While some levelheaded friends of the Jewish state have criticized Jerusalem’s decision to stop a visit from Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib—while giving the latter permission to come to the country in a private capacity to visit her grandmother—Ari Hoffman argues that Israel acted prudently:
Omar and Tlaib were visiting Israel to do it harm. Their visit was not one of critical engagement. . . . If there is cynicism in this episode, it is not on the part of Israel, which was forced to make a difficult decision under impossible circumstances, facing pressure from its own democratic commitments and the elected leader of its most vital ally.
Rather, Tlaib and Omar demand both their cake and the right to consume it: Yes to boycotting, and yes to visiting. Yes to indulgence in anti-Semitic tropes, and yes to unfettered access to the state of the Jews. Yes to their congressional prerogatives, and no to joining a bipartisan group that just visited Israel and spent time in Ramallah considering both sides in the conflict. These trips are well established, and members of Congress are never barred from meeting with a wide range of voices between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.
The details that have emerged about their trip, on the other hand, are damning and unprecedented. They labeled their destination Palestine, rather than Israel. They refused to meet with any Israeli officials, in either the governing coalition or the opposition. In truth, they were not visiting Israel at all. Their itinerary was to a fantasy where Israel does not exist yet is simultaneously an oppressor and a catastrophe, where Palestinians are endlessly victimized, and nuance and complexity are not on the agenda.