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'We fully support her decision': Rashida Tlaib's uncle urges her to 'hold firm' amid Israel tensions

The uncle of US Democratic congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has urged his niece to "hold firm and stick to her principles" amid a diplomatic storm which saw her cancel a planned visit to Israel.

Bassam Tlaib, the uncle of US congresswoman Rashida Tliab, told SBS Arabic24 that his family "fully supports" his niece's decision to cancel a planned visit to Israel.

Ms Tlaib said on Monday that her 90-year-old Palestinian grandmother - who is Mr Tlaib's mother - advised her not to visit Israel under conditions demanded by the Israeli government. 

The congresswoman had considered accepting Israeli demands to not engage in politics so that she could travel to the West Bank and visit her grandmother, before eventually cancelling. 

Ms Tlaib became part of an international controversy when she and fellow first-term US congresswoman Ilhan Omar - together the first Muslim women to serve in Congress - were originally denied entry to Israel and the Palestinian territories on a congressional trip.

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Ms Tlaib’s uncle, who resides in the town of Beit Ur Al-Fauqa near Ramallah in the West Bank, believed cancelling the visit was the right thing to do, despite having not seen his niece for more than 13 years. 

“The Israeli authorities gave her the permission to visit under certain conditions which were considered demeaning by Rashida,” he said. 

“I believe she [should have been] entitled to visit her homeland with no conditions whatsoever. She was planning to visit us on August 17th before cancelling. 

“We had already started the preparations to hold a decent ceremony to welcome her. (..) Not just the family but also the entire town and neighbouring villages. Our joy was not complete.” 

Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib have clashed with colleagues, especially regarding their support of a boycott of Israel over its treatment of Palestians.
Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar
AP

Mr Tlaib said breaking the news of the cancellation to his mother was difficult. 

“My mother is 90 years old. We had to give her a simple explanation of why Rashida cancelled the visit; we made sure she’s aware of the restrictions that were to be placed on her granddaughter. Rashida was eager to meet her grandmother, she thinks of her as a second mother,” he said. 

“Rashida’s grandparents’ house is located between two checkpoints for the Israeli Army. One of them is 70 metres away. 

“When my mother understood the pressure Rashida was under, she said she should visit Palestine freely and with no conditions.”

Mr Tlaib said the family remained in contact with the congresswoman, saying that they have extended a message to “stand firm and stick to her principles”. 

“We understand the reasons behind her decision to cancel the visit,” he said. 

The comments come as US President Donald Trump on Thursday accused US politicians, including Ms Tlaib, of being anti-Semitic. 

"They are anti-Semites," he said in a long impromptu press briefing in front of the White House. 

"In my opinion, if you vote for a Democrat, you're being very disloyal to Jewish people and you're being very disloyal to Israel," he said. 

"In my opinion, the Democrats have gone very far away from Israel. I cannot understand how they can do that.”

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