I’m a stickler for sovereignty. Sovereign nations have borders and their leaders decide who gets to cross them. The exclusion of hostile or even just objectionable individuals is common practice. Among those denied entry to the United States, for example, are Michael Ben-Ari, a far-right Israeli legislator, and Narendra Modi, accused of doing too little to prevent anti-Muslim riots in 2002, and now India’s current prime minister.
Unless Israel is to be held to a separate and unequal standard its leaders must enjoy the same right, which they exercised by declining to welcome U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).
The dominant media narrative is that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu excluded the two far-left congresswomen in deference to U.S. President Donald Trump, who had tweeted that they “hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.” Perhaps that did influence the prime minister’s thinking, but other factors undoubtedly were weighed as well. Allow me to mention a few.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) invited Omar and Tlaib to join a bipartisan delegation that visited Israel and the West Bank earlier this month. They preferred not to accompany their colleagues.
Separately, the Israeli government granted a request by Tlaib to enter the West Bank to visit relatives, asking only that she not use the occasion to promote boycotts against Israel. She said no deal.
The itinerary for their trip was titled: “Delegation to Palestine.” That strikes me as erasing Israel from the map. When they landed at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion International Airport, where did they think they would be?
They were planning to meet with individuals and groups directly tied to terrorism and anti-Semitism. Among them: Shawan Jabarin, identified by Israel’s Supreme Court as a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Marxist-Leninist organization responsible for airplane hijackings and suicide bombings, and designated as a terrorist entity by the United States, Japan, Canada, Australia and the European Union.
Organizing their visit was Miftah, an organization that in 2013 published an article alleging that Jews use Christian blood for their Passover matzot—a very old and very sick libel.
Miftah also published “an American neo-Nazi treatise” called “Who Rules America: The Alien Grip on Our News and Entertainment Media Must Be Broken.” Apparently, to Tlaib and Omar, white supremacy in defense of Jew-hatred is no vice.
Reflect on this hypocrisy: While Tlaib and Omar support boycotting Israelis, they profess outrage that Israelis might choose to boycott them.
More specifically, they support the anti-Israel BDS movement. Considering that the Nazi slogan in the 1930s was “Don’t buy from Jews,” how surprising is it that Israelis hear an echo in the BDS slogan, “Don’t buy from the Jewish state”?
Bill Maher called BDS a “bull**** purity test by people who want to appear ‘woke’ but actually slept through history class.” Demonstrating yet more hypocrisy, Tlaib responded by calling for a boycott of his television show.
The goal of BDS, as stated by its founder and leader, Omar Barghouti, is Israel’s extermination. “Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine,” he has said, on video. “No Palestinian—rational Palestinian, not a sellout Palestinian—will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine,” he has said.
Some BDS advocates quibble that they merely want Israelis to withdraw from the “occupied territories.” But after Israel withdrew from Gaza—which it had seized from Egypt, not the Palestinians, in the defensive war of 1967—Hamas took over and began attacking the Jewish state with missiles, infiltration tunnels and incendiary kites. Hamas is candid about its genocidal intentions toward Israelis.
Were Israel to withdraw from the West Bank without guarantees of peace and security, Hamas almost certainly would take power, and launch more attacks. Israel would respond. Both Jews and Palestinians would be killed. BDS advocates such as Tlaib and Omar appear untroubled by that eventuality.
This, too, should not go unremarked: In Syria, more than half a million people have been slaughtered and millions have been left homeless thanks to a war that continues to this day. The Sinai is occupied by Islamist terrorists who are targeting the government of Egypt. Yemen is a war-torn disaster. The suffering of the people of the West Bank is, objectively, less dire, and could be significantly relieved were their leaders to agree to peacefully coexist with Israel.
For all that, I do wonder if Netanyahu might have managed to beat the defamation and delegitimization campaign Omar and Tlaib planned to wage.
What if he had assigned them a security detail comprising Israelis whose parents had been rescued from Ethiopia and Sudan? (If you don’t know the heroic story behind the liberation of Africa’s black Jews, watch “Red Sea Diving Resort,” now available on Netflix.
What if he had suggested they visit Sderot, one of the Israeli towns near Gaza where bomb shelters are in every playground?
What if he had invited them to meet with prominent Israeli citizens, including Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Christians and Druze? Do the congresswomen deny that Israel’s minorities have rights not given to even the majorities in the Arab and Muslim nations of the Middle East?
Might this have led to less public-relations damage for Israel than that which Tlaib and Omar have been able to inflict over the past few days? I don’t know. Israelis have never been adept at public relations. What Israelis—and indeed, the Jewish nation—have demonstrated instead is a talent for surviving, and even thriving, despite the hatred and violence directed at them by so many enemies over so many centuries.
Clifford D. May is the founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), and a columnist for “The Washington Times.”
This article was first published by “The Washington Times.”