Coronavirus Is a Death Sentence for Palestinians Caged in Gaza

Even a small outbreak among Gaza’s densely-packed, blockaded population would put an impossible strain on a healthcare system already teetering on the verge of collapse


A man, wearing a mask against coronavirus infection, looks through a fence as he waits for Palestinians returning from abroad. Gaza’s Rafah border crossing with Egypt. March 8, 2020. (IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS)

Shannon Maree Torrens, Haaretz, Mar 12, 2020

Imagine two million human beings living in the space of just 365 square kilometers. One of the most densely populated places on Planet Earth, confined in a cage from which they cannot escape. These two million people cannot leave, even if they wanted to, without great difficulty.

They must live their lives within the confines of this rapidly deteriorating area of land, some persisting in the hope that one day things may change, but many surviving with the realization and resignation that they very well may not. No matter their degree of optimism or pessimism, all are isolated from the rest of the world. We call this place the Gaza Strip, and it has been under blockade by Israel since 2007.

It is now March 2020. The novel coronavirus, has become an issue of global concern. The disease it causes, COVID-19, has spread far from its origins in China. In a short space of time, coronavirus is seemingly everywhere. It moves as frequently as the planes and people who spread it back and forth across the world.

As of 11 March, more than 118,000 people have been infected globally, almost 4,300 people have died and at least 114 countries/territories and areas are affected. The world buys masks and hand sanitizer. The World Health Organisation classifies novel coronavirus as a pandemic. People stock up on food. "What will happen to us?" the world says. "What if we get sick?"

And what of the people who live in the cage of Gaza? What will happen to them? 

If you’re locked in a cage, you are protected – but, simultaneously, you are also at much greater risk of being acutely affected. If the people of Gaza become unwell, will anyone care, any more than to the minimal degree they have in the past? Will anything change for them, or will it simply become much worse?

At the time of writing, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip. But it only takes one person to change the course of things for the worse – that infamous Patient Zero, to which many of the world’s wealthiest and most medically advanced countries can attest as they grapple with spiking contagion rates.  

On Thursday 5 March the Palestinian Authority announced a 30-day state of emergency, following seven initial coronavirus cases discovered in Bethlehem, closing educational institutions and numerous places of work. It is now reported that the Occupied Palestinian Territory has 30 cases of COVID-19.

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Strangers in Our Homeland


MK Aida Touma-Sliman, January 15th, 2019. Photo: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk via Flickr

Aida Touma-Sliman, JewishCurrents, February 6, 2020

LAST WEEK, Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu announced a deal that is intended to determine the future of the Palestinian people, without a single Palestinian present in the room or involved in the consultation process. They unveiled the plan in the midst of Trump’s impeachment trial and on the same day that Netanyahu was indicted for corruption. Like a group of men deliberating women’s reproductive freedoms, the Americans and Israelis who drafted the plan intend to unilaterally decide the fate of Palestinians, our land, and our fundamental rights. The plan’s total erasure of Palestinian voices and blatant denial of these rights lays bare the real intentions of the Trump and Netanyahu administrations.

Just as importantly, the past week clarifies the positions of so-called moderates—from US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Israel’s Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White Party—who have either barely protested or outright endorsed the plan. While it is no secret that the US and Israel have always rendered Palestinian narratives, demands, and aspirations secondary, centrist acquiescence to Trump’s plan suggests that the “deal of the century” is the logical culmination of a long-held vision of an apartheid Palestinian pseudo-state, bereft of meaningful sovereignty or self-determination. 

Trump and Netanyahu have inherited this vision and added their typical vulgarity. Their plan would enshrine Jewish supremacy in all of Israel and historic Palestine, annexing Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank, the Jordan Valley, and East Jerusalem, while leaving Palestinians in the occupied territories with a patchwork of isolated ghettos surrounded by walls and military checkpoints. Israeli law would be applied in all settlements, which violate international law and numerous UN resolutions. Israel would retain sovereign control over the air and sea, as well as absolute “security” control in the entire territory west of the Jordan River. Jerusalem, including occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem and its holy sites, will remain entirely in Israeli hands. And Palestinian refugees will be categorically denied their right to return to the land from which they were expelled by Israel because they were not Jewish. 

