Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) does not mince words.
On Thursday, she announced in a thread of furious tweets that she would boycott President Isaac Herzog’s address to a joint session of the United States Congress, set for Wednesday.
“There is no way in hell I am attending the joint session address from a president whose country has banned me and denied Rashida Tlaib the ability to see her grandma,” Omar wrote.
Omar was referring to a 2019 decision not to let her and her colleague from Michigan into Israel under a law allowing the government to bar the entry of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) advocates.
At the time, then-US ambassador David Friedman issued a statement that is worth recalling. “The United States supports and respects the decision of the government of Israel to deny entry to the Tlaib/Omar delegation,” Friedman said in August 2019. “The BDS movement against Israel is not free speech. Rather, it is no less than economic warfare designed to delegitimize and ultimately destroy the Jewish state.
“Israel properly has enacted laws to bar entry of BDS activists under the circumstances present here, and it has every right to protect its borders against those activists in the same manner as it would bar entrants with more conventional weapons. This trip, pure and simple, is nothing more than an effort to fuel the BDS engine that Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar so vigorously support. Like the United States, Israel is a nation of laws. We support Israel’s application of its laws in this case.”
Progressive Democrats don't want to hear about the reality in Israel
The main points of Friedman’s response are still valid today. Omar, Tlaib, and other members of the progressive wing of the Democratic party who have announced their intention to skip Herzog’s speech are not interested in learning about the reality in Israel – they simply want to push an anti-Israel narrative. The so-called Squad doesn’t miss a chance to bash Israel, and is willing to forgo the opportunity to hear anything that might clash with their preexisting views.
Herzog is a dignified and level-headed leader. Even without seeing an advance copy of his speech, it is reasonable to assume it will concentrate on the shared values and shared interests of the US and Israel, and stress the mutual, strategic importance of the alliance between the two countries.
Herzog will likely also express his support of the Abraham Accords and Israel’s hope that the circle of peace can be expanded to include other Arab and Muslim states. There will no doubt be a mention of Iranian nuclear aspirations and the threat that they represent to the entire world.
But Omar, Tlaib, et al, do not want to hear this – not the message of friendship, not the message of peace, and not the message warning of an Iran on the threshold of a nuclear weapon.
When, at the invitation of Republican leaders, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress in 2015 to warn about the dangers of the Iran deal, some Democrats skipped the speech, perceiving it as a snub of then-president Barack Obama.
Herzog, however, represents Israel as the non-political head of state who, earlier in his career, led the opposition to Netanyahu and headed the Israeli peace camp. He has been invited by the entire congressional leadership, Democratic and Republican, and will be meeting with President Joe Biden during his visit to Washington.
Those Democrats publicly declaring their intention to skip Herzog’s speech are sending a clear message: They are boycotting the State of Israel. Not the Israeli government, not its actions or policies – the entire country. It is part of an ugly cancel culture targeting the Jewish state, a form of congressional BDS.
Happily, the overwhelming majority of Congress – which remains strongly supportive of the US-Israel alliance – will be in attendance.
As House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said on Friday: “President Bougie Herzog has been a force for good in Israeli society. And because Israel is such an important part of the Middle East, because we have such a special relationship with Israel, and because Israel is an important part of the global community… I look forward to welcoming him with open arms when he comes to speak before Congress next Wednesday.”