Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein and Chairman Mark Levenson, Esq. released the following statement:
The ZOA respectfully urges AIPAC to retract its mistaken criticism of Israel’s just and proper decision to refuse to admit Jew-haters Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar for their planned visit to incite hatred and boycotts against Israel, designed to destroy the Jewish state. AIPAC’s unwarranted criticism of Israel did tremendous harm to Israel and to AIPAC’s repeated declaration that they support the policies of the democratically elected government of Israel, and whose mission is supporting the U.S.-Israel relationship and the security of Israel and the United States. AIPAC’s mistaken criticism of Israel was widely quoted by the media, including major American networks and cable stations (including Fox, CNN, NBC and others); was retweeted over 6,200 times (far more than a typical AIPAC tweet); encouraged and gave a free pass to politicians to join in AIPAC’s criticism of Israel; and gave grist and succor to hostile-to-Israel groups, including J Street, to unfairly condemn Israel and Israeli officials.
AIPAC’s criticism moreover misstated the object and goals of the planned Tlaib/Omar trip. AIPAC’s July 15, 2019 tweet that “every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand,” ignored the facts that (i) Tlaib and Omar refused to participate with their Congressional colleagues in the large Congressional mission that actually did experience Israel firsthand, and (ii) Tlaib’s and Omar’s itinerary had absolutely nothing to do with “experiencing our democratic ally Israel firsthand.”
The Tlaib/Omar itinerary included no meetings with Israeli officials, no meetings with ordinary Israelis, and no visits to Israeli sites. Tlaib and Omar didn’t even call their trip a visit to “Israel.” Instead, their itinerary touted a trip to non-existent “Palestine.” The Tlaib/Omar visit was arranged by a terror-supporting group, Miftah. Miftah has accused Jews of the antisemitic blood libel and has praised suicide bombers for murdering Jews. The itinerary was designed to defame and incite against Israel.
AIPAC’s tweet moreover ignored the necessity for Israel to follow its anti-BDS laws; the fact that Congresspersons are not above the law, and the fact that self-respecting nations do not need to admit avowed enemies that wish to destroy their people. ZOA provided examples of government officials from foreign nations and territories – including Austria’s president – whom the U.S. properly barred from admission to the U.S, and even a member of Israel’s Knesset, as well as a member of the Palestinian Parliament Hanan Ashrawi.
If there was a Congressmember who demanded that France or Italy or any other country must be boycotted and destroyed, no self-respecting lobby would condemn France or Italy for refusing admission to that member of Congress.
Moreover, while AIPAC merely tweeted its approval of Israel’s offer to Tlaib of a humanitarian visit to her grandmother the next day (on August 16), AIPAC failed to criticize or even mention the fact that Tlaib then turned around and rejected Israel’s approval of her request for a humanitarian visit. Tlaib’s rejection of the humanitarian visit, that Tlaib herself had requested, demonstrated Tlaib’s true nefarious intentions, and the wisdom of Israel’s initial refusal of admission.
Additional Potential Harmful Effects of AIPAC’s Tweet: Further, although we do not believe that this was AIPAC’s intent, AIPAC’s mistaken tweet is being viewed by many as overall support for Omar and Tlaib, is being used by hostile-to-Israel groups to malign Israel, and may have emboldened Tlaib and Omar to become even more outrageous in their hatefulness.
Tlaib is now calling for boycotts against Bill Maher, because Maher expressed opposition to anti-Israel boycotts. (See “Tlaib Urges Boycott of Bill Maher After He Slams BDS Movement,” by Yaron Steinbuch, New York Post, Aug. 18, 2019.) Tlaib and Omar also just publicized a vicious antisemitic cartoon on their social media. And they’ve hurled their typical absurd false racism and Islamophobia accusations against Israel’s leaders – which AIPAC failed to respond to. (See “Of Course: Ilhan Omar Plays the Victim After Israel Ban, Gaslights and Cries Racism,” by Katie Pavlich, Town Hall, Aug 15, 2019.)
Additional Reasons Why Israel Was Correct to Deny Tlaib and Omar Admission: ZOA and others in the pro-Israel community and honest journalists have independently pointed out numerous reasons (in addition to those discussed above) why Israel was correct to not admit Tlaib and Omar for a visit designed to promote hatred and boycotts against the Jewish state, and Israel’s destruction.
See, e.g., “Omar and Tlaib Rightly Blocked From Visiting ‘Non-Existent’ Country Palestine”, by Michael Goodwin, New York Post, Aug. 17, 2019; “Israel’s Ban of Tlaib, Omar was a Tough Call — But Entirely Justifiable,” Post Editorial Board, Aug. 16, 2019; “ZOA Applauds Israel for Refusing Entry of Israelophobic Jew-Haters Tlaib and Omar,” Aug. 15, 2019; “Zionist Organization of America Defends Israel’s Decision to Block Tlaib and Omar from Visiting Israel,” Breitbart, Aug. 15, 2019; Tweet by philanthropist Adam Milstein; “RJC Supports Israel’s Decision to Bar Entry to Reps. Tlaib and Omar,” Aug. 15, 2019; “Nothing Good Can Come From Omar and Tlaib Visit to Israel,” Interview with Mark Zell, Land of Israel Network, July 23, 2019; “No Entry to Israel for Tlaib-Omar,” Americans for a Safe Israel, Aug. 15, 2019; “Brooke Goldstein: Israel Smart About Omar, Tlaib – They Are Enemies of the Jewish State,” Fox News, Aug. 16, 2019.
Further, the director of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs’ Program to Counter Political Warfare and BDS, Dan Diker, explained that Tlaib and Omar’s planned trip was nothing short of an “act of political warfare.” Former Israeli Ambassador Alan Baker noted that the blame lies with Omar and Tlaib and pre-existing hostile-to-Israel actors, and that: “Israel, like every other country, has the sovereign prerogative to deny entry to any person.” (“Why Israeli Ban on Two US Congresswomen’s Visit Won’t Drive a Wedge Between the Countries,” Aug. 18, 2019.)
AIPAC should retract or correct its demand that Israel allow Israelophobes Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) to come to Israel.