After canceling a planned trip by Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, Israel said it would let Tlaib into the country — under strict orders not to stir political trouble — to visit her 90-year-old grandmother, who lives in the West Bank. But after initially indicating that she would stick to the Israel-approved script and make the journey, Tlaib said on Friday that she wasn’t going after all.
In a long statement announcing her decision, the Michigan congresswoman wrote that “visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions meant to humiliate me would break my grandmother’s heart,” and that “being silent and not condemning the human rights violations of the Israeli government is a disservice to all who live there.”
She also tweeted similar sentiments Friday morning.
On Thursday, the Israeli government announced that it would bar Tlaib and fellow Democratic congresswomen Ilhan Omar over their support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which aims to punish Israel for its treatment of Palestinians living within the country, including in the illegally occupied West Bank. The decision, spurred on by Trump administration lobbying, was roundly criticized by Democrats, with some Republicans expressing disapproval as well.
In his statement announcing the travel ban, Netanyahu left open the possibility that Tlaib could visit her grandmother on humanitarian grounds. And, in a letter to Israeli interior minister Aryeh Deri that had the feel of a prisoner petitioning for temporary release, Tlaib wrote: “I would like to request admittance to Israel in order to visit my relatives, and specifically my grandmother. This could be my last opportunity to see my her. I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit.”
After Tlaib’s change of heart, Deri responded: “I authorized this humanitarian trip, but it turns out that it was a provocation to embarrass Israel. Her hatred for Israel overcomes her love for her grandmother.”
Later, President Trump weighed in with a conspiracy-minded tweets alleging that Tlaib had planned the whole episode to unfold this way, and perhaps that her grandmother isn’t her grandmother after all — normal presidential stuff.