Rep. Rashida Tlaib announced on Friday that, despite receiving permission from the Israeli government to travel to the occupied West Bank to visit her grandmother, she will not make the journey because it was predicated on her promise that she would mute her support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement during her stay.
Israel had barred Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar from a congressional trip to Palestine over their support of BDS. On Friday morning, Tlaib was given permission to visit her grandmother after writing a letter to the Israeli government pledging not to promote BDS while on the trip. But in a series of tweets, Tlaib said she had decided that she could not visit under such conditions.
The website Middle East Eye reported Tlaib’s family, including her grandmother, Muftiya, had been making elaborate arrangements in preparation for her arrival:
Flags, lights and other decorations had been brought to the home, and several statements had been prepared to be read for the occasion.
“I’m going to prepare all the Palestinian food that her heart pleases and we will pick figs off the trees together,” Muftiya told Middle East Eye earlier this week.
In her letter to the Israeli government, Tlaib had said this was potentially the last time she could see her grandmother, who is in her 90s.
Update, 10:21 a.m. ET: Tlaib issued a lengthy statement about her decision. Read it below:
In my attempt to visit Palestine, I’ve experienced the same racist treatment that many Palestinian-Americans endure when encountering the Israeli government. In preparation for my visit, my grandmother was deciding which fig tree we would pick from together, while Palestinians and Israelis who are against the illegal military occupation were looking forward to Members of Congress finally listening to and seeing them for the first time. The Israeli government used my love and desire to see my grandmother to silence me and made my ability to do so contingent upon my signing a letter – reflecting just how undemocratic and afraid they are of the truth my trip would reveal about what is happening in the State of Israel and to Palestinians living under occupation with United States support.
I have therefore decided to not travel to Palestine and Israel at this time. Visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions meant to humiliate me would break my grandmother’s heart. Silencing me with treatment to make me feel less-than is not what she wants for me – it would kill a piece of me that always stands up against racism and injustice.
When I won the election to become a United States Congresswoman, many Palestinians, especially my grandmother, felt a sense of hope, a hope that they would finally have a voice. I cannot allow the Israeli government to take that away from them or to use my deep desire to see my grandmother, potentially for the last time, as a political bargaining chip. My family and I have cried together throughout this ordeal; they’ve promised to keep my grandmother alive until I can one day reunite with her. It is with their strength and heart that I reiterate I am a duly elected United States Congresswoman and I will not allow the Israeli government to humiliate me and my family or take away our right to speak out. I will not allow the Israeli government to take away our hope.
Racism and the politics of hate is thriving in Israel and the American people should fear what this will mean for the relationship between our two nations. If you truly believe in democracy, then the close alignment of Netanyahu with Trump’s hate agenda must prompt a re-evaluation of our unwavering support for the State of Israel. The denial of entry of a congressional delegation is not only about Congresswoman Omar and I, but also about the deep-rooted racism within Israel that is taking us further away from peace. The Israeli and Palestinian people need us to be more courageous and to be honest brokers of peace. Being silent and not condemning the human rights violations of the Israeli government is a disservice to all who live there, including my incredibly strong and loving grandmother.
This type of oppression is painful for all humanity, but it is especially painful for me personally every time I hear my loving family members cry out for the freedom to live and the right to feel human.