US

NGO Files Court Documents Trying to Bar Rep. Ilhan Omar From Traveling to Israel

By Zachary Stieber

An Israeli group has filed documents in court to try to prevent U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from entering Israel.

Omar has attracted widespread disapproval, including from leaders of her own party, for comments she’s made that many said were anti-Semitic.

Omar, a Muslim, apologized for suggesting that American lawmakers only support Israel due to funding from Jewish individuals and groups. When prompted as to who she thought was providing the funding, she had replied “AIPAC!” referring to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. She has since deleted the tweet.

In the past, she wrote, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) speaks at a press conference on the Capitol on July 15, 2019. (Holly Kellum/NTD)

Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Center, told The Times of Israel it had asked the Jerusalem District Court to bar Omar from entering the country, asking that Interior Minister Aryeh Deri make the order.

Israel passed a law in 2017 that enables the government to prohibit any foreigners who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel” from entering the country.

Omar publicly supports Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), a movement that aims to isolate Israel over alleged human rights violations with regard to the country’s dealings with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, recognized by some as the Palestinian Territories.

Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the only other Muslim member of Congress, were two of the few who opposed an anti-BDS resolution that was recently passed by the House. They also introduced their own resolution in support of Americans boycotting companies and countries, arguing boycotts are protected by the First Amendment.

The bill didn’t explicitly reference BDS but Omar admitted the bill was aimed, in part, at supporting the movement.

Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) at a press conference in Washington on March 13, 2019. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

“We are introducing a resolution … to really speak about the American values that support and believe in our ability to exercise our First Amendment rights in regard to boycotting,” Omar, who switched her stance on BDS after getting elected, told Al-Monitor. “And it is an opportunity for us to explain why it is we support a nonviolent movement, which is the BDS movement.”

At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, she added: “We should condemn in the strongest terms violence that perpetuates the occupation, whether it is perpetuated by Israel, Hamas, or individuals. But if we are going to condemn violent means of resisting the occupation, we cannot also condemn nonviolent means.”

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, told the Times last week that Omar and Tlaib would be allowed into the country for their trip, which is slated to occur in August.

“Out of respect for the US Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel,” Dermer said in a statement.

Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington on March 4, 2018. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

But Shurat HaDin told the Times that the petition includes ample evidence of her support of the BDS movement, including sponsorship of the bill.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the chairwoman of the group, said that the Israeli government should be a “role model” to governments and groups in dealing with support of BDS.

“Israel shouldn’t let others, including young students, fight this battle for it, and in contrast surrender to the phenomenon here in Israel due to the prestige and status of certain important BDS activists,” she added in a statement.