Weeks ago, Israel announced it would permit Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn), the first two Muslim women to be elected to Congress, to enter Israel and the West Bank. This permission was granted without any restrictions, and despite the fact that Israel regularly bars entry to supporters of the BDS (Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment) movement, which both women do support.
By way of background: Tlaib’s greatest claim to fame is that, on the very day she was sworn in as a member of Congress, she shouted to a crowd of her supporters: “We’re going to impeach the motherf**ker!”, referring, of course, to Pres. Trump. She also supports a “one-state solution” to the Israeli/Palestinian dispute, which implies that she would be happy if the world’s only Jewish-majority country fading out of existence.
Omar, on the other hand, is (in)famous for asserting that, if you want to understand why Israel has so much support among US politicians, all you have to do is “follow the Benjamins, baby.” She has also said that Israel is “hypnotizing the world” to conceal its “evil doings.”
Back to current events: Thursday, August 15, Israel announced that it had reversed its decision to permit entry to the two congresswomen. The reversal came only hours after Pres. Trump had tweeted: “It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.”
Within hours of Israel’s decision to bar entry, Rep. Tlaib wrote to Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, stating: “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. This could be my last opportunity to see her. I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit.”
After a few more hours, Deri GRANTED Tlaib’s request on humanitarian grounds.
And, within hours of learning that her request had been granted, Tlaib announced that she would NOT enter Israel or visit her grandmother after all. “I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in—fighting against racism, oppression & injustice”
You got that right: Tlaib’s sincere, earnest, heart-wrenching desire to visit with her aged grandmother was trumped by her refusal to abide by those nasty old “oppressive conditions”—the same conditions SHE HERSELF had proposed and promised to abide by.
Surprise, surprise: the congresswomen’s planned trip to Israel was never about a fair-minded, even-handed attempt to gather facts upon which to base a sensible US policy regarding the Israeli/Palestinian dispute. It wasn’t even about Tlaib visiting relatives in the West Bank. Instead, it was about figuring out how to maximize embarrassment and bad press for Israel.
To that end, Tlaib is willing to sacrifice her own grandmother. Having realized that accepting Israel’s humanitarian waiver would actually decrease the opprobrium generated by the earlier refusal to admit either congresswoman, Tlaib had a second thought: Better to maximize criticism of Israel than to visit grandma.
Lots of people who support Israel think that, all in all, it was a mistake for Israel not to let both congresswomen into the country in the first place. Perhaps it was. Still, had they been allowed to enter, they would have been followed by a crowd of reporters who would have broadcast every one of their carefully scripted encounters with Palestinians.
There would have been the pretty little girl in her school uniform who would have related how hard it is to go to school, because of Israeli checkpoints; and the man standing next to the security barrier, complaining that the barrier made it almost impossible to farm the land he owns on the other side; and the invalid explaining how difficult it is to visit her doctors, because she cannot easily travel to the hospital. And, of course, there would have been Tlaib’s grandmother, who would have bitterly lamented the injustice of Israel’s “occupation of Palestinian land.”
What we would not have heard, however, is one word about murderous Palestinian terrorists who believe Islam requires the elimination of Jewish sovereignty “from the river to the sea,” thus making the barrier, and the checkpoints, and the “occupation” necessary for Israel’s security. That relevant topic would have been completely ignored.
So, on balance, are Israel’s long-term interests best served if the two congresswomen stay out, or would it have been better to let both in?
Frankly, I do not know, and I have a hunch no one else knows, either, although lots of people have opinions. There’s no laboratory where we can run an experiment and compare two different worlds: one in which they were let in, and one in which they stayed out. All one can do, in any case, is make every effort to counter the falsehoods that people like Tlaib and Omar traffic in on a daily basis.