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Israel’s decision to bar Tlaib/Omar anguishes US supporters, who blame Trump-Netanyahu political tactics

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The news this morning that Israel will bar a visit by U.S. Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar because they endorse the boycott campaign aimed at the country (BDS) has brought a tsunami of reactions on social media. American supporters of Israel almost across the board are condemning the decision as a gift to the BDS campaign and a further fracturing of bipartisan support for Israel in U.S. politics.

And after Donald Trump cheered the decision this morning, saying Israel would show “great weakness” if it allowed Omar and Tlaib to visit, liberal Zionists have responded by saying that Trump and Netanyahu are trying to make political hay out of the banning for their short-term gains: Netanyahu needs to rally right wing voters in order to head off a challenge from the center in September’s elections. While Trump is trying to paint the Democratic Party as anti-Israel in order to win over the Israel lobby to his side.

But let’s go to Twitter. Even rightwing supporters of Israel are going haywire over the decision. Bret Stephens:

Bad decision.

Yair Rosenberg calls Netanyahu’s decision “something incredibly stupid and self-destructive to Israel and its international standing.”

Rep. Nita Lowey announced later this morning that she is “saddened” by the decision. Rep. Jerrold Nadler urges Israel to reconsider. Politico reports that Lowey, Nadler and other pro-Israel Reps– Steny Hoyer, Brad Schneider and Josh Gottheimer– all lobbied the Israeli ambassador yesterday not to go through with the bar.

[Update] Chuck Schumer just condemned the decision. “It will only hurt the U.S.-Israel relationship and support for Israel in America.”

A Democratic Party Zionist organization is condemning the decision as “wrong and unwise” (though it says Tlaib and Omar had planned an “unbalanced” visit).

Even AIPAC faults Israel’s decision.

We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution. We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.

Former US ambassador Dan Shapiro says it’s an own-goal committed by Netanyahu:

Original Israeli decision to allow Tlaib/Omar visit was wise. Reversal makes little sense. I disagree with their stands on Israel, have criticized them. But zero harm in letting them come learn, see (even if they had an agenda). Reversal harms Israel’s standing in US, boosts BDS.

Liberals are also freaking out. The liberal Zionist group J Street says the apparent decision is “a declaration of war” against US progressives that is sure to fracture Israel support here and elevate the Boycott campaign.

Banning two Members of Congress from visiting Israel is like a ‘declaration of war’ against American liberals and progressives. Decision both morally wrong and strategically stupid.

Ben Silverstein of J Street calls the decision a “watershed moment for the U.S.-Israel relationship.” Dylan Williams of J Street sees a BDS victory:

This may be the BDS movement’s most successful media moment ever, all thanks to @IsraeliPM Netanyahu and Trump

More from Williams on BDS’s good fortune:

Recent polling shows most Democratic voters haven’t heard of the BDS movement, but thanks to @IsraeliPM’s move to bar Reps. Omar and Tlaib from Israel, many of them will learn about it today in the context of Israel showing gross disrespect to high-profile members of their party

David Rothkopf observes:

If BDS were a company, I would suspect Bibi had stock in it. Seldom has a public official done so much to advance the legitimacy of a movement he opposed.

Now let’s move on to the politics. Donald Trump celebrated the apparent decision at 9:57 this morning, a couple hours after the news first hit social media. He smeared the congresswomen, whom he has used as a racist punching bag.

It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & 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!

Trump’s reaction seals the deal, Lahav Harkov of the Jerusalem Post says: 

Well, that’s that. I’d be very surprised if Netanyahu lets them in after this.

Yair Rosenberg agrees:

That’s it, they’re banned. Bibi will never *ever* say no to Trump, and now he has to parrot Trumpian dictates as to who Israel lets into the country. Netanyahu poses as a strong leader to his public, but he’ll jump when Trump says jump.

Netanyahu needs to gin up his rightwing base for the September 17 election. Dimi Reider explains the politics of Netanyahu’s decision:

It’s electioneering by interior minister Aryeh Deri. His party, Shas, is skirting elex barrier in Sept w ~5 seats, & only political currency in Israel worth mining is outflanking Netanyahu on the right. C’est tout. If visit was in Oct he wouldnt bother.

