On Thursday, Representative Rashida Tlaib requested and received permission to enter the state of Israel to visit her 90-year-old grandmother in the West Bank. “This could be my last opportunity to see her,” she wrote, on congressional letterhead. “I will respect any restrictions and will not promote boycotts against Israel during my visit.”
Today, Tlaib reversed herself. If she cannot promote her political views, she will not visit. “Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me,” she wrote. “I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in—fighting against racism, oppression & injustice.”
Israel had previously denied entry to Tlaib and Representative Ilhan Omar, citing their promotion of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The sorry incident of the Omar-Tlaib visit imparts lessons for all parties.
For the state of Israel, the lesson has to be: Respect the U.S. Congress and all its members. No, they are not all wise or good or just. It’s not as individuals that they command respect, though, but as members of a legislative body. And no, it’s not an equal two-way relationship. In 2012, the U.S. Department of State excluded an Israeli Knesset member on grounds that he had ties to a terrorist group. Some friends of Israel have raised this precedent in the “what about” spirit that adds so much to social-media debate. The ultimate answer to such questions was long ago delivered by Bernard Lewis: The United States is so rich and strong that it can afford not only double standards, but triple, quadruple, and quintuple standards. Countries dependent on the U.S. for aid and protection can afford only one, however.