In an extensive email discussion, participants in The Third Narrative (TTN) have indicated some difference of opinion regarding this episode as it has evolved. There’s a clear consensus that Israel erred politically in reversing its prior stated decision to allow Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar to enter Israel; Ameinu, TTN’s sponsor, was consonant with our view in condemning this ban. This was the view of almost all American Zionist and pro-Israel Jewish groups that expressed themselves on this matter, including the almost always uncritical American Jewish Committee and American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
There was disagreement within TTN on whether Israel should have placed the condition that Rep. Tlaib not engage in pro-BDS activity during her stay, when it then offered that she be permitted entry to visit her 90-year old grandmother in a West Bank village. She initially accepted this condition in writing (see below) but reneged when pressured by pro-BDS groups.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri then posted on Twitter that “Apparently her hate for Israel overcomes her love for her grandmother.” This also prompted some disagreement among TTN members on whether his statement was appropriate or simply nasty.
To recap, it was within Israel’s sovereign right to ban entry to foreign lawmakers, and there is precedent for Israel and other countries to do so, as explained in a Times of Israel article; but Israel has never previously barred elected lawmakers from the United States. In banning two Democratic legislators immediately after a Trump Tweet criticizing Israel for letting them in, Netanyahu’s government is continuing to march in lock-step with Trump and the Republican party, even more than when Netanyahu energetically opposed the Iran nuclear agreement during Obama’s Presidency. Trump and Netanyahu together are endangering bipartisan support for Israel, and making Israel a wedge issue for Republican inroads within the Democratic coalition.
Ironically, this sequence of events, in which Israeli policy is reversed at the whim of the US President, inverts the logic of anti-Zionist narratives that shade into antisemitism in alleging undo Zionist influence on US foreign policy — a theme which Rep. Omar has invoked more than once. (Consider reading Thomas Friedman’s compelling column, “If You Think Trump Is Helping Israel, You’re a Fool,” which also slams Omar — who now represents the Minnesota district where Friedman grew up — for not being the “bridge builder between Muslims and Jews” that she could have been.)
This episode has given the BDS movement a public relations boost, especially given the usual media oversimplification that BDS is simply about changing Israeli policy toward the Palestinians (the actual intent of many if not most supporters of BDS). The ultimate goal of BDS’s Palestinian leadership is to “de-Zionize” the State of Israel, by demanding that Arab survivors of the 1948 Nakba (catastrophe) and their generations of progeny still classified as “refugees,” have a literal right “to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.” Any resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires a reasonable and humane solution to the tragic problem of Arab refugees, but there is no recognition in any BDS statement that Arab forces had any responsibility for bringing about the refugee crisis by violently rejecting the United Nations partition plan of 1947 and attempting to destroy the Jewish state in its infancy.