The Middle East Eye published my new piece about the Netanyahu government’s (willing) ‘cave’ to Donald Trump in banning Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from touring Palestine. But since that piece went live, new developments occurred. Please give is a read and promote it on your social media accounts.
Besides the important visits and consultations with Palestinian leaders and NGOs (along with planned meetings with Israeli Jewish and Palestinian MKs), Tlaib had a personal family purpose in the canceled trip: her 90-year-old sity, or grandmother, lives in a West Bank village. Tlaib hoped to see her on this visit, perhaps for the last time. After Netanyahu refused to permit her to enter Israel, she applied for a humanitarian permit for the purpose of visiting her relative.
What she didn’t expect was that as the Interior Ministry approved this permit, it released a letter from Tlaib (copy of letter here) declaring that she would agree not to advocate for BDS during her visit, and that she had also agreed to adhere to any further unspecified restrictions that might be placed on her.
When she sent this letter she made a grave error. Though she would have entered Israel-Palestine in a private capacity, she was still an elected member of Congress. She might just as well said she would agree to wear a muzzle and straight jacket during her trip. Such restrictions would have set a terrible precedent for the future.
The Israeli human rights lawyer who represented another Palestinian-American who successfully sued the same ministry after it denied her entry, said this:
Ms. Bechor warned that Ms. Tlaib, by having promised in writing not to promote boycotts during her planned visit, had likely given Israel ammunition to demand similar commitments from other Americans who support a boycott of Israel — even those who are married to Israelis or Palestinians and live in the country or on the West Bank.
Well-meaning progressive politicians don’t realize the power game Israel is playing. They’ve been at it far longer than any American politician has. Deri and Netanyahu are playing the long game, while members of Congress only look at what’s in front of them. To Tlaib, the promise to adhere to Israeli restrictions appeared a minor temporary inconvenience she could accept in return for seeing her beloved sity. But to Deri and his government, Tlaib was a dangerous figure who needed to be cut down to size. Releasing her letter, in which she appeared to capitulate to Israeli demands, made her appear a much smaller political figure.
As a further example of what Israel sought from her, imagine you are a real estate investor seeking to buy a commercial building. You enter into a contract with the seller specifying the price. The contract also includes terms saying that you will agree to abide by unspecified restrictions that the seller may place upon you in the future. What sort of contract is that?
Within hours, and likely after reading a firestorm of criticism from Palestinian activists, Tlaib had rejected the permit, declaring that she could not accept the terms the Israeli government sought to subject her to (see her statement).
In response, the interior ministry and Donald Trump published hate-filled tweets saying that the Palestinian-American had subjected Israel to a ruse and that her bad faith was evident in her rejection.
Israel was very respectful & nice to Rep. Rashida Tlaib, allowing her permission to visit her “grandmother.” 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2019
Who puts scare quotes around the word “grandmother?” Is the Palestinian not her grandmother? Or is Trump saying that Tlaib’s relative is a Hollywood actor pretending to be family, just as Michael Oren accused the Tamimi family of not being Palestinians, but being “crisis actors.”
In their comments attacking Tlaib, neither Deri nor Trump acknowledged that thousands of U.S. Congress members have visited Israel for decades. Five Democratic members even visited Palestine under auspices of the same Palestinian NGO which was to sponsor her tour. None of them had any restrictions placed on their travel. The lesson learned from this is that Israel views not just Palestinians as its enemies, but U.S. citizens of Palestinian descent as enemies as well.