Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., left, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., right, listen as President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 2019. (Photo: AP / J. Scott Applewhite)
Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri tweeted that he granted the Michigan Democratic congresswoman permission to visit "her 90 year old grandmother" as a "gesture of goodwill on a humanitarian basis."
But when Tlaib retracted her pledge to refrain from promoting the BDS movement while visiting her grandmother, Deri said on Twitter: "Apparently her hate for Israel overcomes her love for her grandmother."
President Trump – who had urged Israel not to permit Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., to visit the Jewish state this weekend – agreed with Deri.
The president tweeted: "Rep. Tlaib wrote a letter to Israeli officials desperately wanting to visit her grandmother. Permission was quickly granted, whereupon Tlaib obnoxiously turned the approval down, a complete setup. The only real winner here is Tlaib's grandmother. She doesn't have to see her now!"
It's important to understand that BDS is not just anti-Israel – it is anti-Semitic. It seeks to cut off the only Jewish state in the world from all international trade, diplomatic and military relations, cultural and academic programs, tourism and all other ties with every nation on Earth. If fully implemented, BDS would destroy Israel's economy and lead to the collapse of the Jewish state – a goal the founders of BDS proudly embrace.
Israel has been getting plenty of criticism for barring the entry of Tlaib and Omar, including from many individuals and groups who are normally strong supporters. Few of these people are defending Tlaib and Omar for their repeated anti-Semitic and anti-Israel comments, but instead have expressed concern that Israel looks bad for refusing entry to members of the U.S. Congress.
After all, a democratic nation should never bar elected representatives of a close ally from visiting, critics of the Israeli decision argue. What kind of nation would take such an action?
Well, one nation that did the exact same thing in 2012 was the United States of America, in an action by the administration of Democratic President Barack Obama. The U.S. government refused to give a visa to a member of the Israeli Knesset (the nation's parliament), because it said the political party he belonged to was a "terrorist organization."
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin protested the exclusion of Knesset Member Michael Ben Ari, a member of the National Union Party.
"National Union," Rivlin wrote in his letter of protest to the U.S.,"is a completely legitimate faction of the Israeli parliament, and Ben Ari an elected representative of the State of Israel, a close American ally. To impugn him as belonging to a terrorist organization and bar him from visiting the country is unacceptable."
So much for the "unprecedented" action Israel is being criticized for in barring Tlaib and Omar from entering. Every nation on Earth has the sovereign right to determine who can and cannot enter – including Israel.
Barring Tlaib and Omar from entering Israel was a tough call, but I believe Israel made the right decision.
Importantly, Tlaib and Omar turned down an invitation to be part of a bipartisan group of 72 U.S. House members who visited Israel last week. There is no indication that Israel would have barred the pair from being part of that large group of U.S. lawmakers.
The Democratic House members on the trip met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas – who has strongly denounced President Trump for moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and for other actions – refused to meet with the Republican House members, just as he refuses to negotiate peace with the Israelis.
Instead of joining their colleagues, Tlaib and Omar chose to work with a blatantly anti-Semitic group called Miftah to set up a trip that would have avoided any meetings with Israeli government officials and turned into a hate-filled media circus attacking Israel and the Jewish people.
Miftah, which would have been the tour guide for Tlaib and Omar, has published an article that said Jews celebrate Passover by killing Christian children and using their blood to bake matzoh (unleavened bread). This is an ancient anti-Semitic lie that has been used for 2,000 years to justify the murder of Jews, and was heavily promoted by the Nazis, who slaughtered 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.
In 2006, Miftah published an article that praised female suicide bombers. The group has also expressed support for naming public squares after Palestinian terrorists who murder innocent Jewish civilians in Israel.
Miftah refuses to recognize the existence of Israel and opposes joint Arab-Israeli peace programs. The group also denies the existence of the ancient Jewish temples in Jerusalem, an absurd claim that rejects historical reality and undermines a central pillar of Islam as much as it undercuts Judaism and Christianity.
If that weren't enough, Miftah also posted a neo-Nazi article that compares Jews to poison and derides "Jewish media control" as an evil that must be combated. To be clear, this isn't just anti-Israel; it is basic anti-Semitism.
Likewise, the BDS movement, which Tlaib and Omar actively support, isn't about registering dissatisfaction with Israeli policies. It is about applying a double-standard to Israel.
BDS is designed to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state and replace it with a Palestinian state – something the BDS movement's co-founder proudly proclaimed in 2013.
BDS does not simply object to Israel's administration of land it captured after Arab armies invaded the Jewish state in 1967 in an effort to destroy it. BDS opposes Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state within its pre-1967 borders, according to the movement's official documents. Instead, the BDS lobby calls for a series of steps that would dismantle the Jewish state.
U.S. President Donald Trump, U.S. Congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are seen in a combination from file photos. (Photo: Reuters)
Netanyahu explained that while Israel is open to critics and criticism, "Israeli law prohibits the entry into Israel of those who call for and work to impose boycotts on Israel, as do other democracies that prohibit the entry of people who seek to harm the country."
Given the long track record of anti-Israel comments by Tlaib and Omar, there was plenty of reason for Israel to be skeptical about the purpose of their trip. The red flags dramatically increased as their supposed arrival date approached.
Because the Israelis were kept in the dark about the plans by the two congresswomen, Israel was compelled to prepare for the uncomfortable possibility that the two would try to visit the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City – the complex where the two Jewish temples once stood and where the Islamic holy sites of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque are located.
Such a visit would stir controversy after weekend riots erupted on the Temple Mount and could have sparked a new outbreak of potentially deadly violence by Palestinians.
President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu appear to realize that the bipartisan pro-Israel congressional consensus that existed in the past is vanishing. That is a sad reality for Israel and American Jews.
While House Democratic leaders may believe the trend in their own chamber is reversible, they nevertheless rushed to defend Tlaib and Omar when the two were barred from entering Israel, instead demonizing Netanyahu. This is unfortunate.
The fact is that anti-Semitism (cloaked as opposition to Israel since the creation of the modern Jewish state) in one of the oldest and vilest forms of prejudice around, and has been used to justify mass murder on a nightmarish scale.
Just as all men and women of good conscience must denounce racism and other forms of prejudice against particular groups, we must denounce the evil of anti-Semitism. Reps. Tlaib and Omar do not deserve our sympathy or support after being barred from entering Israel. They only deserve our condemnation for their actions promoting hatred of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.