Tlaib and Omar protest Israeli government on human rights after travel ban

By: - August 19, 2019 4:18 pm

U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) listen during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on July 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump stepped up his attacks on the four progressive Democratic congresswomen, saying that if they’re not happy in the U.S. “they can leave.” | Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) spoke in Minneapolis on Monday about the Israeli government’s recent decision to bar them from the country, saying it reflected the disregard the nation has for the Palestinians living in the contested West Bank.

That story grew complicated last week when Tlaib petitioned Israel to allow her into the country to see her elderly grandmother on the West Bank. The country granted Tlaib’s petition only for her to announce just hours later that she would not make the trip.

“I was born and raised in the beautiful city of Detroit, where many of my African American teachers taught me about the realities of oppression and justice,” Tlaib said Friday, before growing emotional describing her family’s experience visiting her grandmother in the Palestinian territories during her youth.

Tlaib declines visit after Israel lifts ban

“The delegation would have seen first-hand [in Israel] why walls are destructive not productive,” Tlaib said of the canceled trip. “All I can do as a granddaughter is to help humanize [her grandmother] and the Palestinian people’s plight; I know when we can finally see them as deserving human dignity, everyone who lives there will be able to live in peace.”

Tlaib and Omar were flanked by a group of Palestinian Americans and Jewish Americans who also protested the Israeli government and administration of President Donald Trump for their attitude toward Palestinians and restrictive travel policies.

“We give Israel more than $3 million in aid every year, and this is predicated on their being an ally in the region and the ‘only democracy’ in the Middle East,” Omar said, deploying air quotes. 

“We must be asking as Israel’s ally that [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu stop the expansion of settlements on Palestinian land and ensure full rights for Palestinians if we are to give them aid. … We know Donald Trump would love nothing more than to use this issue to pit Muslims and Jewish Americans against each other.”

Tlaib: It’s a ‘sign of weakness’ for Israel to ban me

Tlaib and Omar were at the center of the latest in their string of recent controversies last week after the Israeli government rescinded its previous statement that it would allow them into the country for a planned visit, citing their pro-Palestinian activism and support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Israel’s decision came after President Donald Trump publicly urged the nation to disallow the progressive congresswomen, tweeting, “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.”

U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) defended Tlaib and Omar in a statement last Thursday, saying, “Congresswoman Tlaib, whose family lives in the West Bank, and Congresswoman Omar, who is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, deserve to be treated with the dignity and respect that any other Member of Congress would receive.”

In a statement that foreshadowed Monday’s comments, Tlaib said, “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.”

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Derek Robertson
Derek Robertson

Derek Robertson is a former reporter for the Advance. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.