The Israeli government’s decision on Thursday to deny entry to US Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar over their support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement caused international uproar.
While speculation remains over just how much US President Donald Trump’s tweet demanding Tlaib and Omar, who he said “hate Israel & all Jews”, be barred, factored into Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision, the series of events that unfolded after the announcement did not seem to play out well for the two leaders.
US politicians on both sides of the aisle, major presidential candidates, Palestinian leaders and activists, celebrities like John Legend, Barbara Streisand, and Cynthia Nixon, and even zionist organizations like AIPAC, all voiced their opposition to the decision — particularly the role played by Trump in influencing a foreign government and ally to ban US lawmakers from entering their country.
I would like to see a commitment from my representatives in Washington NOT to travel to Israel until ALL members of Congress are welcome.
— Cynthia Nixon (@CynthiaNixon) August 15, 2019
The long term political ramifications of Netanyahu’s decision on Israeli-American alliances remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that the latest efforts by the Israeli premier to quash the growing BDS movement may have backfired.
The hashtag “#BoycottIsrael” was trending on Twitter in the US for a few hours on Thursday, and was hailed by pro-Palestine activists as a major win for the boycott movement, which has been met with heavy opposition by Israel’s supporters in the US.
— BeachGrl0 (@BeachGrl0) August 15, 2019
As Eric Levitz wrote for New York Magazine, “this is extraordinary.”
Pointing to the fact that news on Israel-Palestine rarely generates significant buzz on social media in the US, Levitz writes that “together, Trump and Netanyahu provided BDS supporters a hook so juicy, the latter’s preferred topic has become a major social-media conversation.”
“That is no small win for both the BDS movement and supporters of Palestinian rights more broadly,” he said.
In an interview with Mondoweiss on Thursday, Al-Shabaka Policy member Fadi Quran said that he anticipated a “doubling down” of support for the BDS movement in the wake of the ban on Tlaib and Omar.
“It is pretty clear that the fact that Israel and Trump are so afraid and adamantly against BDS is a sign of how effective this strategy is,” he said. “If there is a silver lining to all of this, a growing support for BDS would be it.”
Co-founder of the BDS movement Omar Barghouti spoke to Newsweek on Thursday, saying “Israel’s war on BDS is failing.”
Barghouti remarked that Israel is struggling to maintain support among liberals, specifically millenials, worldwide “as its apartheid regime and its alliances with white supremacist and patently anti-Semitic forces in the US and Europe are being exposed.”
“Banning the entry of Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar is not just an attack on freedom of expression. It is a slap on the face of the US and its Congress,” Barghouti said, adding that cutting military aid to Israel “until it fully respects Palestinian human rights” was long overdue.
Ramallah-based political activist and lawyer Diana Buttu told Mondoweiss that, in regards to attempting to silence pro-BDS voices in America, Israel’s plans were backfiring.
“The trending hashtag #BoycottIsrael is trending amongst people that otherwise wouldn’t be talking about Israel, which has been really interesting to see,” Buttu said.
“The fact that people, even if they’re not somebody who is involved in the BDS movement, the fact that they are expressing outrage that the delegation was denied and calling for military aid to Israel to be leveraged is significant,” she continued.
When it comes to barring representatives of congress, Buttu believes that it raises the question among the American public of “what does Israel have to hide?”
“This is the kind of discourse that we’re used to hearing when it comes to countries that are routinely demonized in the US, but certainly not countries the US praises as being a dear friend and ally.”