- Israel’s veto to allow the entry of two Democratic congressmen has raised criticism even among supporters of the pro-Israeli right.
- What happened reveals Israel’s policy against any dissent, which is not only treated as illegitimate but as illegal.
- After banning him from entering the country, Israel allowed access to Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who chose to reject him.
Anyone who follows the political news of Israel and Palestine could have imagined that this was going to happen. The decision to prevent the entry into Israel of a relevant American political representative was something that was going to happen. It was only a matter of time. That moment has finally arrived this Thursday with the decision of the Israeli Government, spurred by Donald Trump, to prevent the entrance of congressmen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib into the country.
This movement does not suddenly come from nothing. In 2017, the Israeli government passed the law prohibiting the entry into the country of supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. When Omar and Rashida Tlaib took office, having repeatedly expressed their support for the BDS movement, the question was raised as to whether Israel would deny them entry or not.
That this is in case a question shows how the Israeli government considers the opposition: it is not only illegitimate, it is also illegal. At first, it seemed that Netanyahu was going to avoid the diplomatic scandal. In July, his ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, explained that Congressmen Omar and Tlaib would be allowed to enter. However, Trump’s pressure and internal issues seem to have changed his mind.
As part of his re-election strategy for 2020, the president of the United States tweeted that the entry of Omar and Tlaib into the country would be “a sign of great weakness” by Israel, as the two Democratic congressmen “hate Israel and everything the Jewish people. ” Trump and his Republican party have made it clear that they plan to continue demonizing Omar and Tlaib in order to blur the image of the Democratic Party and scare away Jewish voters.
At the moment, that strategy – with little chance of succeeding – seems to have failed. The Democrats have not been the only ones to condemn the decision of the Israeli Government. Also the powerful US pressure group in favor of Israel AIPAC, as well as some Republicans, such as Marco Rubio.
Maybe Netanyahu did not imagine the reactions it would cause. The Israeli prime minister also faces a complicated reelection campaign and multiple corruption investigations. Denying the entrance to Congressmen Omar and Tlaib allows her to divert attention, away from her own scandals and defects, and put herself in her favorite pose of “protector of Israel” against her external enemies.
In the Netanyahu Executive, there are several members being investigated through criminal proceedings. It may not have been a coincidence that the decision to veto Omar and Tlaib was taken on the same day that the accusations for possible corruption were known against Aryeh Deri, the Interior Minister who signed the ban on entry to congressmen. In Israel, as elsewhere, ethnocracy and kleptocracy go hand in hand.
Between the American bureaucracy and the leading experts, there were numerous reactions of outrage and surprise to the veto against Omar and Tlaib. However, there is nothing unusual in the decision of the Israeli Government. For those who were not paying attention or preferred not to see what they had in front of them, it is an objective lesson about contemporary Israel.
Israel not only criminalizes those who support the BDS movement. The boycott against settlements has been considered a crime for years. Netanyahu and his successive administrations have turned human rights organizations into the wicked. The term left has become a qualifier that always appears next to the word traitor, or as a synonym. Arabs, Muslims and, especially, Palestinians, are considered from the outset as enemies and treated as such.
Calling threats to two US congressmen, one of the Palestinian and one black, Muslim, progressive and sympathetic to the BDS is absolutely consistent with the delegitimization of the dissent carried out by the Israeli Government. The daily rhetoric of security justifies measures of punishment and acts of violence against populations that are considered unworthy of basic rights: Palestinians, Africans seeking refuge and even Ethiopian-Israeli citizens.
Omar and Tlaib tried to enter Israel-Palestine on their own, without first having obtained the approval of the pro-Israeli establishment. They demanded the same treatment as their right-wing peers but the Israeli government refused to grant it. There are more things behind the veto. Tlaib is Palestinian. His parents were born in Palestine and his grandmother still lives there. Israel’s unilateral ban that prevents her from visiting her family home, despite being a US deputy, reflects the grave injustice of Israel’s border system. It should be enough to end any illusion that remains in this regard: in Israel-Palestine, there is nothing other than a single-state regime whose hierarchy of rights and privileges is based on ethnic-religious identity.
Unfortunately, what has happened to Tlaib is no exception either. Palestinians in the diaspora Israel routinely deny the possibility of visiting their families and ancestral homes. At the same time, Jews from anywhere in the world can become Israeli citizens with all rights.
If the pro-Israeli right was confident that the veto on Omar and Tlaib was going to protect Israel from threats against its legitimacy, the opposite has ended up happening. The pro-Israel establishment has widely condemned the decision of the Netanyahu Executive. It is clear that they would have preferred that Omar and Tlaib’s visit to Israel had passed without incident and prevented Israel from being so manifestly in evidence. But those skilled pro-Israel groups, concerned with maintaining support for Israel as a priority of the two parties, no longer have so much power. The policy for the Middle East of the Trump Administration is determined today by an alliance between evangelical Christians and the Jewish right in favor of the settlers.
That coalition does not need to satisfy both parties, something that would force them into unassuming concessions for the Jewish right. Like supporting the solution of the two states, if only in word. The newly strengthened Jewish right believes that the entire land of Israel is an exclusive gift from God to the Jewish people, that the conflict is a zero-sum game in which only one side can win, and that all criticism against Israel is illegitimate and anti-Semites
The US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, represents this ideological current. His role has been instrumental in the Trump Administration’s position in the country. In statements about the veto to Omar and Tlaib, Friedman affirmed that the BDS movement was “nothing less than an economic war” designed to “destroy, ultimately, the Jewish state.”
The great irony of all this is that the Israeli government and the pro-Israeli right have just given notoriety and publicity to a BDS movement with a doldrums. BDS supporters believe that Israel must bear the consequences of systematically denying the basic rights of the Palestinians and that external pressure is necessary to democratize the current anti-democratic system of a single State in Israel-Palestine. Before the veto to the congressmen, it was already difficult to argue otherwise. Now it will be a little more.