The plan would also have dire consequences for Palestinian citizens of Israel, many of whom would probably be stripped of their citizenship and transferred to the new Palestinian “state” under the plan’s proposed land swaps. To those ends, Israel’s Tourism Minister, Yariv Levin, has already raised the specter of de-nationalizating Israel’s Palestinian citizens, who make up about 20% of the population, or about 1.8 million people. Many people in this category would likely lose the ability to travel within most of historic Palestine and be subject to the same restrictions, including on movement, imposed on citizens of the new Palestinian “state.” 

As a Palestinian citizen of Israel myself, I have been treated with suspicion and as a threat by the government for my whole life, a fifth column in my own homeland. Will I now be told to move to the new Palestine, or remain and accept permanent second- or third-class Israeli citizenship? We already face dozens of laws that discriminate against us—including the so-called “Jewish nation-state” law, which has effectively made segregation official national policy—because we are not Jewish. With Trump’s plan, Israel’s claim to being a liberal democracy that values human rights has been discredited once and for all.

Trump and Netanyahu’s plan, then, is outrageously unapologetic in its denial of Palestinian rights and its whitewashing of Israeli colonization. In key respects, however, it does not represent a radical break with the many previous plans proposed over the past several decades—by both Democrats and Republicans, by Israel’s Labor and Likud—to “grant” Palestinians nominally autonomous, discontiguous parcels of land surrounded by Israeli settlements and under the control of the Israeli military, and to pass off these bantustans as an independent state. As far back as 1978, Prime Minister Menachem Begin proposed granting Palestinians a limited “autonomy” or home rule in scraps of the occupied Palestinian territories in an attempt to quash Palestinian demands for independence. The 1993 Oslo Accords offered Palestinians limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, while allowing unfettered Israeli settlement expansion—with the number of Israeli settlers more than tripling since the signing of the peace agreement. 

Gantz, supposedly a moderate alternative to Netanyahu, has embraced Trump and Netanyahu’s racist annexation plan, and vowed to bring it for approval in the Knesset. The Joint List—the coalition of Arab-majority parties, of which I am a member—will not support any candidate or party that supports annexation, including Gantz. Indeed, with rare exceptions, most Jewish Israeli politicians subscribe, implicitly or explicitly, to Trump and Netanyahu’s agenda of segregation, intolerance, and xenophobia, as evidenced by the nation-state law and others passed in recent years, like the so-called Nakba law, which is intended to suppress public discussion and debate of the mass expulsion of Palestinians that accompanied Israel’s establishment as a Jewish state in 1948.

In the US, meanwhile, even some Democrats critical of Trump and Netanyahu have been muted in their criticism of this scheme. Reacting to a summary of the plan last week, Pelosi declared that it “appears to be a basis for negotiations . . . so let us be optimistic and hopeful.” Echoing Pelosi, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel of New York declared: “There’s some good room for hope there.”

With the notable exception of Bernie Sanders, Democratic presidential hopefuls have thus far refrained from proposing concrete ideas to end US complicity in Israel’s apartheid regime, with some even proudly reiterating their support for Israel. Because our shared values of freedom, equality, and democracy are on the line more clearly than ever before, Democrats can no longer get away with claiming progressive credentials in some arenas while remaining willfully blind to injustice elsewhere. Trump and Netanyahu recognize their own shared values and are working hand in hand; Democratic leaders likewise need to understand that Palestinians are their natural allies in resisting the onslaught of Trumpism in the US and around the globe.

The time has finally come for Israeli leaders to pay a price for their half-century-old occupation of Palestinian lands, for seven decades of ethnic cleansing, for blockading the Gaza Strip for over a decade, and for their relentless incitement against and attempts to exclude us—Israel’s Palestinian citizens—from equal citizenship in our own homeland.

Aida Touma-Sliman is a member of the Israeli Knesset representing Hadash/The Joint List.

Trump Plan Protests in the Jordan Valley


Operation Dove, January 29, 2020

Tubas, Jordan Valley — Today in response to the “Deal of the Century” Palestinians gathered for an action in the Jordan Valley during which they plowed the land in an area declared a closed military zone for training.

Israeli soldiers responded to this action by firing sound grenades and tear gas into the crowd. Israeli soldiers also closed roads and established checkpoints in order to prevent Palestinians from reaching the spot.


Video: Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills

Activestills, January 29, 2020

Palestinians protest the Trump administration’s plan to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli issue, Northern Jordan Valley, West Bank.

