I’m a stickler for sovereignty. Sovereign nations have borders and their leaders decide who gets to cross them. Excluding individuals who are hostile or even just objectionable is common practice. Among those who have not been permitted to come to America: Michael Ben Ari, a far-right Israeli legislator, and Narendra Modi, accused of doing too little to prevent anti-Muslim riots in 2002, and now India’s prime minister.
Unless Israel is to be held to a separate and unequal standard, its leaders must enjoy the same right, which they exercised by declining to welcome Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
The dominant media narrative is that Benjamin Netanyahu excluded the two far-left congresswomen in deference to President Trump, who had tweeted that they “hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.” Perhaps that did influence the prime minister’s thinking, but other factors undoubtedly were weighed as well. Allow me to mention a few.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer invited Reps. Omar and Tlaib to join a bipartisan delegation that went to Israel and the West Bank earlier this month. They preferred not to accompany their colleagues.
Separately, the Israeli government granted a request by Rep. Tlaib to enter the West Bank to visit relatives, asking only that she not use the occasion to promote boycotts against Israel. She said no deal.
The itinerary for their trip was titled: “Delegation to Palestine.” That strikes me as erasing Israel from the map. When they landed at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, where did they think they would be?
They were planning to meet with individuals and groups directly tied to terrorism and anti-Semitism. Among them: Shawan Jabarin, identified by Israel’s Supreme Court as a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Marxist-Leninist organization responsible for airplane hijackings and suicide bombings, and designated as a terrorist entity by the U.S. Japan, Canada, Australia, and the European Union.
Organizing their visit was Miftah, an organization that in 2013 published an article alleging that Jews use Christian blood for their Passover matzahs – a very old and very sick libel.
Miftah also published “an American neo-Nazi treatise” called “Who Rules America: The Alien Grip on Our News and Entertainment Media must be Broken.” Apparently, to Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar, white supremacy in defense of Jew-hatred is no vice.
Reflect on this hypocrisy: While Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar support boycotting Israelis they profess outrage that Israelis might choose to boycott them.
More specifically, they support BDS (for boycott, divest and sanction). Considering that the Nazi slogan in the 1930s was, “Don’t buy from Jews,” how surprising is it that Israelis hear an echo in the BDS slogan, “Don’t buy from the Jewish state”?
Bill Mahr called BDS a “bullshit purity test by people who want to appear ‘woke’ but actually slept through history class.” Demonstrating yet more hypocrisy, Ms. Tlaib responded by calling for a boycott of his television show.
The goal of BDS, as stated by its founder and leader, Omar Barghouti, is Israel’s extermination. “Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine,” he has said on video. “No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”
Some BDS advocates quibble that they merely want Israelis to withdraw from the “occupied territories.” But after Israelis withdrew from Gaza — which Israelis had seized from Egypt, not Palestinians, in the defensive war of 1967 — Hamas took over, and began attacking Israelis with missiles, terrorist tunnels and incendiary kites. Hamas is candid about its intentions toward Israelis: They are genocidal.
Were Israel to withdraw from the West Bank without guarantees of peace and security, Hamas almost certainly would take power, and launch more attacks. Israelis would respond. Both Jews and Palestinians would be killed. BDS advocates such as Reps. Tlaib and Omar appear untroubled by that eventuality.
This, too, should not go unremarked: In Syria, more than half a million people have been slaughtered, and millions left homeless thanks to a war that continues to this day. The Sinai is occupied by Islamist terrorists targeting the government of Egypt. Yemen is a war-torn disaster. The suffering of the people of the West Bank is, objectively, less dire, and could be significantly relieved were their leaders to agree to peacefully coexist with Israel.
For all that, I do wonder if Mr. Netanyahu might have managed to beat the defamation and de-legitimization campaign that Ms. Omar and Ms. Tlaib planned to wage.
What if he had assigned them a security detail composed of Israelis whose parents had been rescued from Ethiopia and Sudan? (If you don’t know the heroic story behind the liberation of Africa’s black Jews watch “Red Sea Diving Resort” now available on Netflix.)
What if he had suggested they visit Sderot, one of the Israeli towns near Gaza where bomb shelters are in every children’s playground?
What if he had invited them to meet with prominent Israeli citizens – including Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Christians and Druze? Do the congresswomen deny that Israel’s minorities have rights denied to even the majorities in the Arab and Muslim nations of the Middle East?
Might this have led to less public relations damage for Israel than that which Ms. Tlaib and Ms. Omar have been able to inflict over the last few days? I don’t know. Israelis have never been adept at PR. What Israelis – and indeed the Jewish nation – have demonstrated instead: a talent for surviving, and even thriving, despite the hatred and violence directed at them by so many enemies over so many centuries.
Clifford D. May is founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and a columnist for the Washington Times.