Ilhan Omar: Israel's Actions "Not Consistent" With Being An Ally Or A Democracy

|

Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) held a news conference Monday afternoon on their travel restrictions to Palestine and Israel. They also featured other Palestinian-Americans in the same situation.

Omar said she and Tlaib were "being denied the right to see for ourselves the reality on the ground in the West Bank" and the ban was "nothing less than an attempt by an ally of the United States to suppress our ability to do our jobs as elected officials."





"We give Israel more than $3 million in aid every year," she said. "This is predicated on they're being an important ally in the region and the 'only democracy' in the Middle East," making air quotes with her fingers.

"But denying a visit to duly elected members of Congress is not consistent with being an ally, and denying millions of people freedom of movement or expression or self-determination is not consistent with being a democracy," she said.

"We must be asking, as Israel's ally, the Netanyahu government stop the expansion of settlements on Palestinian land, and ensure full rights for Palestinians if we are to give them aid. These are not just my views. These are the views held by the range of experts, peace advocates on this issue."

"We know Donald Trump would love nothing more than to use this issue to pit Muslims and Jewish Americans against each other. The Muslim community and the Jewish community are being othered and made into the bogeyman by this administration. But as we will hear today, people of all different faiths are coming together to speak up against the status quo in the region," she continued.

"As legislators, we have an obligation to see the reality for ourselves. We have a responsibility to conduct oversight over our government's foreign policy and what happens with the millions of dollars we send in aid," she explained. "We cannot let Trump and Netanyahu succeed in hiding the reality of the occupation from us. So I call on all of you to go. The occupation is real. Barring members of Congress from seeing it does not make it go away."

REP. ILHAN OMAR: Today we are here to highlight the human cost of the occupation and travel restrictions on Palestinians and others. As many of you know, I had planned to travel to Israel and Palestine to hear from individuals on the ground about the conflict so that I could be more informed as a member of Congress and as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Contrary to many media reports and statements of the Israeli Prime Minister, I planned to meet directly with members of the Knesset and Israeli security along with Palestinian civil society groups, former IDF soldiers, Israel, Palestine, and international organizations, and United Nations officials.

Leading up to the trip, I met with constituents holding a wide range of views on the conflict. All the activities on my trip had been done by members of Congress in the past, including a nearly identical trip a few years ago led by the very same Palestinian organization leading this trip. In addition to me and Rashida going on the trip, we were going to be joined by Stacy Plaskett from the Virgin Islands. The decision to ban me and my colleague, the first two Muslim-American women elected to Congress, is nothing less than an attempt by an ally of the United States to suppress our ability to do our jobs as elected officials.

But this is not just about me. Netanyahu's decision to deny us entry might be unprecedented for members of Congress, but it is the policy of his government when it comes to Palestinians. This is the policy of his government when it comes to anyone who holds views against the Israeli occupation, a policy that has been supported by Trump's administration. That is because the only way to preserve unjust policy is to suppress people's freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of movement. My colleague and I are not the only ones who are being denied the right to see for ourselves the reality on the ground in the West Bank.

The Netanyahu government is currently trying to deport Omar Shakir, a human rights worker with Human Rights Watch, because he has reported on human rights conditions in the West Bank and Gaza. Last year the Netanyahu government refused entry to American citizens Catherine Frank and my friend Vince Warren, who had arrived on a human rights mission. All of these actions have do nothing to bring us closer to peace. In fact, they do the opposite. They maintain the occupation and prevent a solution to the conflict.

Fortunately, we the United States have a constructive role to play. We give Israel more than $3 million in aid every year. This is predicated on they're being an important ally in the region and the "only democracy" in the Middle East. But denying a visit to duly elected members of Congress is not consistent with being an ally, and denying millions of people freedom of movement or expression or self-determination is not consistent with being a democracy.

We must be asking, as Israel's ally, the Netanyahu government stop the expansion of settlements on Palestinian land, and ensure full rights for Palestinians if we are to give them aid. These are not just my views. These are the views held by the range of experts, peace advocates on this issue. We know Donald Trump would love nothing more than to use this issue to pit Muslims and Jewish Americans against each other. The Muslim community and the Jewish community are being othered and made into the bogeyman by this administration. But as we will hear today, people of all different faiths are coming together to speak up against the status quo in the region. I'm grateful for the solidarity shown by so many of my colleagues in Congress.

I understand and appreciate the calls for members to avoid traveling to Israel until Rashida and I are allowed to go without condition, but it is my belief that as legislators we have an obligation to see the reality for ourselves. We have a responsibility to conduct oversight over our government's foreign policy and what happens with the millions of dollars we send in aid. So I would encourage my colleagues to visit. Meet with the people we were going to meet with. See the things we were going to see. Hear the stories we were going to hear. We cannot let Trump and Netanyahu succeed in hiding the reality of the occupation from us. So I call on all of you to go. The occupation is real. Barring members of Congress from seeing it does not make it go away.


Watch their full presser:

Comment
Show comments Hide Comments

Latest Political Videos

Video Archives