Cheered on by President Trump, Israel's government has denied entry to two US Congresswomen, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. First, let's discuss the reasons why this is a fully defensible decision, especially under Israeli law. Omar and Tlaib have very serious anti-Semitism problems, evidenced both by their own rhetoric, as well as their radical associates. Beyond their unrepentant bigotry, the larger issue is their active support for the 'Boycott, Divest, Sanction' (BDS) movement, which seeks to single out and destroy Israel through economic means. It is a movement steeped in anti-Semitism -- as Chuck Schumer has explained, with Nancy Pelosi calling it "bigoted" and "dangerous." Omar and Tlaib aren't merely passive adherents to this cause. They've sponsored and voted for legislation in the United States Congress in furtherance of its fanatically anti-Israel ends.
Omar opposes American sanctions against the outlaw Maduro regime in Venezuela, dubiously claiming that they harm the Venezuelan people, yet she aggressively supports American sanctions against Israel. Consider her Caracas logic, consider who lives in Israel, and draw your own conclusions. Omar and Tlaib have compared their backing of anti-Israeli boycotts and sanctions to US efforts against the Nazis, who systematically exterminated Jewish people. The rhetorical case against granting either of these women into Israel is therefore quite simple: They've literally voted for a boycott of the country. Step one of a boycott is not entering the country. Netanyahu et al are mutually agreeing to these Squadsters' stated position. There's also a legal case to be made:
Countries routinely deny visas to those with extremist views. The US excludes people for ideologies fundamentally hostile to US (ie communism); the UK and others deny entry to public figures with bigoted views as being "not conducive to the public good." Omar/Tlaib qualify.— Eugene Kontorovich (@EVKontorovich) August 15, 2019
Israel Law prohibits the entry into Israel of any foreigner who makes a "public call for boycotting Israel" or "any area under its control"— David Harsanyi (@davidharsanyi) August 15, 2019
That latter point is true, as of two years ago. With a caveat:
The Knesset gave its final approval Monday evening to a bill that forbids granting entry visas or residency rights to foreign nationals who call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts of either Israel or the settlements. The interior minister would be able to make exceptions to this rule if he deems it warranted in a particular case. The bill, which was enacted into law after it passed its second and third readings, was backed by 46 lawmakers and opposed by 28...[The law] says the entry ban will apply to any person “who knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel that, given the content of the call and the circumstances in which it was issued, has a reasonable possibility of leading to the imposition of a boycott – if the issuer was aware of this possibility.” This definition was copied from a 2011 law that permitted civil lawsuits against BDS activists.
I'd argue that the Israeli government is well within its legal and moral rights to reach the conclusion it has. Omar and Tlaib are close-minded bigots who want to harm and weaken the country through an anti-Semitic program of global punishment. They also both declined to travel with a bipartisan cadre of colleagues visiting Israel this week, who spoke with Israelis and Palestinians holding a range of policy views. Instead, their tentative itinerary suggested that their separate trip would be an anti-Israel propaganda show. All that being said, I believe blocking the pair is a short-sighted and unwise move in terms of optics and narrative control. This tweet sums up my position succinctly:
Why, contrary to #Trump's wishes, @IlhanMN & @RashidaTlaib should be let into #Israel:— Daniel Pipes ?????? ????? (@DanielPipes) August 15, 2019
- They don't gain a new argument
- They might even learn something
- Israel looks friendly
- Israel controls the narrative
- Excluding political opinions will harm Zionists more than help them
Omar and Tlaib's whole schtick is grievance and victimhood, so handing them a new complaint that allows them to paint themselves as aggrieved victims strikes me as playing into their hands. It's not like Omar and Tlaib are such effective communicators that their ham-fisted posturing over there would sway any persuadable people back home; they're clumsy, deeply unpopular stooges. As for the notion of the duo accidentally learning something, I suppose anything is possible. Israel signaling openness and confidence by welcoming hostile American representatives would look a lot stronger than shutting them out, in my view. Exceptions to the anti-BDS law are permitted, as referenced in the excerpt above; that discretion should be exercised here. Instead, this reversal looks political, hasty, and ill-considered. I'll leave you with a few pointed flashbacks for those Democrats clutching at their pearls over the Netanyahu government's new determination in this case:
What kind of totalitarians would ever try to ban legislators from an allied country you may ask. pic.twitter.com/RqBxz5j4l3— Kyle Shideler (@ShidelerK) August 15, 2019
It sure is strange how the media cheered left-wing activists who said Trump was "not welcome" in El Paso, then turned right around and bashed Israel for saying two anti-Semites who deny Israel's right to exist weren't welcome in the country.— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) August 15, 2019
There's also this: "An Israeli official had said Ms. Tlaib’s request to visit “would be considered favorably” if she submitted a humanitarian application to visit her family."