The botched Middle East trip of U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib has provided pundits and mainstream media endless fodder for blame: President Donald Trump, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are all targets.
Clearly the Omar-Tlaib non-visit to Israel has been fraught with missteps—Trump’s coarse tweets, a premature statement by Dermer saying the two would be allowed in, Netanyahu appearing to vacillate on whether to accept them. But no mistake: Omar and Tlaib are the anti-Semitic stars of this fiasco.
First, Israel had every reason and every right to ban Omar and Tlaib:
• Both are anti-Semites. Evidence: Both representatives continue to employ anti-Semitic tropes including Jewish dual loyalties, Jews paying off U.S. politicians and half a dozen more.
• Both support the hateful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is clearly anti-Semitic since it denies the right of Jews—unlike any other ethnic group—to self-determination and a nation state in their ancient homeland.
Because BDS stands for Israel’s destruction, the movement has been overwhelmingly condemned by Congress, in bipartisan votes. In addition, Israeli legislators recently passed a law barring supporters of BDS from entering Israel, which Israel has every right to enforce.
• Omar and Tlaib reportedly intended to visit Al Aqsa mosque atop the Temple Mount, which has been the scene of dozens of spontaneous riots, many violent. Surely the notoriety of these two members of Congress would have provided enough fuel to spark another conflagration.
In short, if you support the “rights” of Tlaib and Omar to visit Israel, you’re giving aid and comfort to anti-Semites who were preparing to demonize Israel and possibly endanger Israeli police and other citizens.
Second, many civilized countries bar entry to “dangerous” actors:
• In 2005, the U.S. State Department prevented then Indian regional official Narendra Modi (now India’s prime minister) from entering the United States to address Indian-Americans at Madison Square Garden.
• The United Kingdom once banned Israeli politician and future prime minister Menachem Begin from visiting, and has forbidden entrance to another Israeli Knesset member, Moshe Feiglin, because he was, British officials declared, “fostering hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the U.K.”
• The United States, under the Obama administration, barred entry to a right-wing Knesset member Michael Ben-Ami in 2012. We find no record of Democrats objecting to this action. Yet members of the House majority caucus are livid about Israel banning two anti-Semitic representatives.
• Just this year, the United States (justifiably) refused admittance to Omar Barghouti, founder of the BDS movement.
If you criticize Trump and Netanyahu for wanting to prevent Omar and Tlaib from visiting Israel—as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden did in a tweet last week—without holding President Obama to the same standard (which Biden, who was Obama’s vice president, failed to do), you are a hypocrite.
Third, despite the openly anti-Israel sentiments expressed by Omar and Tlaib, Israel was willing to allow their visit under certain circumstances.
Omar and Tlaib had every opportunity to visit Israel on an organized trip with 41 of their Democratic colleagues from the House of Representatives several weeks ago, but they spurned the invitation. Instead the pair opted for a trip sponsored by Miftah, an organization that supports BDS, approves of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians and reportedly has ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a designated terrorist organization.
After Israel denied Tlaib’s visa for the Miftah trip, she asked for “humanitarian” permission to visit her Palestinian grandmother and committed to avoiding pro-BDS and anti-Israel activities. Once Israel granted that permission, however, Tlaib backtracked and decided she could not accept those conditions.
While no country is obligated to permit its enemies to enter, Israel showed uncommon willingness to host Tlaib and Omar. But Israel was understandably not willing to support an anti-Israel propaganda tour on its own soil.
Fourth, the House of Representatives should expel Tlaib and Omar.
The U.S. Constitution provides that “Each House [of Congress] may punish its members for disorderly behavior and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member.”
House Republican Steve King was justifiably censured by Democrats and his fellow Republicans for controversial comments he made about white supremacy, which were considered racist. King lost all his committee posts, including a senior position on the Judiciary Committee.
Surely the steady stream of anti-Semitic comments by both Tlaib and Omar, as well as their support for the blatantly racist BDS movement, qualify them for the harshest possible punishment from their congressional colleagues. (If they were white supremacists, would they be spared?)
Attempts to turn attention away from these disgraceful politicians by attacking Trump, Israel or Netanyahu are diversionary tactics distracting from the moral cancer afflicting Congress.
James Sinkinson is President of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.