The U.N. once predicted Gaza would be ‘uninhabitable’ by 2020. Two million people still live there.

The shoreline in Gaza City during strong winds on Christmas Day.   (Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images )
The shoreline in Gaza City during strong winds on Christmas Day (Mohammed Abed-AFP-Getty Images)

Hazem Balousha and Miriam Berger, The Washington Post, January 1, 2020

GAZA CITY — Jana Tawil was born in 2012, the same year that the United Nations released an alarm-raising report on the state of the Gaza Strip: If the prevailing economic, environmental and political trends continued, the organization warned, the besieged coastal enclave sandwiched between Israel and Egypt would become unlivable by 2020.

The United Nations revised its initial rating in 2017 to warn that “de-development” was happening even faster than it first predicted.

Jana’s father, 35-year-old Mahmoud Tawil, never thought much of that assessment.

“When the U.N. report [said] that Gaza would be unlivable, I felt that Gaza was not fit for life in the same year, not in the year 2020,” he said.

That is the bleak reality facing Gaza’s 2 million Palestinian residents as they approach a new year and new decade: still stuck living in a place the world has already deemed uninhabitable in perhaps the most surreal of 2020 predictions.

The Tawil family lives in Gaza’s al-Shati refugee camp, or the Beach camp, where cramped and crumbling rows of homes sit adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea. It is in theory a scenic view — but life here persists on a parallel plane.

The elder Tawil, a psychologist, fears the sea: It’s full of sewage, pumped in because there’s not enough electricity and infrastructure to run Gaza’s war-torn sewage system. Hospitals, schools and homes are similarly running on empty, worn down by the lack of clean water, electricity, infrastructure and jobs or money. Barely anyone has enough clean water to drink. The only local source of drinking water, the coastal aquifer, is full of dirty and salty water. By 2020 — basically, now — that damage will be irreversible, water experts have warned.

“There is no stability in work, and there is no money for people,” Tawil said. “We cannot drink water or eat vegetables safely, [as] there is a fear that it will be contaminated.”

He continued: “We need a just life, and we need hope that there is a possibility for us to live on this earth. … The various Palestinian parties do not help us in Gaza to live, just as Israel imposes a blockade on Gaza. Unfortunately, no one cares about the residents of Gaza.”

Perhaps the hardest part of it all is that, relatively speaking, none of this is new.

When the United Nations issued the 2012 report setting 2020 as the zero hour for Gaza’s unlivability, the organization knew even then that no one should be living in Gaza’s already dangerous conditions.

“From our perspective, [the report] was a useful sort of ringing the alarm bell a couple of years ago,” said Matthias Schmale, the director of operations in Gaza for the U.N. Works and Relief Agency (UNRWA), the U.N. body responsible for Palestinian refugees. “But for us it’s no longer really the issue that by 2020 it will be unlivable. … The key question is how do we prevent total collapse?”

Gazans battle daily with the same crushing question.

It has been a dark decade, and then some, in a place Palestinians liken to an open-air prison. In 2007, the extremist group Hamas seized control after ousting its rival, the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, which is based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israel and Egypt in response imposed a land and sea blockade, citing security concerns and the aim of squeezing Hamas out. It hasn’t worked out that way. Instead, since 2009, Hamas and Israel have fought three bloody wars, alongside countless flare-ups. In the meantime, Israel flexes control via policies on who and what can enter and leave Gaza, barring most Gazans and goods from leaving. Hamas’s repressive and conservative rule has in turn caused people to feel squeezed from all sides.

Schmale cited four factors keeping Gaza afloat: Palestinian solidarity, such as businesses writing off debts; the inflow of cash sent by Palestinians abroad; Hamas’s autocratic rule, which has restricted internal unrest; and support from international bodies such as the United Nations.

All of these factors also remain subject to change. In 2018, President Trump cut aid to UNRWA and other Palestinian aid programs, threatening to topple the whole model set up in the 1950s to serve displaced Palestinians. Of Gaza’s 1.9 million residents, 1.4 million are refugees, and 1 million of them depend on UNRWA for food assistance. The rate of dependence on food aid only grows, Schmale said.

Despite the Trump administration’s much trumpeted economic-focused Middle East peace plan, no tangible progress has come out of it for Palestinians. A long-term, political solution to Gaza’s impasse (and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) remains far-off.

