RAMALLAH: Relatives of a US congresswoman say they support her decision to decline Israel’s offer allowing her to visit them in the West Bank because the “right to travel should be provided to all without any conditions.”
Rashida Tlaib said she would not see her family, even after Israel lifted a ban on her entry, because the government had imposed restrictions on her trip.
“We totally understand her position and support her in her efforts. The right to travel should be provided to all without any conditions,” her uncle Bassam Tlaib told Arab News.
He was speaking from the family home in Beit Ur Al-Fuka, which is 3 km from the West Bank city of Ramallah, and was flanked by his elderly mother.
He said his niece had visited them many times in the past, but there had never been any conditions attached to her travel.
“She said we will meet when she can come without conditions,” Tlaib said. “One idea has been floated of flying the grandmother to the US or finding a way to have the two meetings in a third country. You know my mother is nearing 90 and it is not easy for her to travel but we are checking out all options.”
Tlaib, a Democrat, has criticized Israel’s policy toward Palestinians and had planned to make an official visit to the country.
Israel said a humanitarian travel request by Tlaib would be considered as long as she promised not to promote a boycott against Israel, local media reported.
But the congresswoman, who is Palestinian-American, lashed out on social media.
“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 tweeted, using the word sity to refer to her grandmother. “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.”
The NGO hosting and organizing the trip, Miftah, has been criticized by supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
Hanan Ashrawi, the NGO’s founder, said her staff had organized other congressional trips. “This was the third trip we have organized, and we try to do our work professionally and seriously,” Ashrawi told Arab News. “Our very mission is to promote global dialogue and democracy.”
Ashrawi said the attacks on Miftah were unwarranted. “Miftah has been targeted with the expressed goal of trying to discredit us even though our record is clear. We believe that they are trying to keep organizing congressional delegations within the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) monopoly, while we are trying to provide visitors with an opportunity to learn about Palestinian life under occupation and to understand the Palestinian narrative by providing opportunities for delegations to see and engage with Palestinians of all walks of life.”
Ashrawi said Miftah had been “vetted” by the US Congress’ ethics committee. “We might not be able to bring hundreds of congress people like AIPAC, but we can bring a few and have them see, hear and interact with Palestinians.”
US President Donald Trump had called on Israel not to allow Tlaib and fellow congresswoman Ilhan Omar into Israel as admitting the two “would show great weakness.”
He tweeted that the pair “hate Israel and all Jewish people, and there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace.”