Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) suggested that the U.S. government should reevaluate the amount of foreign aid it gives to Israel after the Israeli government denied entry to her and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).
The travel ban against Tlaib was lifted so she could visit her grandmother, but she ultimately decided not to visit.
“The decision to ban me and my colleague, the first two Muslim-American women elected to Congress, is nothing less than an attempt by an ally of the United States to suppress our ability to do our jobs as elected officials, but this is not just about me. Netanyahu’s decision to deny us entry might be unprecedented for members of Congress, but it is the policy of his government when it comes to Palestinians,” Omar said during a press conference with Tlaib on Monday.
“This is the policy of his government when it comes to anyone who holds views against the Israeli occupation, a policy that has been supported by Trump’s administration — that is because the only way to preserve unjust policy is to suppress people’s freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of movement. My colleague and I are not the only ones who are being denied the right to see for ourselves the reality on the ground in the West Bank,” she added.
Omar criticized Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The Netanyahu government is currently trying to deport Omar Shakir, a human rights worker with Human Rights Watch, because he has reported on human rights conditions in the West Bank and Gaza. Last year the Netanyahu government refused entry to American citizens Catherine Frank and my friend Vince Warren, who had arrived on a human rights mission,” she said. “All of these actions have done nothing to bring us closer to peace. In fact, they do the opposite. They maintain the occupation and prevent a solution to the conflict.”
Omar said U.S. aid to Israel should be tied to how Palestinians are treated.
“Fortunately, we the United States have a constructive role to play. We give Israel more than $3 million in aid every year. This is predicated on their being an important ally in the region and the only democracy in the Middle East, but denying a visit to duly elected members of Congress is not consistent with being an ally, and denying millions of people freedom of movement or expression or self-determination is not consistent with being a democracy,” she said.
“We must be asking, as Israel’s ally, the Netanyahu government stop the expansion of settlements on Palestinian land, and ensure full rights for Palestinians if we are to give them aid. These are not just my views. These are the views held by the range of experts, peace advocates on this issue. We know Donald Trump would love nothing more than to use this issue to pit Muslims and Jewish Americans against each other,” she added.
Omar continued, “The Muslim community and the Jewish community are being othered and made into the bogeyman by this administration. But as we will hear today, people of all different faiths are coming together to speak up against the status quo in the region. I’m grateful for the solidarity shown by so many of my colleagues in Congress.”
Omar encouraged legislators to visit Israel and Palestine.
“We have a responsibility to conduct oversight over our government’s foreign policy and what happens with the millions of dollars we send in aid. So I would encourage my colleagues to visit. Meet with the people we were going to meet with. See the things we were going to see. Hear the stories we were going to hear,” she said. “We cannot let Trump and Netanyahu succeed in hiding the reality of the occupation from us. So I call on all of you to go. The occupation is real. Barring members of Congress from seeing it does not make it go away.”