Reider’s point is that rightwing votes get dispersed/wasted if the parties they went to fall below a 3.25%  threshhold in the Israeli election. So Netanyahu needs the rightwing parties to exceed the threshhold to have the numbers to make a rightwing coalition. And he also needs to drive the Israeli discourse in a far-right direction so as to drive down the power of his archrival in the election: Avigdor Lieberman, who as a center-right kingmaker could decide Netanyahu’s fate. Netanyahu wants Lieberman gone, or to get so many seats in the parliament himself that Lieberman will have no say over his future.

American Zionists are blaming Trump. Silverstein of J Street:

another demonstration of how the joint Netanyahu-Trump campaign committee will invariably put their political futures before the interests of the United States and Israel

Jennifer Rubin, rightwing Israel supporter at the Washington Post, calls the decision “a huge, unprecedented mistake. No critics allowed in Israel? outrageous.” But she puts the onus on Trump hurting Israel and the U.S.:

Israel is a democracy. Weak, fearful countries don’t allow critics in. But then as someone weak and fearful and not pro-democracy you don’t get that, I know. And btw how DARE the US president advocate for excluding an American from anywhere in the world.

The Jewish Democratic Council of America also blames Trump, not Netanyahu. It worries that he will further Democratic Party criticisms of Israel, and the boycott campaign..

[W]e urge the government of Israel to reject President Trump’s unprecedented and ill-advised recommendation to deny Congresswomen Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) entry into Israel.

Once again, President Trump has inappropriately interfered in Israel’s democracy, to the detriment of the U.S.-Israel relationship….

Preventing members of Congress from visiting Israel is effectively forcing them to boycott. This is unwise and counterproductive. Certainly, it is not the way to fight the global BDS movement, which we strongly oppose.

Danny Ayalon, a former Israeli ambassador, defends the decision as many Israel supporters do by smearing the congresswomen:

When the two racist anti-semitic members of Congress refused to visit Israel with Steny Hoyer – whose delegation heard from wide-ranging Israeli & Palestinian leaders on all sides of the spectrum – it became clear their intention isn’t just to visit, but to cause provocations.

Dylan Williams of J Street says, “This is incitement.”

H/t James North, Allison Deger, Adam Horowitz, Dave Reed, Michael Arria.


Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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21 Responses

  1. eljay on August 15, 2019, 12:51 pm

    Jennifer Rubin’s comment…

    Israel is a democracy. Weak, fearful countries don’t allow critics in. But then as someone weak and fearful and not pro-democracy you don’t get that, I know. …

    …is amusingly lacking in self-awareness, I know.

    • Misterioso on August 16, 2019, 9:35 am

      @eljay, et al

      “Top Jewish Leader Slams Israel’s Ban Of Omar, Tlaib: ‘Democracies Do Not Hide'”
      By Carol Kuravilla, Huffington Post, August 15/19

      “The leader of America’s largest Jewish denomination is calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reverse the ban on the two congresswomen..”

      Also, according to a just released statement, “Israel” has reversed its position and will allow Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib to visit. No word re Ilhan Omar.

  2. JLewisDickerson on August 15, 2019, 2:06 pm

    RE: “That’s it, they’re banned. Bibi will never *ever* say no to Trump, and now he has to parrot Trumpian dictates as to who Israel lets into the country.” ~ Yair Rosenberg

    “Before election, PM aims for Trump backing for Israel sovereignty at settlements”
    By Shalom Yerushalmi | | 12 August 2019
    Officials in Netanyahu’s office confident US president will make declaration ahead of September vote, shoring up right-wing support for premier; PMO denies report

    [EXCERPT] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking a public declaration from US President Donald Trump ahead of the September elections backing an Israeli move to extend its sovereignty over Jewish settlements in the West Bank, officials in the Prime Minister’s Office told Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language site, on Sunday.

    While Netanyahu cannot himself take the far-reaching diplomatic step of extending Israeli sovereignty to the settlements while he is leading the current caretaker government, the Prime Minister’s Office is lobbying for public support from Trump for such a move. This would enable Netanyahu to credibly assure right-wing voters that he can and will move quickly to apply sovereignty to the settlements if he is again elected premier. . .


