'We cannot let Trump and Netanyahu hide the occupation'

Watch: Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib hold press conference to respond to Israel's decision to deny them entry.

Elad Benari,

Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar
Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar
Reuters

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) held a press conference on Monday in which they responded to Israel’s decision to ban them from entering the country.

The two were joined by Minnesota residents who said they were directly affected by travel restrictions to Palestinian Arab territories. They include Lana Barkawi, a Palestinian American who is the executive and artistic director of Mizna, a cultural group that sponsors the annual Twin Cities Arab Film Fest.

"The decision to ban me and my colleague, the first two Muslim-American women elected to Congress, is nothing less than an attempt by an ally of the United States to suppress our ability to do our jobs as elected officials," charged Omar.

"We must be asking, as Israel's ally, that Netanyahu stop the expansion of settlements on Palestinian land and ensure full rights for Palestinians if we are to give them aid," she added.

Omar said she appreciates calls to avoid traveling to Israel until restrictions on her and Tlaib are lifted but encouraged lawmakers to visit, saying, "We cannot let Trump and Netanyahu succeed in hiding the cruel reality of the occupation from us."

She also claimed once again, as she did on Friday, that the trip she and Tlaib were planning to Israel was supposed to include meetings with “members of the Israeli Knesset”.

Tlaib, meanwhile, burst into tears as she described seeing her mother going through “dehumanizing checkpoints” when visiting her relatives in Palestinian Authority territories.

"It's unfortunate that Prime Minister Netanyahu has taken a page out of Trump's book," she added.

"All I can do as the granddaughter of a woman living in occupied territory is to elevate her voice by exposing the truth,” said Tlaib, who refused an Israeli offer last Friday to visit her grandmother on humanitarian grounds.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley kept up the administration's criticism of the two lawmakers earlier on Monday.

"Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar have a well-documented history of anti-Semitic comments, anti-Semitic social media posts and anti-Semitic relationships," he said in a statement quoted by The Associated Press.

"Israel has the right to prevent people who want to destroy it from entering the country — and Democrats' pointless Congressional inquiries here in America cannot change the laws Israel has passed to protect itself," added Gidley.

Israel announced last Thursday that the two lawmakers would be banned from entering Israel do their support for the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Israel’s decision to ban Tlaib and Omar came shortly after Trump wrote on Twitter that Israel “would show great weakness” if it let in the two congresswomen.

However, while some accused Israel of caving to pressure from Trump on the matter, Israel’s ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, later clarified that Trump had nothing to do with the decision.

“We were not pressured by the Trump administration to do this and this is a sovereign decision that Israel has to make,” Dermer said in a phone call with US Jewish leaders, explaining the decision was motivated by the fact that the two Muslim lawmakers support BDS.

“The leadership of our country believes that this visit was designed solely with the intention of promoting BDS and they were gonna use this visit as platform to BDS activities,” the ambassador said.




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