policies is not “hating the Jewish people.” We must stand together against those who promote hatred and racism in Israel, Palestine, the U.S. and everywhere. https://t.co/Sq8FikcumK— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 15, 2019
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.— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) August 15, 2019
This woman right here is my sity. She deserves to live in peace & with human dignity. I am who I am because of her. The decision by Israel to bar her granddaughter, a U.S. Congresswoman, is a sign of weakness b/c the truth of what is happening to Palestinians is frightening. pic.twitter.com/GGcFLiH9N3— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) August 15, 2019
On Thursday, Tlaib wrote to the Israeli interior minister, Aryeh Deri, asking to be allowed to visit her 90-year-old grandmother, or her "sity," who lives in the Palestinian village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa.
"This could be my last opportunity to see her," Tlaib wrote.
But on Friday, Tlaib issued a statement saying she decided not to go to Israel after all. Her full statement is below.
"In my attempt to visit Palestine, I’ve experienced the same racist treatment that many Palestinian-Americans endure when encountering the Israeli government. In preparation for my visit, my grandmother was deciding which fig tree we would pick from together, while Palestinians and Israelis who are against the illegal military occupation were looking forward to Members of Congress finally listening to and seeing them for the first time. The Israeli government used my love and desire to see my grandmother to silence me and made my ability to do so contingent upon my signing a letter – reflecting just how undemocratic and afraid they are of the truth my trip would reveal about what is happening in the State of Israel and to Palestinians living under occupation with United States support.
“I have therefore decided to not travel to Palestine and Israel at this time. Visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions meant to humiliate me would break my grandmother's heart. 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.
“When I won the election to become a United States Congresswoman, many Palestinians, especially my grandmother, felt a sense of hope, a hope that they would finally have a voice. I cannot allow the Israeli government to take that away from them or to use my deep desire to see my grandmother, potentially for the last time, as a political bargaining chip. My family and I have cried together throughout this ordeal; they’ve promised to keep my grandmother alive until I can one day reunite with her. It is with their strength and heart that I reiterate I am a duly elected United States Congresswoman and I will not allow the Israeli government to humiliate me and my family or take away our right to speak out. I will not allow the Israeli government to take away our hope.
“Racism and the politics of hate is thriving in Israel and the American people should fear what this will mean for the relationship between our two nations. If you truly believe in democracy, then the close alignment of Netanyahu with Trump's hate agenda must prompt a re-evaluation of our unwavering support for the State of Israel. The denial of entry of a congressional delegation is not only about Congresswoman Omar and I, but also about the deep-rooted racism within Israel that is taking us further away from peace. The Israeli and Palestinian people need us to be more courageous and to be honest brokers of peace. Being silent and not condemning the human rights violations of the Israeli government is a disservice to all who live there, including my incredibly strong and loving grandmother.
“This type of oppression is painful for all humanity, but it is especially painful for me personally every time I hear my loving family members cry out for the freedom to live and the right to feel human."
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