Updated at 1:35 p.m. ET on Thursday, August 15, 2019.
The trip was always going to be bad PR for Israel. Representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota planned to lead a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, meeting with “people in the refugee camps,” “people at checkpoints,” and “people who lost their lands and had their homes demolished,” as James Zogby, the head of the Arab American Institute, told the website Jewish Insider. No matter what, these kinds of photo ops from two of the U.S.’s most outspoken and visible critics of Israel would have provided powerful ammunition to the country’s opponents.
This morning, Israel handed its critics even more powerful material. According to Reuters, the government has barred Tlaib and Omar from entering the country.
This move is not unprecedented. In recent years, Israel has routinely detained, and in some cases refused entry to, foreign visitors associated with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which calls on governments and companies to put economic pressure on Israel. This policy reflects the current Israeli government’s intense fear of the BDS movement, and its growing intolerance for dissent from within or outside of the country. But in the past few years, the Israeli government has had a new ally encouraging and enabling its antidemocratic instincts: President Donald Trump. At every turn, the tight alliance between the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government has facilitated Israel’s drift to the right, further widening the gap between Israel and many of its Jewish allies in the United States.