Democratic Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib changed her mind Friday on visiting the West Bank, hours after Israel said it would allow her to visit relatives in the Palestinian territory on humanitarian grounds.
The about-face was the latest in a series of maneuvers by both Tlaib and Israel and came a day after Jerusalem announced it would bar her and fellow congresswoman Ilhan Omar from entering the country in their capacity as US lawmakers because of their backing for the boycotting of Israel.
Taking to Twitter, Tlaib posted a photo of her grandmother and said Israel’s agreement to allow her to visit only under certain terms was humiliating. She stated that she would not “bow down to their oppressive & racist policies.” Tlaib had been heavily criticized by Palestinian groups for initially agreeing to Israel’s terms for a family visit.
“Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what [my grandmother] wants for me. It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in — fighting against racism, oppression & injustice.”
Her comments came following Interior Minister Aryeh Deri’s decision to allow her to go to the West Bank, after she submitted a letter requesting to be allowed in despite the ban, citing her elderly grandmother, and promised not to promote boycotting Israel during her visit.
In response to Tlaib’s announcement that she would not coming after all, Deri tweeted: “Apparently [her request] was a provocation to make Israel look bad. Her hatred for Israel is greater than her love for her grandmother.”
Deri, who tweets almost entirely in Hebrew, also issued his tweet in English and tagged US President Donald Trump, who has been vocal in his opposition to Israel allowing in the two congresswomen, the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress.
Earlier an unnamed senior diplomatic official had boasted that Tlaib “has been forced to surrender to the terms Israel set out.”
“I would like to request admittance to Israel in order to visit my relatives, and specifically my grandmother, who is in her 90s and lives in Beit Ur al-Fouqa,” Tlaib wrote in her letter to Deri. “This could be my last opportunity to see her. I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit.”
In announcing her about-face, Tlaib said she had sent the letter to Deri because she broke down after reading of her grandmother’s disappointment to hear she was not coming.
A statement from Deri’s office Friday morning said he had decided to allow the congresswoman into the country based on her letter. It said he “expressed hope that she will live up to her promise and that the visit will only be for humanitarian needs.”
But after it was revealed that she had agreed to Israel’s terms, she faced a barrage of criticism from Palestinian groups for surrendering to Israel.
“What is truly upsetting is that @RashidaTlaib fell in this trap and accepted to demean herself and grovel,” tweeted Nour Odeh, a senior official at the Palestinian NGO Miftah. Miftah was said to be co-sponsoring Tlaib and Omar’s banned trip to Jerusalem and the West Bank.
“Israel is the oppressor and its racist attitude towards Palestinians is established policy. Rashida should have known better. She should have acted with more dignity & pride,” Odeh wrote.
Israel had announced in July that it would allow Omar and Tlaib to visit, despite a controversial 2017 Israeli law prohibiting any foreigner from entering the country who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel.”
But on Thursday, Jerusalem reversed that decision, saying it would ban the lawmakers over their support of the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. In that announcement, Israel said it would allow Tlaib to visit, on humanitarian grounds, if she wished to see her relatives in the West Bank.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, justifying the unprecedented decision to ban serving US legislators from Israel, said it was plain that Omar and Tlaib intended to use the visit to harm Israel. “Several days ago, we received [Omar and Tlaib’s] trip itinerary,” Netanyahu said in a statement, “which clarified that they planned a visit whose sole purpose was to support boycotts and deny Israel’s legitimacy. For example, they called their destination ‘Palestine’ and not ‘Israel,’ and unlike all Democratic and Republican members of Congress before them, they did not seek any meeting with any Israeli official, whether government or opposition.”