Truthout - August 25, 2019

During Congress’s August recess, a group of 41 Democratic and 31 Republican congressmembers traveled to Israel on a delegation sponsored by American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC subsidizes congressional trips to Israel in order to further the “special relationship” between Israel and the United States. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. military aid: $3.8 billion annually. AIPAC is the chief Israel lobby in the United States and a consistent apologist for Israel’s oppressive policies toward the Palestinians.

Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, had planned their own “Delegation to Palestine,” scheduled to begin on August 17. Tlaib, who was born in the U.S., planned to travel to the West Bank to visit her 90-year old Palestinian grandmother, whom she hasn’t seen for a decade. But, aided and abetted by Donald Trump, Israel withdrew permission for the trip unless Tlaib agreed to remain silent about Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians. She refused to abide by the gag order and the trip was cancelled.

Tlaib said in a statement, “Visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions meant to humiliate me would break my grandmother’s heart. Silencing me with treatment to make me feel less-than is not what she wants for me – it would kill a piece of me that always stands up against racism and injustice.” She added, “Being silent and not condemning the human rights violations of the Israeli government is a disservice to all who live there, including my incredibly strong and loving grandmother.”

Omar, who expressed “strength and solidarity” with Tlaib in a tweet, told reporters, “[Israeli Prime Minister] 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. This is the policy of his government when it comes to anyone who holds views that threaten the occupation.” She tweeted, “We cannot let Trump and Netanyahu succeed in hiding the cruel reality of the occupation from us.”

Israel’s refusal to allow members of the U.S. Congress entry into Israel-Palestine without muzzling them backfired. It has garnered widespread criticism, even by AIPAC, and focused the national discourse on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), which Tlaib and Omar support. ...
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