US congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has decided against visiting her relatives in the West Bank, despite Israel’s interior minister granting her entry on humanitarian grounds.
In an unprecedented move, Israel had initially barred Ms Tlaib and fellow Democrat Ilhan Omar from visiting the West Bank due to their support for an international movement to boycott the country.
Ms Tlaib was hoping to visit her relatives – including her 90-year-old grandmother – in the West Bank during their trip.
Israel’s interior ministry later said Ms Tlaib could visit her family on humanitarian grounds – and it released a letter reportedly signed by the US politician in which she promised that she wouldn’t advocate boycotts during the trip.
Turning down the opportunity, the American-born congresswoman 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.”
Israel’s initial decision to ban the two US citizens, who were planning to visit Jerusalem and several West Bank cities, sparked widespread criticism.
It came after US President Donald Trump put pressure on his ally Benjamin Netanyahu to block their trip, saying it would have shown “great weakness” to allow it to go ahead.
Mr Trump has previously targeted the two Muslim women in remarks branded racist – telling them to “go back” to the “broken” countries they came from.
Both women are supporters of the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which opposes the Israeli occupation and policies towards Palestinians in the West Bank.
Under Israeli law, BDS supporters can be denied entry to Israel.
Israel claims that BDS targets the country’s very existence, while the movement’s supporters say it is intended as leverage to end more than half a century of Israeli military rule over Palestinians.
Last month, Israel’s ambassador to the US Ron Dermer said entry would not be denied to any member of Congress.
Ms Tlaib tweeted that the decision to bar her was a “sign of weakness” because “the truth of what is happening to Palestinians is frightening”.
Ms Omar said Mr Netanyahu’s decision was “not a surprise” given his record, adding: “It is an affront that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, under pressure from President Trump, would deny entry to representatives of the US government.
“Trump’s Muslim ban is what Israel is implementing, this time against two duly elected members of Congress. Denying entry into Israel not only limits our ability to learn from Israelis, but also to enter the Palestinian territories.”
The US president intervened hours earlier to claim Ms Tlaib and Ms Omar “hate Israel” and “all Jewish people”.
She said he had “consistently resisted peace efforts; restricted the freedom of movement of Palestinians; limited public knowledge of the brutal realities of the occupation; and aligned himself with Islamophobes like Donald Trump”.
Source: SKY NEWS