The depletion of Gaza’s coastal aquifer was one of the main factors in the United Nations’ “uninhabitable” calculus. According to World Health Organization standards, 97 percent of the aquifer’s water is unsuitable for human consumption: It’s been so heavily pumped that saltwater and other pollutants have poured in where groundwater was taken out.

Gazans who can afford to do so buy water from private companies using small-scale desalination projects. But the water from these sources can also become contaminated during unregulated distribution and storage in unclean tanks. One-fourth of all illnesses in Gaza are waterborne, the WHO found.

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Why We Sail, Sail, and Sail Again: Freedom Flotilla 2020

Canadian Boat to Gaza, December 20, 2019

Freedom Flotilla sailors and participants are sometimes asked: Why do you keep sailing toward Gaza only to be captured? Why not give the funds you raise directly to the Palestinians of Gaza as aid? Our rationale for sailing and our experiences in 2018 provide some answers. Our Palestinian partners in Gaza are asking us to challenge the illegal blockade. In May 2018 the Norwegian fishing trawler Al Awda (The Return) and the Swedish sailing ship Freedom sailed from Scandinavia. Over two months, we called on ports in Denmark, Germany, Holland, England, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy spreading the message of freedom for Palestinians. Israel has extended its reach, pressuring governments in Cyprus,Turkey, and Greece to prevent our ships sailing from their ports.

Canadians Karen DeVito and John Turnbull joined the sailing ship Freedom in Denmark and crewed her from Copenhagen to Palermo where John then captained the ship on the final leg toward Gaza. Other Canadians, including Heather Milton-Lightening, Ron Rousseau, Majed Khraishi, Kathy Wazana, and Larry Commodore of the Stó:lo Nation, were on board Al Awda at different points in her voyage, and Canadian journalist Dimitri Lascaris reported for The Real News Network from Flotilla boats and from several ports.

The arrival of the ships at each European port occasioned special events, marches, music, speaking opportunities, as well as visits with municipal and provincial politicians. In some places cities and regions had passed motions to support the Flotilla and recognize Palestine. In Amsterdam, activists organized a small-boat Flotilla through the canals with music, banners and flags. Supporters followed along the canals and bridges handing out hundreds of flyers. Brighton, England gave a rousing welcome on the pier, held an information event in a local park, and a packed house speaking event in the town. Gijón, Spain held a march through the city with about 800 people with music, dancing, singing and a Palestinian flag that required 40 people to parade it through the streets. The City Council of Cádiz, Spain voted the Flotilla “Illustrious Visitor.” Two smaller Swedish sailboats crossed Netherland, Belgium and France by river and canal, catching public interest when authorities prevented them from mooring in Paris, and visited a number of other waterside communities.

Energizing local solidarity groups, providing outreach and diplomacy are all aspects of the Flotilla’s work. The voyage around Europe is so valuable in these respects. We also discovered that refugees would visit our ships at each port. The mayors of three Italian ports met our ships at the piers and declared refugees welcome to their cities, regardless of their then-Prime Minister’s negative attitude. Our crew met with local and provincial politicians, ambassadors– they attended regional parliamentary sessions, municipal meetings and gave presentations to the public as well as tours of the boats. All these activities are part of why we sail.

Palestinians in Gaza are now more than ever connected with the rest of the world by the internet. They know when the Freedom Flotilla is coming; they go to the seashore and wait. We are answering a civil society call when we sail–when we ask our partner organizations in Gaza if they would prefer a donations over a Flotilla, they always respond saying we should to sail and raise international awareness about the blockade. They prefer we expand awareness of the longest running occupation in modern history. They also tell us that our sailing gives Palestinians hope and the knowledge that they are not alone.

The Flotilla movement has launched successful legal challenges to Israel for improper confiscation of our ships. One recent court victory by Ship to Gaza Sweden provided the funds for purchase of the Freedom and two smaller sailboats that travelled through France to the Mediterranean. And so Captain John, when interrogated on the way to an Israeli prison, was pleased to answer this question: “Did a terrorist organization provide your funding?” with a solid “Yes”. Then to “Which one?” , John replied: “The Israeli government.”

The Freedom, aside from its main cargo of hope, also carried some medical aid that Israel is required to deliver. To date our 114 boxes remain in Israel, awaiting delivery to Gaza. While these medical supplies were not a significant quantity, they provide another opportunity for ongoing legal action in Israeli courts against the blockade.

