Israel bars US congresswomen for supporting Palestinian boycott movement

Israel has decided to ban two US Democratic congresswomen who support the Palestinian-led boycott movement from entering the country, the Israeli government said Thursday.

The decision came after Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar — two newly elected US lawmakers known for their support of the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip — said they planned to visit the region.

In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the decision was made following joint consultations, while expressing his support to the move.

“Only a few days ago, we received their itinerary and it turns out that they plan a trip with one purpose of strengthening the boycott (against Israel) and delegitimizing Israel,” Netanyahu said.

Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said in a statement that he decided to ban the two US lawmakers from entering Israel, citing that “their visit is part of a boycott activity against Israel.”

Deri added that the decision was in accordance with a 2017 amendment to the Israeli Entry Law, which allows the interior minister to ban the entry of supporters of the Palestinian-led BDS (boycotts, divestments, and sanctions against Israel) movement.

He added that if Tlaib, who has relatives in a Palestinian village outside the West Bank city of Ramallah, submits a request to enter the country “for humanitarian reasons and meeting her family,” he would “consider” it.

The announcement came less than an hour after US President Donald Trump tweeted “it would show great weakness” if Israel allowed the two Democratic lawmakers to visit.

“They hate Israel and all Jewish people, and there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds,” Trump said, calling the two congresswomen “a disgrace.”

But Israeli lawmaker Ayman Odeh, leader of the Arab-Jewish Joint List party, criticized the Israeli ban as “another desperate attempt to hide the reality from the world.”

Writing on his Twitter account, he said that “a country with nothing to hide wouldn’t have banned the entrance of two members of (US) Congress.”