    • Misterioso on August 16, 2019, 8:15 am

      @JLewishDickerson, et al

      Trump is following orders from his loony Evangelical base and his puppet masters, billionaire Zionist zealots, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson.

  3. amigo on August 15, 2019, 3:26 pm

    “We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution. ” AIPAC .

    What,s the problem AIPACERS , Israel with your full backing is building a One State Solution.

    • Kay24 on August 15, 2019, 5:54 pm

      Good point. They are enabling Israel to keep the occupation, land theft, and apartheid policies going. They are complicit in Israel’s crimes.

      This should make all members of Congress furious, because the closest “ally” in the ME, and largest recipient of US aid, has arrogantly rejected two of their members, because Bibi was trying to please the man who gave him Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights, to impress Israeli voters.
      I have never seen a leader of any nation ask another nation to ban a member of their leadership, especially based on lies, to demonize those leaders even further. Shame on Trump, and shame on Israel. The “only” democracy in the ME…yeah right.

      • amigo on August 15, 2019, 7:45 pm

        Yes, imagine banning Ilan Omar ,a member of the foreign affairs committee of the USA.

        Trump hates these 2 brave ladies because they are openly calling for his impeachment and there is sfa he can legally do about it.Must be tearing him apart. 2 brazen non White Moslem Females taking the most powerful man on the planet to task.

        Lets hope they survive this POS until he is escorted from the WH.

    • Misterioso on August 16, 2019, 9:44 am


      “Israel, with your full backing is building a One State Solution.”

      Precisely! And the Palestinian Arabs of the future “One State” already nearly outnumber Jews and are predicted to do so soon. Throw in the fact that Jewish immigration to “Israel” is declining while emigration is increasing, Palestinians are an inevitable majority of the one state. Indeed, if I were a young Jew living in “Israel” right now, I would start learning to speak and write Arabic.

      • Sibiriak on August 16, 2019, 12:27 pm

        Misterioso: And the Palestinian Arabs of the future “One State” already nearly outnumber Jews and are predicted to do so soon…

        Israel will annex parts of the West Bank, but it’s purely wishful thinking to believe that Israel will voluntarily annex Gaza and the entirety the West Bank, or that the international community is going to force Israel to annex Gaza and the entirety of the West Bank., which of course would be an absolute violation of international law.

        Jewish immigration to “Israel” is declining while emigration is increasing..

        Net Jewish migration into Israel is positive, and more importantly, due to high birth rates, the Jewish population in Israel is exploding–it is predicted to double in forty years.

        If you are banking on demographics alone to liberate the Palestinians, you better have a Plan B.

  4. amigo on August 15, 2019, 6:54 pm

    “Political Tactics” my a$$.This ls about 2 desperate men trying to stay in power because they know they are both going to jail the minute they leave office and they won,t see the outside of a prison for a considerable time.In Trumps case , he will spend longer in prison then he was in office.Not the case with Netanyahu , sadly.

    BTW , a suggestion to Rename 5th ave to Barak Obama ave is making the rounds in NY. That should pi$$ Trump off as he will have to change the address for trump tower.It,s positively brilliant.

  5. Donald on August 15, 2019, 7:32 pm

    I just watched the PBS newshour on this right now. Here is a summary. Not exact quotes, but it gives the sense of what was said.

    Former Israeli ambassador—BDS is antisemitic

    PBS reporter—. You let other antisemites in, like Orban. Why is this different?

    Next for the other side we have Democratic congressman Brad Sherman—

    Sherman— Trump is the big bully who forced Israel to do this, Israel a tiny little country with one friend in the world. Oh, btw, BDS is a vicious movement whose goal is to drive every Jew out of the Middle East.

    PBS reporter— So why do your colleagues support it?

    Sherman— They support changes in policy.

    So the average viewer who doesn’t follow the issue closely will know that both sides agree that the BDS movement is in favor of genocide, with no challenge from the reporter. And no Palestinian or even American supporter of Palestinian rights was invited on.

