September 18, 2019
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US congresswoman asks that US attach conditions to its economic aid to Israel

Washington DC, Aug. 19 (efe-epa).- Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) of the United States, one of the lawmakers who recently got barred from entering Israel, on Monday suggested setting conditions on economic and military aid to the Middle Eastern country until it guarantees the rights of the Palestinian people.

"We give Israel more than $3 billion in aid every year, based on it being an important ally in the region and the only democracy in the Middle East," Omar said at a news conference.

She was barred from entering Israel along with her colleague Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) last week.

“Denying visit to duly elected members of Congress is not consistent with being an ally,” she added. “And denying millions of people freedom of movement or expression or self-determination is not consistent with being a democracy.”

The Democratic Party congresswoman demanded that the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “stop the expansion of settlements on Palestinian land and ensure full rights for Palestinians if we are to give them aid."

Omar was referring to the military aid package for Israel of $38 billion over 10 years, which was approved by Congress in 2018 and is scheduled to run until 2028.

Israel blocked an official visit by Omar and Tlaib, the latter of whom is of Palestinian descent, after US President Donald Trump urged the Netanyahu government to do so in an unprecedented gesture.

"It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel and all Jewish people, and there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds," Trump said in a tweet on Aug. 15.

Both Tlaib and Omar, the nation's first two Muslim-American women in Congress, support the non-violent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel – which is highly controversial in the US – prompting all kinds of attacks from conservative and liberal pro-Israel activists and Zionist sympathizers.

Israel acceded to Trump's request and barred the two legislators from entering the country. However, it later announced it would allow Tlaib to make a trip to visit her grandmother, who lives in the occupied West Bank, for humanitarian reasons, though the lawmaker was barred from making any comments critical of Israel or promoting BDS during the trip.

Tlaib rejected those terms.

“I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in – fighting against racism, oppression & injustice,” she said on Twitter.

In the same press conference in which Omar suggested that the US attach certain conditions to the aid to Israel, Tlaib described her experience as an American visiting the occupied territories.

"As a young girl visiting Palestine to see my grandparents and extended family, I watched as my mother had to go through dehumanizing checkpoints – even though she was a United States citizen and a proud American," she said.

"I remember," she continued, "shaking with fear when checkpoints appeared in the small village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa, tanks and guns everywhere."

"I remember visiting East Jerusalem with my then-husband and him being escorted off the bus although he was a United States citizen just so security forces could harass him," she added.

Tlaib and Omar, together with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), form a group of progressive freshmen members of Congress known as "The Squad," which has clashed with both Trump and the centrist Democratic Party establishment spearheaded by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

In July, the president accused them of hating the United States and Israel and told them to return to the places they came from, even though three of the four were born on US soil. EFEEPA

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