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Israel will not prohibit Reps. Omar and Tlaib from visiting next month

From left, Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) at a Hill news conference Monday.
From left, Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) at a Hill news conference Monday. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, both outspoken critics of the Israeli government, will not be barred from visiting Israel, the country’s ambassador to the United States said Friday.

Omar (D-Minn.), a Somali-born refu­gee, said this week that she planned to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories in a few weeks, which led some to wonder whether she would be welcome.

“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,” Ambassador Ron Dermer said.

The Jewish Insider first reported Omar’s intention to visit.

“I am going in a couple of weeks and so I’ll learn more. But truly, everything that I hear points to both sides feeling like there is still an occupation,” Omar told Jewish Insider after a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday during which bills related to Israel were debated.

Tlaib (D-Mich.), who is Palestinian American, has plans to visit her relatives in the West Bank over Congress’s August recess.

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Omar and Tlaib, the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress, are supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls for individuals and companies to boycott Israel over its policies toward Palestinians.

This week, Omar sponsored a resolution with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) to affirm Americans’ right to use “boycotts to further civil rights at home and abroad.”

Though the language of her resolution is broad, it is intended to oppose efforts on Capitol Hill to protect states that ban companies participating in the BDS movement. Tlaib is the third co-sponsor of the resolution.

“We cannot simultaneously say we want peace and then openly oppose peaceful means to hold our allies accountable,” Omar said during the Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. “This week I introduced a resolution. . . . It recognizes the proud history of boycott movements in this country dating back to the Boston Tea Party.”

Omar and, to a lesser extent, Tlaib have been pilloried by the right-wing media and President Trump since arriving in Washington. Omar was attacked earlier this year for comments she made about Israel that some believed perpetuated anti-Semitic stereotypes, including saying that support for Israel in American politics was “all about the Benjamins.”

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Over the weekend, Trump sent a tweet referring to Omar, Tlaib, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), all women of color, telling them to “go back” to the country they came from and accusing them of hating America. Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley and Tlaib were all born in the United States. Omar became a citizen in 2000. And when Trump mentioned Omar at a rally in North Carolina on Wednesday night, the crowd chanted, “Send her back!”

On Friday, Trump continued his disparagement of Omar, telling reporters, “She’s lucky to be where she is, let me tell you.”