    The entire issue is being presented as Trump either doing the right thing or Trump bullying poor little Israel. ( Of course Trump does seem to have pushed Netanyahu this way.) As usual, Palestinians are invisible, except when being demonized.

    • Peter in SF on August 16, 2019, 6:21 am

      The transcript of that segment of the PBS News Hour is here:

      This is what Brad Sherman said:

      But the international leaders of the BDS movement are trying — not the try to get Israel to change this or that policy, but to try to remove every Jew from the Middle East. Just as Hitler wanted a Jewish-free Europe, this BDS group wants a Jewish-free Middle East.

      A natural followup would be to ask him to name these “international leaders of the BDS movement” who are trying to do this — and then to interview those leaders! If you’re trying to be as friendly as possible to Rep. Sherman, then theoretically you would try to use the interviews of international BDS leaders to show their evil intentions. But of course this would never happen, because PBS is smart enough to know that Brad Sherman is BSing and certainly doesn’t want his words to be taken with the seriousness that they appear to deserve.

      Has Omar Barghouti ever been on PBS?

      • Peter in SF on August 16, 2019, 6:30 am

        A commenter on the PBS website brings up the possibility that barring Tlaib and Omar was originally Netanyahu’s idea, and Trump played along, thereby giving Netanyahu cover. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Netanyahu had tricked Trump into playing this role.

  6. brent on August 16, 2019, 1:46 am

    The comments on this matter from Israel’s chief supporters should inform supporters of Palestine of the power of political concepts. In this war of ideas, persuasion, the moral high ground, public relations, is the effective way forward. Perhaps the only way!

    Joe Biden said a couple of days ago that supremacy is antithetical to everything America stands for. Could it be more clear apartheid will fall to an organized campaign for peaceful co-existence via civil rights? The original PLO thinking on the best way forward, a secular democratic state with equality for all, was right all along. Arafat probably would now agree armed resistance, althought a right, isn’t the most productive form of struggle. It negates non-violence which can work once violence is criticized.

    • Mooser on August 16, 2019, 1:29 pm

      Shorter “brent”: ‘The Palestinians must embrace non-violence. Israel, of course, can do whatever it wants to.’

  7. Peter in SF on August 16, 2019, 6:38 am

    Why is Dan Shapiro listed among “US supporters”? OK, he is originally from the US, but he lives in Tel Aviv, as his Twitter page says, and he works at the Institute of National Security Studies there.

  8. Richard Baldwin Cook on August 16, 2019, 9:28 am

    Our Congress is responsible for the humiliation of members of Congress, who are denied entry into Israel.

    Three years ago Congress passed an extraordinary exception to visa requirements for Israelis, who wish to enter the United States.

    The US has a visa-exception arrangement like this with several countries but the no-visa-required privilege is typically, reciprocal.

    The visa exception arrangement Congress has made to accommodate Israelis is not reciprocal for U.S. citizens.

  9. Ossinev on August 16, 2019, 12:02 pm

    @Peter in SF

    “A commenter on the PBS website brings up the possibility that barring Tlaib and Omar was originally Netanyahu’s idea, and Trump played along, thereby giving Netanyahu cover. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Netanyahu had tricked Trump into playing this role”

    Looked at from another point of view it would appear to be a case of the dog wagging the tail which is unusual in Zioland/US Presidential history. Mind you this particular dog is self evidently rabid.

  10. Vera Gottlieb on August 16, 2019, 12:25 pm

    I realize there are family reasons for Congresswoman Tlaib to want to visit israel. Apart from this, why go genuflecting and begging israel?

  11. genesto on August 16, 2019, 12:49 pm

    Israel has been denying entry to critics, particularly supporters of BDS, for quite some time now. Yet, suddenly their is this outcry because now Israel’s anti-democratic character, as evidenced by its behavior over many decades as well as by its recently-enacted Nation State Law, is right out in the open for the whole world to see.

    I LOVE the Squad (but, let’s get on board with Palestinian rights, Ms Pressley) because it’s forcing people to awaken from their deep sleep to see just what our ‘special friend, the self-proclaimed ‘only democracy in the Middle East’, really is – and it’s a very ugly sight!

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