This is obviously not true, as Israel’s many Muslim visitors could attest, but Omar is a demagogue and this is what demagogues do. And in fairness, it may be true that Netanyahu is acting at Trump’s behest in banning her and Tlaib from the country. “I want to tell you a secret,” tweeted Israeli reporter Barak Ravid earlier. “A month ago when Netanyahu decided to allow Omar and Tlaib into the country they [already] supported BDS and he knew it back then. There is only one reason for Netanyahu’s backtracking today – the pressure from Donald Trump.” Indeed, back on July 20, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. confirmed that, despite the ban on others visitors who support BDS, “out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel.”
Essentially Netanyahu’s doing Trump a political favor here, giving him a little extra ammo for his war with the Squad to try to galvanize Republican turnout next year. And he’s choosing sides between the Republican White House and the Democratic House to do it.
Trump’s not the only politician who will make hay of the decision, though, needless to say:
That clucking at the end about her treatment at the hands of the Middle East’s only democracy reminds me of Jake Tapper grilling Rashida Tlaib a few weeks ago on why she’s not leading a BDS movement against illiberal Middle Eastern regimes like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and so on. I’d be happy to participate in those movements, Tlaib replied! Well, why don’t you organize them then, asked Tapper?
I mean, you’re a congresswoman. You’ve got some unusual leverage at your disposal to put pressure on Islamic regimes that are abusing human rights. Assuming, that is, that that’s your real bone of contention with Israel.
Anyway, I suspect Democrats will stand foursquare behind Omar and Tlaib in opposing Netanyahu’s decision…
Israel’s denial of entry to Congresswomen Tlaib & Omar is beneath the dignity of the great State of #Israel. @realDonaldTrump's statements about the Congresswomen are a sign of ignorance & disrespect, & beneath the dignity of the Office of the President. https://t.co/F2E0g0Wj2T
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 15, 2019
…whereas opinion among Republicans and right-aligned supporters of Israel will split between the Trumpist “ban ’em” contingent and the more traditional “be better than they are” group:
But denying them entry into #Israel is a mistake.
Being blocked is what they really hoped for all along in order to bolster their attacks against the Jewish state.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 15, 2019
We disagree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib’s support for the anti-Israel and anti-peace BDS movement, along with Rep. Tlaib’s calls for a one-state solution. We also believe every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.
— AIPAC (@AIPAC) August 15, 2019
– They don't gain a new argument
– They might even learn something
– Israel looks friendly
– Israel controls the narrative
– Excluding political opinions will harm Zionists more than help them
— Daniel Pipes دانيال بايبس (@DanielPipes) August 15, 2019
I will say this over and over until partisans grow some principles:
Blacklisting all Israeli businesses, artists, and universities is wrong. Those who support the movement to do so are wrong. Blacklisting them is also wrong. You can't defeat illiberalism with illiberalism.
— Yair Rosenberg (@Yair_Rosenberg) August 15, 2019
Rosenberg’s tweet gets at the deeper dispute here, one that underlies much of the bickering on the right lately: Should the right try to be better than its enemies, i.e. the classical liberal view, or just as ruthless (if not more ruthless) in the name of advancing its interests, i.e. the post-liberal view? We saw a variation of that dispute flare just a few days ago in a matter as petty as Chris Cuomo’s squabble with a heckler. “Cuomo was in the right,” said some Republicans, including Trump’s buddy Sean Hannity. But Trump was focused on the fact that a right-wing newsman wouldn’t have been treated so forgivingly by his own opponents and scolded Republicans for riding to Cuomo’s defense. “We never learn!” Only a chump would choose the principle that media celebs have a right not to be harassed in public over an opportunity to attack an enemy at CNN.
The Omar/Netanyahu dispute is a grander version of that. Notwithstanding the fact that she and Tlaib are socialist trash who wish Israel ruin, should the Jewish state make a show of its own commitment to liberalism by inviting two harsh critics to visit? Or should it repay their contempt with a show of contempt of its own?
There’s a complicating factor here for those who would dismiss Netanyahu’s decision as unfair. It’d be one thing if Omar’s and Tlaib’s trip were a good-faith attempt to talk to Israelis and Palestinians, notwithstanding their withering criticism in the past. It’s another if it’s a bad-faith opportunity for agitprop on Israeli soil. Which, per Netanyahu’s office, it is:
“Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar are leading activists in promoting the legislation of boycotts against Israel in the American Congress. Only a few days ago, we received their itinerary for their visit in Israel, which revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy. For instance: they listed the destination of their trip as Palestine and not Israel, and unlike all Democratic and Republican members of Congress who have visited Israel, they did not request to meet any Israeli officials, either from the government or the opposition.
“A week ago, Israel warmly welcomed some 70 Democratic and Republican members of Congress, who expressed broad bipartisan support for Israel, which was also demonstrated a month ago in a resounding bipartisan vote against BDS in Congress.
“However, the itinerary of the two Congresswomen reveals that the sole purpose of their visit is to harm Israel and increase incitement against it.
“In addition, the organization that is funding their trip is Miftah, which is an avid supporter of BDS, and among whose members are those who have expressed support for terrorism against Israel.
Israel shouldn’t bar critics but I can’t fault it for wanting to bar enemies, which is what Omar and Tlaib are. If, in light of this, Pelosi wants to defend their agenda against Israel — and also why their alleged concern for human rights seems to focus chiefly on the one minority-Muslim country in the regime — let her have at it. That’ll be fun.
And as for complaints that barring Omar and Tlaib will itself hand them a propaganda opportunity to play the victim and cry crocodile tears about Israeli illiberalism, making them do that here is preferable to letting them do it in front of a banc of reporters on Israeli soil. The point, again, is that their posture towards the Jewish state is implacably adversarial and they’re making no bones about it. Their itinerary telegraphed the fact that they would use the trip to agitate against the country. There’s no reason for the Israeli government to be party to that.
In lieu of an exit question, a little something from the not-distant past to bear in mind when Democrats start complaining that barring legislators from allied countries is fascism.
What kind of totalitarians would ever try to ban legislators from an allied country you may ask. pic.twitter.com/RqBxz5j4l3
— Kyle Shideler (@ShidelerK) August 15, 2019
Update: Definitely a good-faith goodwill visit, yessir.
Question for reporters covering @IlhanMN @RashidaTlaib trip to "Palestine"–as their itinerary refers to all of Israel–have u noted that the organization sponsoring the trip, Miftah, has claimed that "Jews use the blood of Christians in Jewish passover"? https://t.co/KyRqim4DYQ
— Sean Durns (@SeanDurns) August 15, 2019