Israel bars visit by US Muslim lawmakers

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Caption: JERUSALEM, May 30, 2019 (Xinhua) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (front) speaks at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, on May 30, 2019. The Israeli parliament on Wednesday night approved a law for its dissolution, less than two months after the general elections that took place on April 9. The next elections are expected to be held on Sept. 17, 2019. (Xinhua/Gil Cohen Magen/IANS)

Jerusalem, Aug 16 The Israeli government barred the entry of US Muslim lawmakers who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The decision has been criticised by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and AIPAC, the most powerful pro-Israel lobbying organisation in the US.

US President Donald Trump publicly urged Israel to bar the visit by Democratic representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan

“The decision has been made, the decision is not to allow them to enter,” Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told Reshet Radio.

Omar, a Somali refugee, and Tlaib, the Detroit-born daughter of Palestinian immigrants, made history last year when they became the first Muslim women elected to Congress.

Both are outspoken critics of the right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel’s interior ministry said in a statement that the determination to exclude Tlaib and Omar was reached “after Minister (Aryeh) Deri was convinced that (the visit) was part of boycott activism against Israel.”

“The state of Israel respects the US Congress as part of the close alliance between the two countries. But it is inconceivable that Israel would be expected to let into the country those who wish to hurt it, including by means of the visit itself,” the ministry said.

The Netanyahu government’s decision to bar Omar and Tlaib spurred criticism from the Israeli left.

“Israel has always banned Palestinians from their land and separated us from other Palestinians, but this time the Palestinian is a US congresswomen,” Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Arab Joint List in the Knesset, said.

“@RashidaTlaib didn’t even have to land to expose the true face of Israel’s occupation,” Odeh tweeted.

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