US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (left) had asked to go to "Palestine," which so far does not exist, on a trip arranged and co-sponsored by a Palestinian not-for-profit organization, Miftah, a group described in the Washington Examiner as "an exceptionally anti-Semitic group that praises Palestinian terrorists and claims Jews used the blood of Christians in the Jewish Passover." (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D- Michigan) decided to pull the plug on the trip to Israel she was due to make, originally with her fellow "Squad" member, Ilhan Omar, after they both were invited on an official congressional trip but declined.
Although both Tlaib, and the equally outspoken Ms Omar, had initially been refused entry because of their radical views promoting the obliteration of Israel by boycotting it, being boycotted back was not part of the plan, it would appear. Tlaib was finally granted permission on "humanitarian grounds", after an emotive plea to Israel's Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, in which she set out her reasons for wanting to visit her Palestinian grandmother in the West Bank.
The newly minted congresswoman then back-tracked and has now decided to cancel the trip altogether.
Her grandmother, Tlaib tweeted, would not want her to come under the conditions she had already agreed to, that is -- to refrain from using the opportunity as an attention-seeking political platform. "Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me," Tlaib thoughtfully wrote.
Ms Tlaib's grandmother is 90 years old, so this might be the last opportunity they get to see each other again. For Tlaib, however, it appears, this lost opportunity is merely collateral damage when it comes to the advancement of an anti-Israel political agenda. Having to show some restraint for a day or two is, it appears, an affront to her conscience.
Considering that both Tlaib and Omar had been invited to -- and turned down -- a scheduled trip to Israel, along with other freshmen members of Congress, just two weeks earlier, the whole episode looks more like a smokescreen to hide her primary motivation: to agitate.
Tlaib had initially asked to go to "Palestine," which so far does not exist, on a trip arranged and co-sponsored by a Palestinian not-for-profit organization, Miftah, headed by a longtime Palestinian spokesperson, Hanan Ashrawi. Miftah is described by Becket Adams in the Washington Examiner as "an exceptionally anti-Semitic group that praises Palestinian terrorists and claims Jews used the blood of Christians in the Jewish Passover. The organization also publishes Neo-Nazis and calls for the destruction of Israel."
Miftah has also called female suicide bombers heroes. It must take quite a bit of effort to be "exceptionally anti-Semitic."
So, for Israel, it seems clear, any decision was, from the start, jerry-rigged to be lose-lose. Where is Tlaib's criticism of China for occupying Tibet, or Turkey for occupying northern Cyprus, or Pakistan for occupying Kashmir, or for criticizing England for refusing entry to the esteemed scholar Robert Spencer while hate preachers are welcome?
Tlaib's revealing behaviour quite possibly exposes the real motivation behind her proposed visit, which now looks far less like a desire to visit her grandmother, and a whole lot more to do with an apparent penchant for bashing Israel and limelight-chasing. What seemed an attractive proposition to travel to Israel and stir things up in front of the cameras evidently became less appealing after having to pledge to behave. It seems that if she cannot combine the trip with some controversial coverage, there is, for her, no point in it.
Tlaib has a well-documented history, in her bid to highlight her political concerns, of making a spectacle of herself. In 2016, at rally in Detroit for then presidential candidate Donald Trump, Tlaib's "protest" soon deteriorated into mayhem. As she was filmed grappling with Secret Service agents, and Trump's own security detail, she is heard screaming -- "You are all crazy!" -- before being forcibly escorted from the auditorium.
In 2018, whilst still a congressional candidate, she arrived, mob-handed, at a supposedly "peaceful" demonstration outside a McDonald's restaurant in Detroit. Once again, Tlaib was escorted out -- and this time arrested -- while protesting for a $15/hour minimum wage.
When she is not busy being physically removed from a venue, she seems to find it patriotic to rail against the Capitol Police for doing the job assigned to them by Congress: arresting protestors who display a similar disregard for law and order.
