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US congresswoman decides against West Bank visit over ‘oppressive conditions’

Rashida Tlaib said restrictions imposed by Israel on her visit were ‘meant to humiliate me’.

Rashida Tlaib said she will not visit the West Bank (AP)
Rashida Tlaib said she will not visit the West Bank (AP)

By Associated Press Reporter

US congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has decided against visiting her relatives in the West Bank after Israel issued a permit allowing her entry on humanitarian grounds.

Israel barred Ms Tlaib and fellow Democrat Ilhan Omar from visiting Jerusalem and the West Bank over their support for the international boycott movement, but later said Ms Tlaib could visit her relatives in the West Bank.

The Israeli Interior Ministry released a letter purportedly signed by Ms Tlaib in which she promised not to advocate boycotts during her visit.

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Ms Tlaib, left and Ilhan Omar were both barred by Israel Scott Applewhite/AP)

But in a statement released later on Friday, Ms Tlaib said “visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions meant to humiliate me would break my grandmother’s heart.”

She added that “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.”

It was not clear if she had initially agreed to the Israeli conditions, and if so what caused her to change her mind.

Ms Tlaib and Ms Omar had planned to visit Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank next week on a tour organised by a Palestinian group.

The two are outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and support the Palestinian-led international movement boycotting Israel.

The two newly elected Muslim members of Congress have sparred with Mr Trump, who tweeted before the decision that it would be a “show of weakness” to allow them in.

Israel controls entry and exit to the West Bank, which it seized in the 1967 Middle East war along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip — territories the Palestinians want for a future state.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri announced that Ms Tlaib had requested and been granted permission to enter the West Bank to see relatives. The US-born Tlaib’s family emigrated from the West Bank.

Mr Deri’s office released what it said was Ms Tlaib’s written request, on congressional stationery dated Thursday, in which she said she wanted to visit her grandmother, who is in her 90s.

“This could be my last opportunity to see her. I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit,” she said.

Shortly after the announcement, however, Ms Tlaib tweeted that she would not allow Israel to use her love for her grandmother to force her to “bow down to their oppressive & racist policies”.

“When I won (in 2018), it gave the Palestinian people hope that someone will finally speak the truth about the inhumane conditions. I can’t allow the State of Israel to take away that light by humiliating me,” she wrote.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organisation whose Miftah group had organised the original congressional visit, said she was not involved in the latest request.

“Miftah does not sponsor personal or individual or humanitarian visits nor do we intervene on behalf of any such petitions. As we announced yesterday, our delegation’s visit has been postponed until such time as all Congressional participants can have free access to Palestine,” she tweeted.

Mr Trump’s request to a foreign country to bar the entry of elected US officials — and Israel’s decision to do so — were unprecedented and drew widespread criticism, including from many Israelis as well as staunch supporters of Israel in Congress.

Critics said it risked turning Israel into a partisan issue and threatened to undermine ties between the close allies.

PA

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