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Omar, Tlaib to discuss Israel, Palestine travel restrictions

In this Feb. 5, 2019 file photo, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., left, joined at right by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., listen to President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech, at the Capitol in Washington. Israel's prime minister is holding consultations with senior ministers and aides to reevaluate the decision to allow two Democratic Congresswomen to enter the country next week. Photo: AP/ J. Scott Applewhite
In this Feb. 5, 2019 file photo, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., left, joined at right by Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., listen to President Donald Trump's State of the Union speech, at the Capitol in Washington. Israel's prime minister is holding consultations with senior ministers and aides to reevaluate the decision to allow two Democratic Congresswomen to enter the country next week.

Updated: August 19, 2019 02:17 PM

Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan plan to host a news conference on Monday to discuss travel restrictions to Israel and Palestine, after they were denied entry into Israel last week.

At the urging of President Donald Trump, Israel denied entry to the two Muslim representatives over their support for the Palestinian-led boycott movement. Tlaib and Omar, who had planned to visit Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank on a tour organized by a Palestinian group, are outspoken critics of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and support the Palestinian-led international movement boycotting Israel.

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The news conference announcement said they would discuss "potential policy responses" to Israel's decision. Omar spokesman Jeremy Slevin declined to discuss them ahead of the news conference.

The notice also said they would be accompanied by Minnesota residents who've been directly impacted by travel restrictions. They include Lana Barkawi, a Palestinian American who's executive and artistic director of Mizna, a cultural group that sponsors the annual Twin Cities Arab Film Fest. The U.S. government denied visas to several Mideast actors and directors who had been invited to participate last year.

Before Israel's decision, Trump tweeted it would be a "show of weakness" to allow the two representatives in. Israel controls entry and exit to the West Bank, which it seized in the 1967 Mideast war along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories the Palestinians want for a future state.

Trump's request to a foreign country to bar the entry of elected U.S. 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 Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision was a reckless gamble and risked turning Israel into a partisan issue and threatened to undermine ties between the close allies.

Tlaib and Omar are known as supporters of "boycott, divestment and sanctions," or BDS, a Palestinian-led global movement. Supporters say the movement is a nonviolent way of protesting Israel's military rule over the occupied territories, but Israel says it aims to delegitimize the state and eventually wipe it off the map.

Last week, Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said Tlaib had requested and been granted permission to enter the West Bank to see her aging grandmother. Deri's office released a letter that it said was from Tlaib, which promised to respect travel restrictions during her visit. But after the announcement, Tlaib tweeted she wouldn't allow Israel to use her love for her grandmother to force her to "bow down to their oppressive & racist policies."

Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), issued the following statement last week in response to the decision by Israel's government to not allow Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to visit Israel and the West Bank:

"The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) is disappointed by the Israeli government's decision not to allow Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to visit Israel and the West Bank.  While we strongly disagree with Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib's support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel and had significant concerns regarding the planned trip, we believe allowing the two Representatives to visit was consistent with their status as members of Congress, and Israel's democratic character.

"Had Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib been allowed to visit, the onus would have been on them to either experience Israel in all of its complexity, including its robust ideological, ethnic, and religious diversity, or simply seek out experiences which reinforced their negative preconceptions.

"For our part, the JCRC is proud of our efforts to educate about Israel, which includes bringing elected officials from across the political spectrum to engage with a nation and people whose security and future are of paramount importance to our local Jewish community."

The two congresswomen are part of the "squad" of liberal newcomers — all women of color — whom Trump has labeled as the face of the Democratic Party as he runs for reelection. The Republican president subjected them to a series of racist tweets last month in which he called on them to "go back" to their "broken" countries. They are U.S. citizens — Tlaib was born in the U.S. and Omar became a citizen after moving to the United States as a refugee from war-torn Somalia.


More from KSTP.com:

Israel grants Tlaib West Bank visit on humanitarian grounds

Deputy foreign minister: Israel barring Omar, Tlaib from visiting

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The Associated Press

(Copyright 2019 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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