Tuesday, March 31, 2020 -
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Tlaib, straight out of ‘Saturday Night Live’

Initially, when Israel formally barred congresswomen Tlaib and Omar from entering Israel, I thought it was a terrible mistake. Of course, these congresswomen’s enmity and rancor toward Israel is well known. Certainly, this was not going to be a fair, educational or neutral diplomatic visit, not by any means.

Who knows what dramas, shenanigans and damage Israel avoided by what might possibly turn out to have been a wise decision. The truth is, we’ll never know. But knowing what we do of these two congresswomen’s anti-Israel obsession, one can only imagine the media circus that would have ensued.

That said, generally speaking, I believe it behooves Israel to be the one to take the high road and find resolutions, or at least endeavor to find a third way of doing things, when thorny conflicts arise.

While I mostly still lean this way in regard to the barred congresswomen, the more I read about this particular situation, the more I understand Israel’s decision.

An American congressional delegation had just visited Israel the previous week. But Tlaib and Omar were not part of it. They didn’t want to join. Instead, they planned a separate trip. Their itinerary was titled “US Congressional Delegation to Palestine.”

There you have so much of what is disturbing about these congresswomen. They will not even acknowledge the name or existence of Israel. Never mind the ancillary issue of how insulting, undiplomatic and un-congressional a move this is to a host country, be it Israel or otherwise.

Also, their itinerary excluded them meeting with any Israeli official, nor any engagement with Israel at all. This is a major departure from normative US policy and any basic US-Israel relationship.

Then there was Tlaib’s ruse about visiting her grandmother — you can’t make this stuff up. Israel, never thinking to question the motives of someone evoking a desire to visit, possibly for the last time, one’s grandmother, acquiesced on humanitarian grounds. Tlaib’s request was granted.

Never in Israel’s, or really anyone’s, wildest dreams, did it occur that an elderly grandparent was being cynically used for political motives. This really and truly is a new low. This news story read like the caricature of a “Saturday Night Live” script. Israel’s sincerely granting Tlaib permission to visit her aging grandmother whom she hadn’t seen in over 10 years in the end produced the unintended consequence of calling Tlaib’s bluff, when she turned Israel down. Oh, never mind grandma. As many pointed out, it seemed Tlaib’s hate for Israel eclipses her love for her own grandmother.

One of Golda Meir’s famous pithy statements touched on this very idea. “Peace will come to the Middle East when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us.”

The fact is, these women are clever. They trapped Israel. They asked to come visit Israel knowing perfectly well Israel’s law regarding BDS supporters.

For Israel, this was a classic case of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” Not admitting the congresswomen caused a negative reaction, and letting them in would have most probably caused terrible tension among the Arab Palestinians they were scheduled to visit. And, potentially, their fanning of flames could have caused real security problems.

This kind of mission is not meant to yield change or to help anyone, but rather to give these women a kind of twisted sense of schadenfreude, a type of satisfaction at having given Israel trouble.

Bassem Eid, a non-political peaceful Palestinian activist and leader who devotes his life to working toward a future for both Arab Palestinians and Jewish Israelis in Israel, wrote this on his Facebook page:

“I want to tell Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to stop your scandal and propaganda. Your hatred to Israel will never help or serve the Palestinian cause . . . Tlaib go and help your people in Gaza and free them from the Hamas occupation. Stop both of you using us for your agenda. Both of you are now hurting only . . .”

To me, though, this whole chain of events hardly seems to be the story here. The story about the rejected entry of the congresswomen is simply a decoy to the real story here.

David French of the National Review explains how the heart of this disturbing story is that these two American women eschewed a bi-partisan congressional trip and instead aligned with a known anti-Israel and anti-Semite: Hanan Ashrawi.

She heads an organization called Miftah. French explored her website, which led me to check it out as well. It truly is disturbing. It is replete with blatant anti-Semitic material, including an out and out accusation of a blood libel. Go read it for yourselves.

This is who Americans are defending against Israel’s decision. Two women who have set a precedent for aligning with an known anti-Semite and barely a peep from the public.

Hanan Ashrawi is no bridge builder or peacemaker. Imagine if the tables were turned. Imagine if US congresswomen had planned a trip with a known white supremacist. Would we still be focused on a conversation about the merits of said country’s decision to deny entry to the people in question, yay or nay?

Make no mistake, Omar and Tlaib’s decision to shun the bi-partisan congressional trip to Israel and instead plan a separate visit by partnering with a radical Palestinian activist is a watershed moment in American history. It gives credence to what has heretofore been verboten.

Israel should have allowed them in, Israel shouldn’t have allowed them in. This could be debated. America and Israel will see this situation through each of their respective political prisms.

As I said, as nefarious as these congresswomen’s intention was, I feel Israel should have allowed the visit on the grounds of their status as American congresswomen, with limitations, with conditions on their itinerary, as well as constant accompaniment by Israeli media to document what would have no doubt amounted to the congresswomen’s dangerous stirring of the pot.

But all that is beside the point. It’s not the real issue at hand here. The issue is the media and the public focusing on Israel’s decision while ignoring what’s truly troubling: two American congresswomen planned a separate trip to Israel (whose mere existence they wouldn’t even acknowledge by name) in partnership with a radicalized activist and known anti-Semitic personality, and the overall reaction is crickets.

Copyright © 2019 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Tehilla R. Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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