By Dr. Saeb Erekat.
Israel’s decision to ban Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from officially visiting occupied Palestine (and insisting on oppressive conditions for Rep. Tlaib to make a private family visit) is the outcome of the ideological synergy between the Trump administration and the Israeli government.
Their common purpose of normalizing Israel’s apartheid regime and permanent occupation of Palestine constitutes their denial of Palestine’s right to exist in freedom, as well as a flagrant assault on international law, UN resolutions, and the basic rules of the international system. This conclusion has become more explicit – and for a broader audience.
It’s therefore morally wrong and deceitful to portray Israel’s occupation of Palestine within the definition of an “occupation,” as specified in the Fourth Geneva Conventions, as temporary and for the benefit of the occupied population. The oppressive reality we live under is evident, as well as Israel’s plan to turn its occupation into annexation for the expansion of its colonial-settlement enterprise – a war crime under international law that is being fully endorsed by the U.S. administration.
Israel is not the “only democracy in the Middle East,” and Netanyahu is not a weak prime minister controlled by the powerful president of the United States. The entry denial to Tlaib and Omar is, in fact, an implementation of Israel’s racist and discriminatory laws that continue to prevent the Palestinian people from exercising their inalienable rights. It underlines the dominance of an extremely racist ideology that blatantly dehumanizes and incites against the people of Palestine.
What the Israeli and U.S. governments are referring to as the “implementation of the law” would never be considered legal under international law. Such laws contradict the UN charter and basic international conventions.
The law they cited to prevent these two U.S. lawmakers, of Arab and Muslim origin, from entering Palestine, is the “Anti-BDS Law.”
It is one of the most repugnant Israeli efforts against civil society and its calls for the freedom of Palestine and respect of universal human rights. Also under this “law,” Israel is seeking to expel Omar Shakir, the country director of the internationally-renowned organization Human Rights Watch.
It’s within this context that the denial of two U.S. congresswomen entry to Palestine, and UN officials before them, who support human rights and the implementation of international law and UN resolutions, should not be regarded as an exception. It is the rule of the ideological synergy between Trump and Netanyahu on the systematic denial of Palestinian national and human rights, which equally reflected in their denial of the rights of Palestinian refugees and strangulation of UNRWA.
Nobody can visit Palestine without Israel’s permission. Consequently, thousands of U.S. citizens of Palestinian origin, including congresswoman Tlaib, have been affected. A whole campaign called “right-to-enter” has been organized in occupied Palestine to represent and support several cases of torn-apart Palestinian families. Among those fighting to defend their right to stay in Palestine, whom Israel considers as a threat to its security, are university professors, doctors, business people, artists, and students.
Their families are separated and their very right to be in Palestine is denied.
Israel implements such policies because they know they will get away with it. But they fail to see the bigger picture: The Trump administration has miserably failed in its international outreach, and younger and more progressive audiences worldwide are seeing reality for what it is. It is a reality of oppression and the arrogant wielding of power; it is the injustices that Israel and the U.S. administration have been hiding.
This latest Israeli decision should only strengthen those around the world who struggle for freedom, justice, and dignity for all and encourage those who seek a just and lasting peace. It is, accordingly, imperative to translate your position into political action.
End the occupation. Achieve the two-state solution: the State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, to live side by side with the State of Israel, in peace and security on the 1967 borders. Occupation corrupts.