Palestinians are joining the chorus of international condemnation facing Israel for barring entry to US Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar ahead of their planned delegation to the occupied Palestinian territory.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision came just days before Tlaib, Omar, and other democrats were set to travel to the West Bank. It remained unclear if the rest of the delegation would continue on the trip without Tlaib and Omar.
The announcement ignited reactions of frustration and disappointment from Palestinians, who were hoping the unprecedented delegation would not only help strengthen strained US-Palestinian relations, but serve as a means for building more solidarity with the Palestinian cause at the highest levels of government.
“We are extremely disappointed and saddened that Rashida and her colleagues won’t be coming to visit us in Palestine,” Muhammad Tlaib, 44, a cousin of Congresswoman Tlaib and former mayor of her hometown in the West Bank, Beit Ur al-Fauqa, told Mondoweiss.
Muhammad Tlaib was one of dozens of people from the congresswoman’s hometown who were anxiously awaiting her arrival with the delegation. He told Mondoweiss that the people of the village were “preparing a huge festival” to welcome Tlaib, Omar, and their colleagues to Palestine.
“Since we heard she wasn’t allowed to come, everyone in the village is disappointed,” he told Mondoweiss.
“We wanted to show Rashida how proud we are of her and how much we appreciate her dedication to fighting Trump’s racism against the Palestinian people, and her efforts to fight against the occupation.”
Al-Shabaka Policy Member Fadi Quran echoed similar sentiments to Mondoweiss, saying there was a definite air of sadness in Palestine as the news spread.
“People were excited to meet with Tlaib and Omar, them because they [Palestinians] saw the congresswomen as a sign of hope in an extremely darkening political landscape,” Quran said.
Despite the sadness felt by many, Quran said, activists and community leaders in Palestine were “largely expecting this to happen.”
“I was not surprised at all,” Quran said. “it was expected that Israel would not want members of congress to come and witness system of apartheid and daily violations committed against the Palestinian people, and with Trump putting extra pressure, we saw it coming.”
Senior PLO official Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, who was expected to meet with the delegation, condemned the move as “an outrageous act of hostility against the American people and their representatives…that defies all diplomatic norms.”
Ashrawi said in a statement that the decision was “an assault on the Palestinian people’s right to engage with the rest of the world,” highlighting the fact that as the occupying power of Palestine, Israel “has no right” to prevent the congresswomen from “seeing firsthand” the reality of the occupation.