TEL AVIV – Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said Israel would allow BDS-supporting Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to visit “out of respect for Congress.”
“Out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel,” Dermer told the Haaretz daily on Friday.
Earlier in the week, the same paper reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be tasked with deciding whether they would be let into the country, due to the sensitivity of the visit and its possible ramifications for Israeli-U.S. relations.
Officials later said that the prime minister would consult with the National Security Council.
Speaking to the Jewish Insider on Wednesday, Omar said that she and Tlaib were planning to visit Israel and the West Bank in “a few weeks.”
“Everything that I hear points to both sides feeling like there is still an occupation,” Omar told the paper.
Her comments were made after pushing a pro-BDS resolution in Congress, co-sponsored by Tlaib (D-Michigan) and Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), that seeks to “oppose unconstitutional legislative efforts” against boycotts. While the text does not mention the BDS movement by name, Omar admitted that the bill’s intention was to allow “an opportunity for us to explain why it is we support a nonviolent movement, which is the BDS movement.”
The text of the resolution cites examples of boycott movements against Nazi Germany, the USSR and apartheid South Africa, and also suggests that the BDS movement is comparable to the Boston Tea Party. “Boycotts have been effectively used in the United States by advocates for equal rights since the Boston Tea Party,” it read.
Israel’s Interior and Strategic Affairs Ministries have denied visas to students, activists and artists who have a proven record of publicly calling for the boycott of Israel. Both Tlaib and Omar have expressed their support for the BDS movement.
Last year, Tlaib first announced that she would lead a taxpayer-funded congressional trip to the West Bank to coincide with the annual Israel mission by AIPAC — a longstanding tradition for freshman lawmakers.
AIPAC has also come under fire from Omar, who accused the pro-Israel lobby of being the driving force behind American support for the Jewish state.
In her speech prior to introducing the resolution, Omar seemed to draw a comparison between Israel and the Hamas terror group. Omar stated that she condemns “in the strongest terms violence that perpetuates the occupation whether it is perpetuated by Israel, Hamas or individuals.”
The BDS movement tweeted that it “warmly welcomes” Omar’s resolution.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-California) told the Jerusalem Post that Omar’s resolution would not pass.
“I can’t imagine that any committee is going to mark up or take seriously any pro-BDS resolution,” Sherman said. “Am I worried about the overall BDS movement worldwide as an economic matter? No. As an effort to delegitimize Israel, of course. The comments here today are a tiny part of that delegitimizing effort.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-New York), who spoke right after Omar, slammed the Somali-born congresswoman for “propping up the BDS movement and blaming Israel for all of its challenges.”
“The BDS movement has not distanced itself from Hamas,” he said, and added that the terror group “uses women and children as human shields.”
“Let’s not deny our duty to be honest brokers,” he continued. “To oppose resolution 246 and to say that everything is due to the Israeli occupation? Why not mention that in 2008, Israel had offered to withdraw from 93 percent of Judea and Samaria? Or what about our students in colleges from coast to coast, being attacked with blunt antisemitism in the name of BDS?”
“Don’t come to this committee and to this Congress and start blaming Israel for all of the violence that is happening to it. That is not honest to accuse Israel of everything that it is suffering from,” he concluded.