If Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) had been allowed by Israel to visit her family in the Palestinian village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa, she might have been able to see with her own eyes the nearby highway that Israel built on confiscated Palestinian land — a highway that makes commutes easier for Israelis but is almost completely off-limits to Palestinians.
If Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) had been allowed by Israel to visit the Palestinian city of Ramallah, she might have seen how the combination of civilian Israeli settlements, military checkpoints and the separation barrier all work together to encircle this urban Palestinian enclave, limit its development and separate it from the rest of the other Palestinian fragments celebrated by Israel as “autonomous.”
Yet neither congresswoman will be able to visit Israel as scheduled this Sunday, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reversed his government’s earlier decision to allow them entry following pressure from President Trump.
Israel’s choice to ban the entry of the two congresswomen is based on a relatively recent amendment to the “Entry Into Israel Law,” which prohibits entry of any foreign national who makes a “public call for boycotting Israel” or “any area under its control.” The law has already been used to try to deport a prominent human rights activist and an American student of Palestinian origin. Though the law’s title suggests it controls entry into Israeli territory, it goes much further: Because Israel controls border crossings in and out of the occupied West Bank, it also dictates who is allowed to enter and exit Palestinian territory.
While the decision to use the law against Tlaib and Omar is being framed as unprecedented in international media, the truth is that Israel’s authoritarian leanings are all too common on the ground. Restrictions on the movement of U.S. lawmakers may be shocking, but it’s a daily reality for the 2 million Palestinians caged off in the Gaza strip. Publicly attacking members of Congress may make international headlines, but for some 5 million Palestinians living without political rights under Israel’s half-century-long occupation, it’s all too familiar — with no end in sight. And trying to hide, censor and lie about the brutal oppression of an entire people is a long-standing Israel strategy, not one invented to please Trump. The difference is whether Israel will get away with it this time as well, or whether there will finally be consequences from such a high-profile move. [Continue reading…]