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.

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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.

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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.

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Israeli Authorities Arrest Patient’s Husband While Returning to Gaza Strip

Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Ref: 64/2019, April 24, 2019

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns that the Israeli authorities stationed at Beit Hanoun “Erez” Crossing arrested a patient’s companion, from the Gaza Strip, while returning to the Gaza Strip.

According to PCHR’s investigations, at approximately 12:00 on Tuesday, 23 April 2019, the Israeli authorities arrested Karam Mustafa Mohammed Tantawi (51), from al-Qal’a buildings, south of Khan Younis. Karam, who was accompanying his wife Safa’ ‘Abed al-Majeed Tantawi (47), a cancer patient, was arrested while returning to the Gaza Strip after his wife received treatment at al-Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem.

Safa’ said to PCHR’s fieldworker that on 01 April 2019, she left the Gaza Strip along with her husband to al-Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem through Beit Hanoun “Erez” Crossing. She added that she received treatment for 20 days and while she was returning to the Gaza Strip along with her husband, the Israeli authorities arrested him. She clarified that after around 15 minutes, Israeli soldiers ordered her to leave alone to the Gaza Strip, but she refused and waited until 18:00. After that, the Palestinian Civil Liaison informed her that she should return to the Gaza Strip because her husband was arrested.

It should be noted that the PCHR’s lawyer, in his capacity as the legal guardian for al-Tantawi, was prevented today from visiting him in al- Majdal Prison. The court extended his arrest until next Tuesday, 30 April 2019.

PCHR stresses that the ongoing Israeli forces policy of arresting patients and their companions is considered as violation of the international human rights law and the international humanitarian law. It also constitutes a form of inhuman and degrading punishment, which coincides with the policy of tightening the illegal closure imposed on the Gaza Strip. This aggravates the patients’ suffering as their treatment is not available in the Gaza Strip hospitals.

In light of the above, PCHR:

  • Strongly condemns the arrest of Palestinian patients and their companions during their travel to receive treatment by the Israeli authorities. PCHR also calls for their immediate release and ensuring not to put their lives in danger.
  • Calls upon the international community, including the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to fulfill their obligations and assume their responsibilities and intervene to put an end to the Israeli forces’ violations to the international humanitarian law against Palestinians.
  • Calls for ensuring the freedom of movement of the Gaza Strip’s residents from/to the West Bank, including Jerusalem

“You married a Palestinian. You cannot enter Israel”

Israel’s family reunion practices are gravely offensive

Palestine Update 234, April 12, 2019

This time; Palestine Updates brings you two powerful testimonies. The first is from Zoughbi Zoughbi, Director of Wi’am: The Palestinian Conflict Transformation Center. Wi’am is a grassroots civil society organization based in Bethlehem with a mission to promote peacebuilding and empower community members as agents of change. Zoughbi describes himself as a Palestinian, who believes that violence dehumanizes human beings. Therefore, through nonviolent struggle, he seeks to find the common ground in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the belief that human beings are created in the image of God.

In his testimony: ‘Encircling the sharp edges’ Zoughbi shares his sadness and disdain at the way his wife was refused permission to enter Israel when she flew back from the USA to join the family on the occasion of their son’s marriage. In a second testimony, Elaine, his wife, a US citizen also writes of her emotions and details of the encounter with an intensely callous and inconsiderate set of immigration officers who had just one reason to treat her as they did. Elaine had married a Palestinian. Zoughbi puts it poignantly when he writes: “The story of our family is but one of many similar stories, especially those Palestinians married to persons from other countries and from Palestinians who live in diaspora. My story has hit me hard. Families have the human right to be together; it is the basis of all human rights, whether someone marries tomorrow or is married 30 years from tomorrow”.

Please read these testimonies and disseminate them widely. They are profound and touching. It never ceases to amaze those of us from the outside how Palestinians remain resilient even in the harshest of circumstances and view their own adversity as reasons to fight for universal justice, not just their own.

