Omar and Tlaib’s coming Israel visit underscores need for better tools to combat BDS

Opinion: Israel’s current method of countering visits by BDS supporters is ineffective.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Israel, under its own laws, has every right to bar U.S. congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from visiting the country.

The two freshman Democrats have already made clear their disdain for the Jewish State. But their thinly disguised attempt last week to lay cover for the BDS movement is what gives Israel the right to deny them entry.

On Wednesday, Omar introduced, and Tlaib co-sponsored, a resolution in the House Judiciary Committee with the seemingly inoffensive purpose of “affirming that all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts.”

The real reason for the resolution, disputed by no one, was to counter an anti-BDS resolution, H.R. 246, scheduled to come up for a vote next week and backed by pro-Israel Democrats.

If there was any doubt as to the resolution’s intended target, both the BDS movement and Jewish Voice for Peace immediately tweeted support for the resolution.

Eugene Kontorovich, a professor at George Mason University, told Fox News that he thinks part of Omar’s strategy is to make a deal that will lead to both resolutions being dropped; a quiet tit-for-tat among Democrats. “So they’re just not going to say anything about anti-Semitism,” Kontorovich said.

That would be a victory for BDS.

The same day Omar introduced the resolution, she and Tlaib announced their intention to visit Israel. Debate followed about whether they’d be let in. On March 6, 2017, Israel put a law on the books (Amendment No. 28 to the Entry Into Israel Law) that permits it to bar entry of BDS supporters.

If anyone fits the bill for the application of that law, it’s Omar, who never saw an anti-Semitic trope she didn’t like, and Tlaib, who wasn’t even in office a full day before she (or someone on her staff) placed a Palestine sticky note over a map where Israel should be.

But on Friday, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer make it clear that they would be permitted in, “out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America.”

In the end it’s a win-win for Omar and Tlaib. If Israel applies the law, the two will be hailed as heroes, returning with the halo that comes from having suffered at the hands of those “racist, Apartheid-loving” Israelis.

If they’re allowed in, they’ll return from their “fact-finding” mission armed with the “truth” about… well, those “racist, Apartheid-loving” Israelis. They’ll spout the same lies, only with more authority, having been on the ground.

It points to a serious flaw with Israel’s Amendment No. 28. More than a flaw. It isn’t working. The most prominent BDS supporters get through, making Israel appear weak. Even not-so-prominent supporters get in if a fuss is kicked up.

Lara Alqasem, president of a local university chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, was initially banned, generated a lot of bad press for Israel as she sat for two weeks, (she could have left at any time) at the end of which Israel’s Supreme Court ushered her in anyway.

Israel needs to come up with better tools to counter BDS supporters — ways that will stop those who wish for Israel’s destruction from using the Jewish State as a giant soap box to spew their hatred and, at the same time, not turn them into martyrs.

It’s not an easy task. But Israelis are creative when they want to be.

We’re confident they’ll find a way.