U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib held a news conference Monday to condemn the Israeli government for last week's decision banning the congresswomen from entering the country. Many observers cite President Trump's pressure as the main reason behind Israel's last-minute decision to ban the congresswomen. However, other key factors are at play – including the fact that the congresswomen's itinerary was organized by a group with a history of glorifying terrorists.
The trip, titled "U.S. Congressional Delegation to Palestine," did not include any scheduled visits with Israeli officials.
From the outset, their trip – almost exclusively planned to take place in Palestinian population centers – was intended to be a one-sided propaganda tour to paint Israel as an occupying aggressor. It is not surprising that their follow-up press conference was just another episode in the congresswomen's vendetta against Israel.
While both congresswomen are right to point out troubles facing Palestinian society – they both miss the mark by entirely absolving Palestinian leaders for their constituencies' woes and criticizing major Israeli security measures without providing even the slightest context.
Tlaib recounted memories visiting Israel in her youth before detailing defensive Israeli counterterror measures.
"The delegation would have seen firsthand. Yeah, why walls are destructive, not productive. They could've asked the people in Bethlehem how walls cut people off away from economic opportunities, from a way to live and do psychological damage that lasts forever," Tlaib said.
Israel's security barrier – which largely separates the West Bank from Israel – may disrupt Palestinian social and economic life to varying degrees. But Tlaib's framing omits the fact that Israel put these measures in place following countless Palestinian terrorist and suicide attacks during the Second Intifada throughout the early 2000s. Counterterrorism experts cite Israel's security barrier as one of the most effective counterterrorism measures that drastically helped reduce Palestinian terrorist attacks and Israeli casualties. The wall did not alter Palestinian terrorist motivations. But it denied terrorists free entry to kill hundreds of Israelis. It is unfortunate that average Palestinian citizens are affected in adverse ways by these hurdles. But to frame these protective measures solely as a means to destroy Palestinian life is inaccurate and inherently dishonest. The security barrier was erected to stifle Palestinian terrorists, who continue to devote most of their resources and attention to killing Israelis.
The same is true for security checkpoints. Omar and Tlaib presented them as instruments used to punish Palestinians, but Frimet Roth offered a sad reality check. Her daughter, Malki, was 15 years old in 2001 when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up inside Jerusalem's Sbarro pizza shop.
Since that brutal attack, the Palestinian Authority has paid more than $900,000 to the suicide bomber's family and accomplices, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Supporters of Palestinian terrorism, on the other hand, view attacks against Israeli civilians as heroic and legitimate resistance. These supporters include groups like Miftah – the organization which planned and funded Tlaib and Omar's proposed trip. In 2006, Miftah wrote a report referring to a 2002 Jerusalem suicide attack as an instance of "Fighting Back." As the National Review noted, Miftah published an article in which describes Dalal Al Mughrabi as "a Palestinian fighter who was killed during a military operation against Israel in 1978" and as one of the Palestinian people's "national heroes."
Mughrabi led a 1978 bus hijacking attack in which 37 Israeli civilians were killed. She is among the terrorist killers celebrated by the Palestinian Authority with monuments, summer camps and schools named in her honor.
Miftah has a long track record of promoting anti-Israel incitement and previously glorified suicide bombers for "sacrificing their lives for the cause." The group has also disseminated anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on several occasions.
The congresswomen pointed out that Miftah co-sponsored a similar trip for other members of Congress in the past. However, that 2016 trip occurred a year before Israel passed its 2017 anti-BDS law – which allows Israel to reject entry to anyone tied to or actively promoting the global BDS movement.
Both Tlaib and Omar have generated controversy for some of their anti-Israel positions, including Tlaib's full support for the BDS campaign to boycott Israel and encourage business and academic institutions to divest investments in companies which do business in Israel. Tlaib compared the campaign to a boycott against Nazi Germany, while Omar has repeatedly made anti-Semitic statements including Jewish money controls American foreign policy.
Critics of BDS emphasize the program's real goal is eliminating the state of Israel. That's difficult to deny when you consider the words of BDS leader Omar Barghouti: "We oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine."
Neither politician mentions Palestinian terrorism or Palestinian incitement or Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel a Jewish state as obstacles to peace in the region. "The occupation is real; barring members of Congress from seeing it does not make it go away. We must end it together," Omar said on Monday. This one-sided sentiment does not sound like someone who earlier boasted of meeting "with constituents holding a wide range of views on the conflict." Either Omar self-selected which constituents she'd meet with or she fully ignores the views of Israel supporters.
During the press conference, Omar argued that U.S. assistance to Israel should be contingent on how Palestinians are treated and questioned continued aid in response to Israel's ban on the congresswomen: "We give Israel more than $3 (billion) in aid every year. This is predicated on them being an important ally in the region and the only democracy in the Middle East. But denying a visit to duly elected members of Congress is not consistent with being an ally and denying millions of people freedom of movement or expression or self-determination is not consistent with being a democracy."
Omar sarcastically references Israel as "the only democracy in the Middle East" using hand quotes. Depending on how one defines democracy, it is true that there are other democratically elected leaders in the region including Tunisia, Turkey, and Iraq. However, according to prominent indices measuring freedom worldwide, Israel remains the region's sole liberal democracy.
The opposite is true for the Palestinian territories, whose governments systematically repress dissent and stifle many freedoms of expression and association, according to Human Rights Watch. On the same day as the anti-Israel press conference, PA police prohibited a Palestinian LGBT group from organizing any activities in the West Bank. The police even threatened to arrest the activists, arguing that their agenda is against the "values of Palestinian society." Israel, on the other hand, is one of the friendliest countries in the world when it comes to LGBT issues. But you won't hear these two congresswomen cite this huge distinction between Israeli and Palestinian society.
Instead, the act continued. Tlaib appeared surprised when asked about the controversy surrounding Miftah.
"So we're also taken aback and learn from everybody else that there was some issues regarding it. Again, I think especially Ilhan Omar and I are extremely careful in vetting because there is a close eye and policing of our actions that is so much more weighted on us than any other members," Tlaib answered.
"Extremely careful in vetting?" If Tlaib is so careful about who she associates with, then why does she continuously surround herself with Islamists who espouse anti-Semitic and pro-terrorist views? Either Tlaib failed to properly vet her go-to entourage or she endorses what prominent U.S.-based Islamists consistently spew.
In April, she met with an American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) delegation. Several AMP leaders, including its chairman and its executive director, previously worked with a group called the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), which served as the propaganda arm of a Muslim Brotherhood-run Hamas-support network in the United States. According to an IPT exclusive, Tlaib was caught smiling in photographs with anti-Israel terrorist supporters twice this year.
Tlaib has also expressed a need to "protect" anti-Israel figures like CAIR leader Zahra Billoo.
Billoo, like other U.S. Islamist figures, consistently opposes any type of engagement or interfaith dialogue with organizations that maintain ties to Israel. She's at least honest enough not to hide her hate, admitting that she does not believe Israel has a right to exist. She has repeatedly condemned Muslim leaders as illegitimate if they oppose BDS. Like core BDS supporters, Tlaib similarly has advocated for a "one-state solution" – which is essentially the destruction of the Jewish state.
BDS is considered anti-Semitic because it singles out the world's only Jewish state.
We have yet to see Tlaib and Omar stand on a podium and hold a news conference against any other Middle East government with far worse human rights records than the Jewish state.