The Flotilla will sail again in 2020, at the request of Palestinians of Gaza. This is the year the UN report declared that Gaza will be unliveable. Right now, most of its drinking water is contaminated. Every child shows symptoms of psychological distress. Each Friday Palestinians stand on their own land near the fence asking for their human rights as Israeli snipers shoot them. In 2018 the IDF has killed 254 people in Gaza, 47 of them children. Thousands have been injured; many amputations have resulted.

There are shortages of medicine in Gaza. Children go to school in shifts. Many are orphaned. Israeli drones fly overhead day and night. Hospitals are overwhelmed, especially on Fridays. Last summer we met young Jamil from Gaza in an Italian port; his mother had applied to Israel for permission to take him there for medical treatment. During the years of waiting he had survived on blood transfusions from his grandfather. He must return once his rare blood condition is treated. We saw the worry in his mother’s eyes. Gaza is hazardous even for a healthy child.

And so the flotilla will sail again in 2020, even more mindful this year of the children of Gaza and the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the Mavi Marmara and other Flotilla vessels in 2010.

A critical way to help this campaign is to contribute financially. There are different ways you can make a donation. Click here to donate. We ask you to consider a monthly donation. We are pleased to accept e-transfers from Canadian bank accounts (Interac) or online using a major credit card or PayPal account. You can also donate by cheque or money order and mailing to Canadian Boat to Gaza, PO Box 1950, London Stn. B, London, Ontario N6A 5J4, CANADA. In other countries, please consider donating through one of our Freedom Flotilla coalition partner campaigns : https://jfp.freedomflotilla.org/donate

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Barbara Olson and Tsela Barr: Congress needs to stand against Israeli travel bans


In this July 15, 2019, file photo, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn, right, speaks, as U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., listens, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington. (J. Scott Applewhite)

TSELA BARR AND BARB OLSON, The Cap Times, August 23, 2019

Last week, the Israeli government took the unprecedented step of denying two sitting members of the U.S. Congress, Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, entry to Israel.

Their crime was to set up their own independent fact-finding trip to visit Palestine rather than participate in the scripted, AIPAC-sponsored free trip to Israel that most Congress members participate in.

They couldn’t be allowed to meet with Israeli or Palestinian peace activists, or visit places like heavily occupied Hebron that aren’t on the itinerary of the AIPAC junket.

Tlaib and Omar had to be kept out because they had the gall to criticize Israel and express support for the non-violent South Africa-inspired Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement seeking justice and human rights for Palestinians.

This may be outrageous, but it is hardly surprising. Israel has been denying entry to Palestinians since they began expelling them in 1948. The discrimination and harassment experienced by Palestinian, Arab and/or Muslim travelers seeking to enter Israel, or just pass through it to visit the illegally occupied Palestinian territories, is well-known. Recently they have also kept out Jewish Americans who support BDS and champion Palestinian human rights.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration revoked the visa of Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court; denied a visa to Palestinian diplomat Hanan Ashrawi; and prevented Palestinian civil society activist Omar Barghouti from traveling to the U.S. for his daughter’s wedding.

It is also not surprising that Trump, no friend of human rights anywhere, seeks to score political points with his base by continuing his racist and Islamophobic attacks on Omar and Tlaib, as well as fellow Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Presley.

But alarm bells should ring out when a U.S. president openly collaborates with the government of a foreign country to which Congress generously provides some $5 billion per year in U.S. tax money in order to stop members of that same Congress from seeing the reality on the ground there.

Many members of Congress are speaking out against the Trump/Netanyahu action. One of these is our own Rep. Mark Pocan, who tweeted “Prime Minister Netanyahu is wrong to deny @RepRashida & @Ilhan entry into Israel. The U.S. is Israel’s strongest ally & has provided billions in support. PM Netanyahu must reverse this decision & no member of Congress should visit Israel until all members of Congress are welcome. “

One who has yet to speak out is Sen. Tammy Baldwin. Baldwin is a co-sponsor of Senate Resolution 120 that slanders the BDS movement, implies that it is anti-Semitic, and condemns this legally protected exercise of First Amendment rights.

Even Sen. Ron Johnson has yet to co-sponsor this bill.

