It is difficult not to savour the irony of two United States congresswomen who advocate boycotts of Israel crying foul at being denied entry into the very country they seek to erase.
Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, two members of the Democratic Party’s “Squad” of neophyte congresswomen from the Party’s radical left faction, have made their names by seeking to collapse decades of bipartisan support for Israel in US politics and using America’s democratic ally in the Middle-East as a wedge issue to divide their Party.
Omar, who courted Jewish support during her election campaign by declaring her opposition to organised boycotts of Israel, before promptly embracing them upon her election, has brandished virtually every antisemitic slur imaginable in her brief political career. She accused Israel of “hypnotizing the world” and called on “Allah to awaken the people” to Israel’s evil. She accused American Jews who support the Israel alliance of dual loyalties. She accused American Jews of buying political influence. And she has declared her support for boycotts, divestment and sanctions of Israel artists, academics, and businesses, a campaign which in the words of its framers seeks the “complete and total isolation of Israel”, and the end of a Jewish state within any borders whatsoever.
Her congressional colleague Rashida Tlaib, openly supports a “one-state solution” to the conflict by which the solitary Jewish state is replaced by what would be the 22nd majority Arab state, and has recently taken to falsifying history, claiming that good-hearted, kindly Arab Palestinians opened their homes to Jewish interlopers fleeing the Holocaust. In fact, the majority of Israelis are from the Middle-East and have no historical connection to Europe. More so, the Palestinian leadership sought at every turn, through violence and political manoeuvring, to block entry into the land by fleeing European Jews. Their leader, Haj Amin-Al Husseini was a key Nazi collaborator and recruited Muslims to the Nazi killing squads, and called on them to “kill Jews wherever you find them, this pleases God, history and religion.”
To be sure, the decision to bar entry into Israel to Congresswomen Omar and Tlaib is a fraught one which will have immense political implications for Israel. For decades, the imperative of American Jewish leaders has been to ensure that support for Israel transcends party politics. While some US Presidents and Congresses have been more sympathetic to Israel than others, baseline support for the peace and security of Israel has been remarkably resilient, even as politics has generally become more bitter and divided. But the decision of the Israeli Government, which (although now said to be unconnected) followed a Twitter statement from Donald Trump that “it would show great weakness if Israel allowed” the congresswomen entry, will only serve to rally the Democratic Party around the anti-Israel congresswomen and position them as the popular symbols of opposition to Donald Trump.
Just last month, despite intense lobbying by Omar and Tlaib, the US Congress adopted a resolution by a whopping 398-17 that rejected the anti-Israel boycott campaign, affirmed the two-state solution and calling for increased military aid to Israel.
But seeking to travel to Israel was a clever gambit by the congresswomen, who have carved out a unique ability to at once advance their agenda by using their power as influential public figures, while decrying the “privilege” of opposing political forces that supposedly keeps them in subservience.
A leaked itinerary for the congresswomen confirmed that they weren’t scheduled to meet with any mainstream Jewish groups or political figures and were being chaperoned by the NGO Miftah, which has accused Jews of using the blood of Christian children for Passover rituals and regularly praises Palestinians who kill Israeli civilians as “martyrs”.
If Israel allowed them entry, the congresswomen would have without question used the opportunity to advance their aim of turning public and political opinion against Israel by embarking on a carefully choreographed and live tweeted escapade showcasing the noble Palestinian struggle against the insatiable blood-lust of Jewish Israelis.
But by refusing entry, Israel inevitably opens itself up to criticism of being, at best, glass-jawed, and at worst, non-democratic. The former is a judgement call, but the latter is a spurious claim, given that countries routinely bar entry on character grounds, even to elected politicians of friendly countries (Dutch MP Geert Wilders was initially denied entry to Britain in 2009). Only in the case of Israel does this lead to the country’s democratic character being called into question.
The claim appears more dubious still when it is advanced by those who support the Palestinian national movement, the leadership of which is split between the wholly corrupt Fatah, whose President Mahmoud Abbas is currently luxuriating in the fourteenth year of a four-year term, and the Islamist Hamas, which regularly takes to tethering political opponents, suspected homosexuals and trade unionists to the backs of motorcycles and dragging them through the streets of Gaza.
The long-term implications of the Israeli Government’s decision on public opinion in the United States and Democratic Party support remains to be seen, though the alliance has spanned seven decades and has withstood far greater challenges than this. But with both a pro-Israel US President and the anti-Israel congresswomen cynically using the Jewish State in their campaigns to divide and conquer, it is difficult to envisage a scenario in which this latest skirmish ends well for Israel and those who support it.
First published at The Herald Sun.
Alex Ryvchin is the co-Chief Executive of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. His new book is “Zionism – The Concise History”.