Tlaib gets emotional as Omar calls for Congress to act over Israel travel restrictions

Progressive ‘Squad’ members Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib hold news conference following canceled congressional trip to Israel.

An emotional Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib on Monday held back tears during a news conference as she and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar condemned Israel’s recent decision to impose restrictions on visiting the country, with the Democrats calling for Congress to get involved.

“We in the United States have a constructive role to play,” Omar said at the news conference in St. Paul, Minn. “We give Israel more than $3 billion in aid every year. This is predicated on them being an important ally in the region, and the only democracy in the Middle East. But, denying a visit to duly elected members of Congress is not consistent with being an ally.”

Omar said lawmakers “have a responsibility to conduct oversight over our government’s foreign policy and what happens with the millions of dollars we send in aid.”

The two Muslim lawmakers held an afternoon news conference at the Minnesota State Capitol Building with Palestinian-American and Jewish-American residents of Minnesota who said they also have been affected adversely by travel restrictions to Israel and the Palestinian territories. The purpose of the event, Omar said, was to “highlight the human costs of the occupation and travel restrictions on Palestinians and others.”

“The decision to ban me and my colleague, the first two Muslim-American women elected to Congress, is nothing less than an attempt by an ally of the United States to suppress our ability to do our jobs as elected officials,” Omar said.

Tlaib held back tears as she discussed her experiences visiting Jerusalem as a child.

“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.

Referencing recent conversations with her Palestinian grandmother, who she had planned to visit on the trip, Tlaib choked up: “She said I’m her dream manifested. I’m her free bird so why would I come back and be caged and bow down?”

Omar jumped in: “What I tell Rashida all the time is that you don’t ever allow people to enjoy your tears. I say that all the time. There are so many people invested in our pain, in our struggle, in seeing us broken.”

Earlier Monday, the White House fired back at Democrats amid reports that they may be planning retaliatory moves in Congress against two top American and Israeli diplomats.

“Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar have a well-documented history of anti-Semitic comments, anti-Semitic social media posts and anti-Semitic relationships,” said White House spokesman Hogan Gidley. “Israel has the right to prevent people who want to destroy it from entering the country – and Democrats’ pointless congressional inquiries here in America cannot change the laws Israel has passed to protect itself.”

According to a weekend report in McClatchy, senior Democrats in Congress were considering legislative action against Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, and David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, in response to the decision not to let Tlaib, D-Mich., and Omar, D-Minn., enter Israel. That could include a possible vote on a statement of no confidence in Dermer, as well as calls for the opening of an inspector-general investigation into Friedman.

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cited Omar and Tlaib’s anti-Israel statements in saying the government would block them from entering Israel as part of a planned trip.

The move – announced shortly after President Trump tweeted that it would “show great weakness” to allow them in – ignited a massive outcry from Washington Democrats, as Netanyahu’s government stood by the decision arguing the U.S. lawmakers had an ulterior, anti-Israel agenda.

Omar and Tlaib have been outspoken critics of Israeli policies and have expressed support for boycotts of the country.

Speaking on “Fox & Friends” on Monday, New York Rep. Lee Zeldin, one of two Jewish Republicans in the House, defended Israel’s decision.

“Israel has a law that is on the books that allows them to prevent anyone to visit their country that seeks to harm their country. It would be wrong to be criticizing Israeli Prime Minister to the United States for his role in this because they don’t want to have people traveling to their country that want to harm it,” he said.

Still, while blocking the planned trip, the Israeli government said it would accept a humanitarian request from Tlaib to visit her Palestinian grandmother. But, on Friday, Tlaib said she would not travel to the West Bank to visit family, despite getting permission hours before from Israel’s interior minister.

Netanyahu has said that Tlaib and Omar’s itinerary “revealed that they planned a visit whose sole objective is to strengthen the boycott against us and deny Israel’s legitimacy.” He said Israel welcomes critics with the exception of those who support boycotts of the Jewish State.

Omar and Tlaib had planned to visit Jerusalem and the West Bank on a tour organized by a Palestinian organization aimed at highlighting the plight of the Palestinians.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Foreign Countries Issue Warnings Travel to U.S. | PCMA

Sherrif Karamat, CAE, is President as well as President of PCMA. Karamat likewise works as Head of state of the PCMA Foundation as well as Author of Convene publication.

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Amnesty joins countries issuing US travel warning over mass shootings

Amnesty International issues warning about travel to US amid ‘high levels of gun violence’

Adrianna Rodriguez

Published 5:31 PM EDT Aug 7, 2019

Amnesty International issued a global warning to those traveling to the United States after violence left 31 people dead in two mass shootings last weekend.

The travel advisory, issued Wednesday afternoon, calls for visitors to “exercise caution and have an emergency contingency plan when traveling throughout the USA.”

It warns travelers to remain vigilant at all times and to avoid places where large groups congregate, including places of worship, schools or nightclubs, all locations that have been targeted recently. 

“Depending on the traveler’s gender identity, race, country of origin, ethnic background, or sexual orientation, they may be at higher risk of being targeted with gun violence, and should plan accordingly,” the advisory adds.

The human rights groups issued the travel warning in midst of “high levels of gun violence,” which Amnesty International referred to as a human rights crisis.

Foreign countries have taken similar actions to protect their citizens by issuing warnings to travelers who have plans or are currently visiting America. 

The Venezuelan government issued a statement urging its citizens to postpone trips to the U.S. after the “recent acts of violence.”

The news release advises that Venezuelans stay away from cities that have the most violence, citing a 2019 Forbes article that lists the most dangerous cities in the U.S. Those cities were Cleveland; Detroit; Baltimore; St. Louis; Oakland, California; Memphis, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; Atlanta; Stockton, California; and Buffalo, New York.

Also in Latin America, the Uruguayan government issued a similar release that urges its citizens to take precautions when visiting the U.S. because of its “increasing indiscriminate violence” and hate crimes fueled by “racism and discrimination that cost the lives of more than 250 people in the first seven months of this year.”

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The Uruguayan notice specifically advises to avoid places that have a large concentration of people such as theme parks, malls, art festivals, religious activities, food festivals, sports events and mass protests.

The alerts from the two Latin American countries come after it was discovered that the El Paso shooting suspect, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, had posted a manifesto to an online message board saying that the massacre was in response to an “invasion” of Hispanics across the southern border.

The Japanese Consul in Detroit published an alert Sunday that said Japanese citizens “should be aware of potential for gunfire” everywhere in the U.S., which they described as a “gun society,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Times reported that other countries have issued travel warnings in the past because of gun violence in the U.S. such as France, New Zealand and Germany.

The attacks over the weekend occurred 1,300 miles apart at a packed shopping center in El Paso, Texas, and a popular nightlife complex in Dayton, Ohio. The El Paso and Dayton killings have contributed to 2019 being an especially deadly year for mass killings in the U.S.

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A database by The Associated Press, USA TODAY and Northeastern University shows there have been 23 mass killings so far this year, claiming the lives of 131 people. By comparison, 140 people died in mass killings in all of 2018. The database tracks every mass killing in the country dating back to 2006.

There have been more than 250 mass shootings in which four or more people were killed or wounded in 2019, according to the Gun Violence Archive. 

Contributing: The Associated Press. Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.