Unlike earlier bills that would have imposed draconian legal and financial penalties for those who support BDS and which are being thrown out by the courts, this resolution has no “teeth.” Yet clearly it provides fertile ground for what just happened to Omar and Tlaib, and what will happen to others with far less ability to fight back.

More than ever, Baldwin needs to withdraw her support of this anti-democratic resolution.

It is long past time for Israel to change its racist and exclusionary policies towards Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims. The Palestinian people, like people everywhere, including members of the U.S. Congress, should have the freedom to visit their families (as Tlaib hoped to do in the occupied West Bank), to see the impact on the ground of U.S. policies, and to take action for justice and human rights.

Tsela Barr is a member of Jewish Voice for Peace-Madison. Barb Olson is a member of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

What Is Israel Trying to Hide?

Reps. Tlaib & Omar Blocked from Taking Official Trip to West Bank


Democracy Now!  August 16, 2019

    GUESTS
    Mustafa Barghouti
    member of the Palestinian Parliament, secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative, a political party. He was a presidential candidate in the 2005 elections.
    Rebecca Vilkomerson
    executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Israel sparked outrage Thursday when it banned two freshman Democratic congresswomen of color — Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — from entering the country. Following outcry from Democratic leaders and Palestinians, Israel granted permission for Tlaib to enter the country on “humanitarian” grounds to visit her family in the West Bank — though Tlaib said Friday she will not visit her family under such conditions. Israel originally denied entrance to Tlaib and Omar after President Donald Trump tweeted, “It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people.” Congressmembers Tlaib and Omar are the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, and were planning to tour East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. Both congresswomen have voiced support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement, a global solidarity campaign with the Palestinian people. The nonviolent movement seeks to use economic and cultural pressure to force Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian lands. We speak with Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative political party, and Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Israel has announced it will conditionally allow Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib to visit family in the West Bank, a day after it barred both Tlaib and fellow Congresswoman Ilhan Omar from entering Israel to travel to occupied Palestine. Israel is still refusing entry to Omar. Israel initially blocked entry to both lawmakers after President Trump took the unprecedented step of publicly urging Israel to bar entry to the women, the first two female Muslim members of Congress. Trump tweeted Thursday, “It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people,” he tweeted.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended his decision Thursday. Israeli prime minister defended the decision to bar both the U.S. lawmakers.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: [translated] By law, we are not willing to admit anyone into Israel who calls for the boycott of the state of Israel and acts to delegitimize the state of the Jews.

AMY GOODMAN: Israeli authorities say Congressmember Tlaib will now be allowed entry on “humanitarian” grounds to visit her ailing 90-year-old grandmother, on the condition she does not promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement during her visit. Both Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar have voiced support for the BDS movement, the global solidarity campaign with the Palestinian people. The nonviolent movement seeks to use economic and cultural pressure to force Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian lands. The congresswomen were planning to tour East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

After learning of the ban, Congressmember Ilhan Omar released a statement that read, in part, quote, “It is an affront that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, under pressure from President Trump, would deny entry to representatives of the U.S. government. Trump’s Muslim ban is what Israel is implementing, this time against two duly elected Members of Congress,” she said.

Both centrist and progressive Democrats criticized Israel’s move and Trump’s statements. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged Israel to reconsider its decision. Meanwhile, Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “I cannot move forward with scheduling any visits to Israel until all members of Congress are allowed.” Despite outcry from Democratic leaders, as well as Palestinians, President Trump doubled down on his position later on Thursday.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They are very anti-Jewish, and they’re very anti-Israel. I think it’s disgraceful, the things they’ve said. You have lists of — this isn’t just a one-line mistake. What they’ve said about Israel and Jewish people is a horrible thing, and they’ve become the face of the Democrat Party. So, I did absolutely put out a very strong statement. I think if you look at their language, if you look at what they’ve said, if I ever said it, it would be a — it would be a horrible — it would be a horrible month, to put it mildly. So, the things that they’ve said, Omar, Tlaib, what they’ve said is disgraceful. So I can’t imagine why Israel would let them in.

AMY GOODMAN: Last week, the staunchly pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, sponsored a trip to Israel for 41 Democratic members of Congress. The delegation was led by the House majority leader, Maryland Democrat Steny Hoyer. After news broke that Congressmembers Tlaib and Omar were blocked from entering Israel, Hoyer called Israeli officials on the congresswomen’s behalf to no avail. He later released a statement saying Israel’s decision was outrageous. Even AIPAC tweeted its disapproval, saying, quote, “every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand,” AIPAC said.