You may wish to write a letter of solidarity to the family of Zoughbi (zoughbi at alaslah.org)

In solidarity,
Ranjan Solomon


Encircling the sharp edges
by Zoughbi Zoughbi

We are still in shock about the inhumane treatment of my wife who has been married to me since 1990, having raised our four children together during those years. Last week she arrived very early to the airport in South Bend Indiana, in order to fly through Chicago then to Newark, and finally, to Tel Aviv. Her children and I couldn’t wait to greet her, to welcome, kiss, and hug her. With great anticipation we couldn’t wait to reunite our family, and to embark on the preparations for our son Lucas’ wedding. Our hearts were beating rapidly as we watched to see when the airplane would arrive in Tel Aviv, so we could talk to her on the phone and hear her voice. We sat mesmerized at our home waiting for any word from her. After initially being thrilled that she landed safely and joyfully in Tel Aviv airport, we stayed rooted next to the telephone, knowing that sometimes the Israeli Authorities will want to check our connection, to ensure she is related to us. After nearly thirty years, we know they already have profiles on all our family members. Even though all the information they need is available to them, the call is a subtle way for them to add extra humiliation. This is done in spite of the fact that we have always been a peace-loving family trying to live faithfully in the Holy Land. We refuse to hate.

As we talked to her later, we noticed that the tone and tenor of her voice became more stressed and strained, as she waited four to five hours without knowing whether they would let her in the country. Although she is an American citizen, they openly claimed she was a criminal because she married a Palestinian. This is heart wrenching, as we know that she has already sacrificed a lot for her children and husband, leaving the comforts of her home country, the United States, sheltered in peace, calmness and tranquility, to come to an unfamiliar place. For 29 years, my wife was walking the Via Dolorsosa, having to renew her visa every 3 months. She hoped to get her visa for one year, as probation to get her permanent residence. The 1993 peace process had given us false hope, the possibility of no more agony, no more pain. For 29 years the authorities played a game around letting her into the country or not. My wife once said that she was honored to be treated as a Palestinian refugee, to live among those of us without a safe place, without a secure future. She chose to live a more stress-filled life, the life we have under occupation. My children said my wife was once the most privileged in the family; she has become the least privileged. Not only that, but now she has to suffer even more pain and stress for no apparent reason, just because she wants to gather her children and husband together under a single roof.

This is not just a personal story only, but a story of my people. We refuse to be discouraged and decimated by the constant hurt and humiliation. Our commitment will not be any other manner, but a way of non-violence and the pursuit of legal restitution. We reject violence. But we will not give up even as our oppressors orchestrate new ways to push us away, out of our homes. Thank heavens that it is now the Lent season, as our story resonates with the passion of Christ. I do not know which station of the cross we are on, from the first to the fourteenth, but I know there is a denial and rejection of my wife’s presence here, like all Palestinians and those who love them.

This incident reminds us that there exists a law born in 1951, The Israeli Law of Return, observed in Israel, allows anyone who has a Jewish great, great grandmother to come here and live anywhere, regardless of any other consideration, such as their race, ethnicity, nationality, place of birth, or who they marry. Even this law is now being discarded when it is inconvenient. Newly arrived Israeli citizens make life and death decisions about those of us deeply rooted in this place, who have no voice. Those of us who have long history here, a long interaction with the land and the people of this land, we have no place. As the Bible says, “The foxes have dens and the birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8.20). There was no resurrection without the Via Dolorosa or Golgotha. Unsurprisingly, we follow Jesus. But as his followers, we will not allow their attempts to crucify us be the final word. Those in power should have learned their lesson nearly 2,000 years ago. Our Lord was not defeated by pain and humiliation, but he was resurrected, in spite of the humiliating trials of the Via Dolorosa and the pain of Golgotha. They forget He has won the victory already, in any struggle against injustice.

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IDF puts Palestinians under closure as Israelis go to the polls

While Jewish Israelis will be able to move freely in and out of the occupied West Bank, millions of Palestinians — even those with entry permits issued by the Israeli army — will be on lock-down.

Illustrative photo of Israeli soldiers voting at a portable ballot box, near Bethlehem in the West Bank. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Illustrative photo of Israeli soldiers voting at a portable ballot box, near Bethlehem in the West Bank. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Edo Konrad, +972 Magazine, April 8, 2019

As millions of Israeli citizens head to the polls to vote on Tuesday, the Israeli army will put Palestinians in the West Bank under complete closure and will seal the Gaza Strip entirely. Movement within the West Bank should not be affected.

This means that as Israeli citizens living in settlements across the occupied territories may move freely back and forth across the Green Line separating Israel and the West Bank, millions of Palestinians are barred from doing so.

Even those tens of thousands of Palestinians who have permits to work inside Israel every day — primarily in construction and maintenance jobs — will not be allowed to go to work that day. Unlike Israelis, for whom Election Day is a paid holiday, they will not be compensated for the one-day leave imposed on them by the Israeli military.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, for whom leaving requires months-long processes of applying and waiting for an Israeli military permit, which is often denied, will be entirely stuck.

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