How the Ban Against Tlaib and Omar has Highlighted the Palestinian Cause
By: Pamela Dimitrova/ Arab America Contributing Writer
Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu banned U.S Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering Israel. The given reason was that the two Muslim American and Democratic congresswomen refused to coordinate their trip with Israeli security officials. He added that Tlaib and Omar support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is banned in Israel along with its supporters.
The two Democratic representatives have been critical of Israeli crimes and violations against the Palestinian people for years. With Palestine-born parents, Tlaib has sought to promote the rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories and diaspora while exposing Israel’s crimes against them. By preventing Tlaib and her colleague from entering Palestine or Israel, Netanyahu probably didn’t expect this to highlight even more the outgoing inhuman treatment towards the Palestinian people and their human rights from the State of Israel.
Right of free movement?
Israel’s ban on Tlaib and Omar visiting the country has highlighted the kind of restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation on the free movement of the Palestinians. This is an issue going on since the 1967 war and it proves that ‘security’ reasons have nothing to do with it – most of the time, Palestinians are denied free movement because they are Palestinians.
Sadly, Tlaib’s situation here is not exceptional either. Israel routinely denies Palestinians living in the diaspora the chance even to visit their families and ancestral homes while Jews from anywhere in the world can become Israeli citizens with full rights.
The case of Tlaib and Omar highlights the need for independent entry and exit facilities for the five million Palestinians who live in Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and, to a lesser extent, Gaza.
Although Gaza has a transit point to and from Egyptian Sinai, Palestinians seeking to enter and leave are screened by the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Some are denied exit permits, even to perform the Hajj, to attend universities, or to seek medical care. Visitors are limited to UN officials and people who have permits to enter Gaza. Gazans enjoyed relative freedom of entry and exit when hundreds of tunnels operated between the Palestinian and Egyptian sectors of the divided town of Rafah straddling the Gaza-Egypt border.
Freedom of entry and exit did not even exist when Palestinians had their own airport in southern Gaza, which opened in November 1991 and was closed by Israeli bombs in October 2000 at the outset of the Second Intifada. Passengers using the airport were bussed to Rafah where they passed through Palestinian immigration and Israeli security.
Right to freedom of speech?
One of ‘hidden’ reasons why the Muslim women were refused permission to visit the country, is their vocal disagreement with Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians.
Tlaib said in a statement, “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.” She added, “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 proves how the state (of Israel) tries continuously to silence everyone who vocally supports Palestine, including the Palestinians themselves, hoping if no one hears about it, the world would forget. Like Omar said during a press conference: “This is the policy of his (Nantinyahu) government when it comes to anyone who holds views that threaten the occupation.”
A failing democracy?
Justifying his decision, Netanyahu stated: “As a free and vibrant democracy, Israel is open to critics and criticism, with one exception: Israeli law prohibits the entry into Israel of those who call for and works to impose boycotts on Israel, as do other democracies that prohibit the entry of people who seek to harm the country.”
But why is such a democratic State so scared of the criticism of the members of the Congress of their closest ally?
Even the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, also criticized the decision. “Every member of Congress,” AIPAC said in a statement, “should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.”
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, also chastised Netanyahu’s move, saying “many strong supporters of Israel will be deeply disappointed,” by the decision, calling it a “sign of weakness” that Israel should reverse.
House Democratic Leadership also condemned the move. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, personally, called both Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer and Netanyahu on Wednesday, and classified the country’s decision as a sign of weakness — and urged reconsideration.
This is to prove how the Democratic State of Israel is not democratic at all and it would ignore any human rights, as long as it keeps the occupation. By refusing entry to Tlaib and Omar and trying to silence them, the Israeli government gave even more voice to Palestinians and highlighted their issue in front of the world, reminding the other countries about Israel’s inhumane treatment of the people in the occupied territories and continuous violation of the international human rights law.