The congresswomen’s trip was co-sponsored by Miftah, a West Bank-based nongovernmental organization, the organization founded by Hanan Ashrawi, the senior Palestinian official with the Palestine Liberation Organization. This is Hanan Ashrawi responding to news of the trip’s cancellation.

HANAN ASHRAWI: This is really unacceptable. It’s a direct insult to the American people. It’s a direct insult to the representatives of the American people. And it’s a way in which Israel shows that it is a dictatorship that cannot tolerate any criticism, and that it will prevent anybody from interacting with the Palestinian people or seeing the reality of this cruel and illegal occupation on the ground.

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Meet Rashida Tlaib’s grandma: ‘Who wouldn’t be proud of a granddaughter like that?’

Rep. Tlaib’s grandmother says the family had already prepared a lamb

Muftiyah Tlaib, the grandmother of Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), spoke to The Washington Post on Aug. 16 from her home in the West Bank. (Video: James McAuley/Photo: James McAuley/The Washington Post)

James McAuley and Sufian Taha, The Washington Post, August 16, 2019

BEIT UR AL-FAUQA, WEST BANK — Rashida Tlaib’s grandmother does not understand why her granddaughter, a sitting U.S. congresswoman, could not visit her as originally planned.

Muftiyah Tlaib — who says she is somewhere between 85 and her early 90s — lives in the village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa, about 15 miles outside Jerusalem and close to the seam line between Israel and the West Bank, territory that Israel occupied in the 1967 war and that Palestinians hope to see as part of an independent state someday.

She lives in the same elegant limestone house in the same sleepy village she has called home since 1974 — the house where the whole village once came to celebrate Rashida Tlaib’s wedding, and the house that looks directly onto an Israeli settlement with a visible military presence.

“She’s in a big position, and she cannot visit her grandmother,” she laughed, seated in her living room on Friday. “So what good is the position?”

In the end, Muftiyah Tlaib will not see her granddaughter in the coming week. The reunion would have marked the first meeting for the two since about 2007, she said.

Rep. Tlaib says she will not go to Israel after the country initially rejected her request for a visit, then reversed course

On Friday, Israel partly reversed its decision from the day before to deny entry to Tlaib (D-Mich.) and fellow congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from a planned tour of the Palestinian territories, on the grounds that “the sole purpose of their visit is to harm Israel and increase incitement against it.”

Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said Friday that he would approve a separate humanitarian request for Tlaib to visit her grandmother, or “sity” in Arabic.

“This could be my last opportunity to see her,” Tlaib wrote in a letter to Israeli authorities. “I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit.”

For many Palestinians, the fact that Tlaib accepted these terms was itself an affront, a humiliating compromise in which she was made to forgo her opinions to see her loved ones.

“Israel is the oppressor and its racist attitude towards Palestinians is established policy,” Nour Odeh, a Palestinian journalist, wrote on Twitter. “Rashida should have known better. She should have acted with more dignity & pride.”

Tlaib appeared to agree by Friday morning.

“When I won, it gave the Palestinian people hope that someone will finally speak the truth about the inhumane conditions,” Tlaib tweeted. “I can’t allow the State of Israel to take away that light by humiliating me & use my love for my sity to bow down to their oppressive & racist policies.”

“Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in — fighting against racism, oppression & injustice.”

Tlaib has previously lent her support to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), which Israel sees as increasingly threatening. Her positions have earned her the ire of pro-Israel advocacy groups and also of some of her Democratic colleagues in Congress.

But the quiet village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa, and specifically the view from Tlaib’s grandmother’s house, sheds at least some light on the force of her convictions.

A major highway now cuts directly through land the family says it once owned, Muftiyah Tlaib said, a thoroughfare that has altered the family’s access to olive groves and fig trees they still keep.

“It’s hard for me to reach my land on the other side,” she said. “I used to cross by walking, but once a woman was hit by a car.”

For Ashraf Samara, the head of the village council, Israel’s action toward the congresswoman is a window into the lived experience of the military occupation of the West Bank.

“This is all very strange for the media,” he said in an interview, noting that he had met Rashida Tlaib about 20 years ago. “But not for me as a Palestinian because I know the reality of occupation.”

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