Two US congresswomen barred from visiting Israel for backing BDS
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Two US congresswomen barred from visiting Israel for backing BDS

Ilhan Omar, a representative for Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, and Rashida Tlaib, a representative for Michigan’s 13th congressional district, are expected to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories at the weekend. Omar, with a Somali origin and Tlaib, with Palestinian roots, have openly supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and been outspoken in their criticism of the Israeli crimes against Palestinians. The movement was initiated in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian organizations and later became international. Israeli deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely said on Thursday Tel Aviv had decided not to allow the members of US Congress to enter Israel.  “We won’t allow those who deny our right to exist in this world to enter Israel. In principle this is a very justified decision,” she told the Kan public broadcaster. Earlier in the day, AFP quoted an Israel official as saying that prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu held consultations on the visit on Wednesday and a final decision was being weighed. “There is a possibility that Israel will not allow the visit in its current proposed format,” the official said, adding, “Professional teams and legal counsel in various government ministries are continuing to examine the decision.” The official further said that according to Israeli law, the interior minister who is now Aryeh Deri has the authority to decide on the issue. Deri, 60, is the chairman of Shas, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish political party in Israel. Back in 1999, he was convicted of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, and received a three-year prison sentence. “If Congresswoman Tlaib makes a humanitarian request to visit her family, the decision on her matter will be considered favorably,” the official noted. Israel’s Knesset in 2017 passed a law banning entry to foreigners who support BDS, which is meant to initiate “various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law” and ends its occupation of Palestinian lands. Omar has accused the Tel Aviv regime of discrimination against Palestinians similar to apartheid. In January, she enraged the large pro-Israel contingent in Congress, particularly the largely Democratic US Jewish community, by mocking America’s branding of Israel as a democracy. Additionally on Thursday, American President Donald Trump urged Tel Aviv not to show “weakness” and firmly prevent the pair from visiting Israel. Israeli decision on US congresswomen 'outrageous': Palestinian official Meanwhile, a senior Palestinian official described Israel's decision to bar two US congresswomen from visiting the Palestinian territories as "an outrageous act of hostility." "The Israeli decision to ban Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from visiting Palestine is an outrageous act of hostility against the American people and their representatives," Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said in a statement. "This is a dangerous precedent that defies all diplomatic norms and an assault on the Palestinian people's right to engage with the rest of the world," she said. Both women, who became the first Muslim members of the House of Representatives in January, have faced accusations of anti-Semitism, which they firmly deny. Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer had previously signaled that the pair would be allowed to visit out of respect for Washington. Omar and Tlaib’s support for BDS comes at a time when Trump has stepped up ties with Tel Aviv and stopped Palestinian aid. Israel and its allies in Washington have long railed against calls for people and groups across the world to cut economic, cultural and academic ties to the occupying regime.

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