"I have never felt more Palestinian, than I have felt in Congress", she defiantly declared to the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights in April 2019. That does seem a bit rich, coming from the same woman who has taken succour in tweeting that Senators who supported a pro-Israel bill "forget what country they represent."
The double-standards contained in her soundbites unfortunately diminish any credibility she might have had in being a Palestinian woman fighting for the rights of her grandmother's homeland. Her behaviour only serves to dilute the seriousness of the issues she claims to represent. She simply seems uninterested in any type of protest that does not involve either noisy eviction or arrest, or in which she cannot get attention or be regarded as a victim. It is hard not to wonder what she is doing for her constituents. Is the wish to bash Israel actually what keeps the good voters of Michigan awake at night? And is anti-Semitism now the accepted new face of the Democrat Party? It is not surprising that her proposed visit might have been of some concern to Israel.
As M. Zuhdi Jasser, author and founder of the American-Islamic Forum for Democracy, said about the incident:
"I have to tell you, we have to understand first, what is the BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] movement? It's an anti-Semitic, basically genocidal movement that wants to see the end of Israel. So make no mistake, these are not moderates coming to visit Israel. Israel per its 2017 law has a right to prohibit activists, especially those who want to see it wiped off the map, from coming in."
The latest ideas to surface from the Israel-Bashing Industry is a discussion by "around a dozen Democrats" in the US House of Representatives about censuring Israel's ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, and the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, over a "deep lack of confidence and trust." McClatchy quoted a congressional source saying, "We are reviewing all of our options."
Tlaib in a tweet, then proposed boycotting a television program by Bill Maher, who had the misfortune correctly to observe about the movement to destroy Israel through "BDS" strangulation, "It's a bulls--- purity test by people who want to appear woke but actually slept through history class." He went on:
"It's predicated on this notion—I think it's very shallow thinking—that the Jews in Israel are mostly white and the Palestinians are browner, so they must be innocent and correct, and the Jews must be wrong.
"As if the occupation came right out of the blue, that this completely peaceful people found themselves occupied...Forget about the intifadas and the suicide bombings and the rockets and how many wars.
"Let me read Omar Barghouti, one of the co-founders of the movement... His quote: 'No rational Palestinian ... would ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.' So that's where that comes from, this movement, someone who doesn't even want a Jewish state at all. Somehow this side never gets presented in the American media. It's very odd."
US Rep. Ted Lieu (D- California), evidently not wishing to be left out, joined in, accusing US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman of "allegiance to [a] foreign power" -- but not accusing Rep. Tlaib of allegiance to "Palestine."
In a weepy press conference, all inconvenient facts were distorted or omitted, such as what had actually been their planned itinerary, and why Israel had felt compelled to build a security barrier in the first place? Could it have had anything to do with countless Palestinian terrorist attacks in which "more than 900 people were killed" and "thousands injured'? Did the security barrier in Israel work to stop them? According to then Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Israel saw "over a 90 percent reduction in terrorist acts in that country that they attribute to having an effective fence... If Israel can do it effectively, there's no reason why America can't."
Other fairy tales at the press conference included, among other calumnies, efforts to compare Israel to apartheid South Africa, when in fact Arabs are by and large treated equally to Jews; are Supreme court judges and members of parliament, have political parties, and are admitted to any profession. Rep. Omar also called checkpoints dehumanizing, when the only reason for their existence is to stop Palestinian terrorist attacks. Of course, no mention was made at the press conference that the Palestinian Authority, under its leader Mahmoud Abbas, now approaching the 14th year of his four-year term in office, has "banned a Palestinian LGBT rights group from organizing any activities in the West Bank and threatened to arrest them, saying such activities are contrary to the 'values of Palestinian society.'" By contrast, Israel, every year, holds one of the world's largest "Pride" events.
Results such as these to an invitation that Tlaib herself had asked for -- "This could be my last opportunity to see her [the grandmother]. I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit" -- indicate that Israel's concern was right.
Andrew Ash is based in the United Kingdom.