On Thursday, August 15, Representatives of the House Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were barred entry to Israel, following months of negotiations, which had initially culminated in a positive response to their visit.
The decision was made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, following another one of President Donald Trump’s infamous tweets where he stated, “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…They are a disgrace!”
Netanyahu took the jab to heart — why wouldn’t he, having owed the remaining pieces of his shattered career to the President — and promptly took action to keep the two women out.
The announcement comes at a delicate time, and can be analyzed as a strategic move for many involved parties. Netanyahu wants to showcase strength for the benefit of his constituents, and his perilous political career. Donald Trump wants to not only be blatantly antagonistic of his Muslim opposition in the House, but broadcast to the American people that while his entire administration is a failure, he was able to hold on to a longtime US ally.
For Omar and Tlaib, this was meant to be a diplomatic excursion, where they could forge the path to a better quality of life for the Palestinians currently living under Israeli rule, and now it may never happen.
Netanyahu’s main argument for the whole ordeal is the outspoken support both representatives have shown for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which has taken root on many college campuses across the United States. While the movement is largely decentralized, it represents growing discomfort with the treatment of Muslims under the Israeli state, and has branched out considerably over the past few years.
Netanyahu and many supporters of the Israeli state claim that this movement is largely antisemitic and focused on the destruction of the Jewish people, rather than the advancement of Muslims in Israel. In reality, BDS is devoted to ensuring that the displacement and continued degradation of a people does not go unchallenged.
BDS and its supporters only seek to question a nation with a long and ongoing history of apartheid and persecution. World Report 2019, released by the Human Rights Watch detailed the newest violations of humanity carried out by the Israeli government. In 2018, the movement of people and goods in and out of the Gaza Strip was strictly limited and monitored, forcing Palestinians into a severely restricted way of life.
Attacks against the civilian population continued well into the year, and protests were disrupted with “excessive lethal force,” resulting in the deaths of 189 individuals — 31 of which were children — leaving Netanyahu’s assurances of a thriving democracy and equality for all under the law to feel like little more than platitudes to an easily-swayed West.
In addition to multiple military campaigns launched throughout the year, Israel has continued to expand into the West Bank, simultaneously creating a hostile and discriminatory environment for the Palestinians already inhabiting the area. This has lead to the systematic destruction of homes (390) and the unlawful and immoral eviction of residents (407).
The United States likes to think of itself as a big brother to Israel, fostering and nurturing its democratic (and imperialistic) zeal. Unfortunately, in its unbridled greed for more land and less Muslims to occupy said land, Israel has lost sight of the values the US so desperately wants to see in its mini-me.
American democracy is coveted because it rests on the shoulders of the “people,” a generalization of the American public which has grown over the years to encompass more and more ethnic and racial factions that reside within our borders. Israel no more reflects the values of equality born out of our growth than we did ourselves one hundred years ago. Israeli persecution of Muslims, Palestinians (Christians included), and Black Israelis is a regression into a past of hatred for the minority, and misguided nationalistic idealism.
Keeping Representatives Omar and Tlaib from entering Israel is symbolic of this regression, and it unfortunately doesn’t bode well for the jump start into the future that Israel is so clearly desperate for.