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August 17, 2019

US lawmaker refuses to visit West Bank under Israeli conditions


August 17, 2019

WASHINGTON: Palestinian-American lawmaker Rashida Tlaib on Friday rejected Israel’s offer to allow her to visit her grandmother in the West Bank, blasting the "oppressive conditions" set for the visit as humiliating.

"I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in -- fighting against racism, oppression & injustice," Tlaib said in a series of tweets.

On Thursday, Israel rejected a visit by the US Congress’ first two Muslim women lawmakers, Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, on the grounds that they support a boycott of the country over its treatment of the Palestinians, and after President Donald Trump urged the Jewish state to block them.

But early on Friday, Israel reversed course on Tlaib, saying she could visit her grandmother in the West Bank, on the grounds that the 43-year-old first-term congresswoman agree to not promote a boycott against Israel.

"When I won, it gave the Palestinian people hope that someone will finally speak the truth about the inhumane conditions," Tlaib wrote Friday. "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," she said, referring to her grandmother.

"Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me."On Friday, Palestinian activists had been urging Tlaib on social media not to visit her grandmother under the Israeli terms.In the family’s village of Beit Ur Al-Foqa, Muftia Tlaib had been excitedly awaiting her granddaughter’s arrival.

She intended to slaughter a sheep in her honour, in accordance with custom."I see her coming to the village in traditional (Palestinian) dress," she told AFP on Thursday, before the latest development.

The United States, particularly under Trump, is Israel’s strongest ally.But the two congresswomen are seen by many as enemies of Israel because of their support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Israel sees the movement as a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism -- a claim activists deny -- and in 2017 passed a law banning entry to foreigners supporting a boycott.Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and has for decades built settlements considered illegal under international law.

Settlement growth has accelerated under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close Trump ally who is seeking re-election next month.

More than 600,000 Israeli live in the settlements, alongside nearly three million Palestinians, in uneasy proximity throughout the West Bank and occupied east Jerusalem.Israel’s initial refusal to allow Tlaib and Omar to transit the Jewish state on their way to the West Bank sparked outrage among Palestinians and debate about the intimate ties between Netanyahu and Trump. Despite fierce criticism of Tlaib and BDS on the Israeli side, the country’s media largely slammed Netanyahu over the affair.

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