Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib hint at cutting aid to Israel after entry denied

"Netanyahu's decision to deny us entry might be unprecedented for members of Congress."

U.S. Rep Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and U.S. Rep Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (photo credit: REUTERS/ERIN SCOTT)
U.S. Rep Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and U.S. Rep Ilhan Omar (D-MN)
(photo credit: REUTERS/ERIN SCOTT)
WASHINGTON – Democratic Congresswomen Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who were denied entry to Israel last week, slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump at a press conference in Washington.
“We cannot let Trump and Netanyahu succeed in hiding the cruel reality of the occupation from us,” said Omar. “The occupation is real. Barring members of Congress from seeing it does not make it go away. We must end it together.
“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,” she continued. “Netanyahu’s decision to deny us entry might be unprecedented for members of Congress, but it is the policy of his government when it comes to Palestinians.”
After a back-and-forth last week, the two congresswomen canceled their planned trip despite Israel granting permission to enter Israel on humanitarian grounds, after initially banning the two.
Hinting again at a possible move of cutting aid to Israel, which Sen. Bernie Sanders had suggested in the past, Omar added, “We have a constructive role to play.”
“We give Israel more than $3 billion in aid every year. This is predicated on their being an important ally in the region and the only democracy in the Middle East, but denying visits to duly elected members of Congress is not consistent with being an ally. And denying millions of people freedom of movement or expression or self-determination is not consistent with being a democracy.”
She also slammed the president, saying that he “would love nothing more than to use this issue to pit Muslims and Jewish Americans against each other. The Muslim community and the Jewish community are being ‘othered’ and made into the boogeyman by this administration.”
Tlaib added that “it is unfortunate that Prime Minister Netanyahu has apparently taken a page out of Trump’s book and even direction from Trump to deny this opportunity.”
She recalled a visit as a young girl to her grandparents and extended family. “I watched as my mother had to go through dehumanizing checkpoints, even though she was a United States citizen and a proud American,” Tlaib said. “I remember visiting east Jerusalem with my husband, and him [being] escorted off the bus although he was a United States citizen, just so security forces could harass him.
“All I can do as the granddaughter of a woman who lives in occupied territory is to elevate her voice by exposing the truth,” Tlaib went on. “The only way I know how, as my Detroit public school teachers taught me, is by humanizing the pain of oppression. Our delegation trip included meetings with Israeli veterans who were forced to participate in military occupation.”
Meanwhile, Omar and Tlaib responded on Monday to reports that the Palestinian Authority has banned LGBTQ activities within the West Bank, sharing a post by Al-Qaws – the Palestinian LGBTQ group that led to the ban – which listed “five ways to support” the community.
“Pretending that this act somehow balances or mitigates Israel violating the dignity & rights of Palestinians – or undermines case for defending Palestinian rights – is deplorable!” Omar tweeted earlier, in response to a post about the ban. “LGBTQ rights are human rights and we should condemn any effort to infringe upon them. But we should also condemn any effort to equate this with the occupation or use this as a distraction,” she said.
The US congresswoman, who has used Twitter to share numerous anti-Israel tweets as well as antisemitic tropes, had been called out by numerous people to respond to the news regarding the Palestinian Authority. “Right wing media asking us about this, can you listen up and amplify it correctly!” wrote Omar along with the post.
The post by Al-Qaws lists five ways to “support Palestinian queers.” It includes a call to “realize that colonialism, patriarchy and homophobia are all connected forms of oppression” and to “steer clear of pinkwashing” as a necessary part of reporting on the issue.
The PA’s ban came after the grassroots group Al-Qaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society (Arabic for “the bow”), which engages and supports Palestinians who identify as LGBTQ, was planning to hold a gathering for its members in Nablus at the end of the month. The group operates both in the West Bank and among Arab-Israelis.
Al-Qaws is a civil society organization established in 2001 with the goal of “fighting for vibrant Palestinian cultural and social change, building LGBTQ communities and promoting new ideas about the role of gender and sexual diversity in political activism, civil society institutions, media and everyday life.”
Sydney Dennen and Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.