Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) encouraged their colleagues on Monday to travel to Israel to see conditions there, though Israel barred both congresswomen from entering the country themselves.
The Israeli government cited the lawmakers’ support for the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as a reason for barring them from the country. Israel later reversed its decision for Tlaib, saying she’d be permitted to visit her grandmother, who is in her 90s, as long as Tlaib agreed ahead of time to Israeli restrictions on her visit.
Tlaib instead chose to cancel the trip.
The Palestinian American congresswoman struggled to hold back tears during Monday’s press conference as she recalled being a young girl watching her mother be subjected to “dehumanizing checkpoints” while visiting her extended family, even though her mother was a U.S. citizen “and proud American.”
Asked later in the conference why she declined to visit her grandmother, even though Israel ended up permitting a restricted version of the trip, Tlaib again broke into tears. She said her grandmother told her that she was “her dream manifested, her free bird.”
“So why would I go back caged?” she asked.
Adding to Tlaib’s remarks, Omar emphasized the need for adequate oversight of the roughly $3 billion in aid the U.S. supplies to Israel every year.
“It is my belief that as legislators, we have an obligation to see the reality there for ourselves,” she said. “We have a responsibility to conduct oversight over our government’s foreign policy and what happens with the millions of dollars we send in aid.”
“We cannot let [President] Trump and [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu succeed in hiding the cruel reality of the occupation from us,” Omar continued.
“I call on all of you to go. The occupation is real. Barring members of Congress from seeing it does not make it go away.”