Minnesota (QNN)- Democratic US Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib sharply criticised Israel and Trump administration on Monday for denying them entry to the country and called on other lawmakers to visit Palestine as the congresswomen cannot.
Omar said that President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were suppressing the congresswomen’s ability to carry out their oversight role, which is their obligation, according to Omar.
“As legislators we have an obligation to see the reality there for ourselves,” Omar told reporters at a press conference in Minnesota.
“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 cruel reality of the occupation from us.”
Omar said Israel’s decision was “not consistent with democracy” and not reflective of actions taken by an ally of the US.
Tlaib compared the Netanyahu-Trump decision to a ban imposed on a member of Congress seeking entry to South Africa during apartheid in 1972.
“History does have a habit of repeating itself,” Tlaib said.
Omar also slammed the bias of Trump’s administration.
“When you are a United States citizen, your president, your ambassadors, your state department [work] on your behalf,” Omar said. “They defend you and fight for your right to freedom of speech [and] to freedom of movement. To have an administration and a president and an ambassador that is not doing that puts fear in many people’s hearts.”
She added: “We must be asking, as Israel’s ally, that Netanyahu stop the expansion of settlements on Palestinian land and ensure full rights for Palestinians if we are to give them aid.”
“Netanyahu’s decision to deny us entry might be unprecedented for members of Congress,” Omar said, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “But it is the policy of his government when it comes to Palestinians. This is the policy of his government when it comes to anyone who holds views that threaten the occupation.”
“The only way to preserve unjust policy is to suppress people’s freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of movement.”
At the press conference, Tlaib tearfully described her decision not to make the trip after a late-night phone call with her family.
“I think my grandmother said it beautifully when she said I’m her asfour. Asfour in Arabic means her bird. She said I’m her dream manifested. I am her free bird. So why would I come back and be caged and bow down when my election rose her head up high?” Tlaib said, her voice cracking. She added: “We all decided as a family that I could not go until I was a free, American, United States congresswoman.”
Israel has barred the congresswomen from a visit into Palestine following a call by Trump. Israel and supporters claim that it has the right to bar the American lawmakers because they support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS).
“Israel has the right to prevent people who want to destroy it from entering the country – and Democrats’ pointless Congressional inquiries here in America cannot change the laws Israel has passed to protect itself,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement.