By Umar Farooq
WASHINGTON (AA) - U.S. congresswoman Rashida Tlaib said Friday she would not visit the occupied West Bank to see her grandmother because restrictions placed on her by Israel were meant to embarrass her.
"The Israeli government used my love and desire to see my grandmother to silence me and made my ability to do so contingent upon my signing a letter - reflecting just how undemocratic and afraid they are of the truth my trip would reveal about what is happening in the State of Israel and to Palestinians living under occupation with United States support," Tlaib said in a statement.
"I will not allow the Israeli government to humiliate me and my family or take away our right to speak out. I will not allow the Israeli government to take away our hope," said the Palestinian-American lawmaker.
Israel opted Thursday to block Tlaib, along with fellow lawmaker Ilhan Omar, from visiting the country and the occupied West Bank, sparking widespread condemnation.
The elected representatives have been vocal proponents of the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement which seeks to ramp up economic pressure on Israel for its treatment of Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories, and its continued construction of settlements in the West Bank that are considered illegal under international law.
Omar called Israel's decision an implementation of Trump's Muslim ban that barred U.S. entry to individuals from a number of Muslim-majority countries.
"Denying entry into Israel not only limits our ability to learn from Israelis, but also to enter the Palestinian territories," Omar said Thursday. "Sadly this is not a surprise given the public positions of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has consistently resisted peace efforts, restricted the freedom of movement of Palestinians, limited public knowledge of the brutal realities of the occupation and aligned himself with Islamophobes like Donald Trump."
Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said that Tlaib's request to visit the West Bank on humanitarian grounds, followed by her reversing course and announcing she would not visit, was a "provocation to embarrass Israel" and said her "hatred for Israel overcomes her love for her grandmother".
Tlaib, however, said her visit under "oppressive conditions" would go against what she believes.
"It would kill a piece of me that always stands up against racism and injustice," said Tlaib.
The decision to ban the congresswomen came shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump got into the mix and tweeted that Israel would “show great weakness” by allowing them entrance to the country.
The move was a reversal for Israel that gave the lawmakers assurances when U.S. Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer said last month that Tlaib and Omar would be allowed to visit Israel "out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America."
Since becoming the first Muslim women elected to Congress in November, Trump has not missed an opportunity to attack Tlaib and Omar for their criticism of Israel, and he tweeted Thursday they "hate Israel" and hate "all Jewish people."
In closing her statement, Tlaib admonished Americans about blindly accepting the U.S.-Israeli partnership. "If you truly believe in democracy, then the close alignment of Netanyahu with Trump's hate agenda must prompt a re-evaluation of our unwavering support for the State of Israel," she said.