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US: Three more progressive lawmakers join boycott of Israeli president's speech to Congress

Citing Israel's treatment of Palestinians, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman announced they won't attend Herzog's speech, making total of four so far
Congresswomen Cori Bush (centre) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talk to reporters outside the US Capitol on 30 September 2021 in Washington DC.
Congresswomen Cori Bush (C) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talk to reporters outside the US Capitol in Washington DC, on 30 September 2021(AFP)

Three more progressive US lawmakers have announced their intentions to boycott Israeli President Isaac Herzog's address to a joint session of Congress next week, after Congresswoman Ilhan Omar announced there would be "no way in hell" she would be in attendance.

Congressman Jamaal Bowman told Axios on Thursday that he is "probably going to be boycotting" Herzog's speech, and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez told the news site she is not planning to attend the event.

Congresswoman Cori Bush of Missouri also announced she would not be attending, saying that "Congress should not be giving a platform to the president of a country that shows no respect for human rights".

The lawmakers are snubbing the speech because of Israel's treatment of Palestinians. A number of international and Israeli human rights groups, as well as experts and the UN, have labelled Israel's treatment of Palestinians as apartheid and the latest operation in Jenin a "war crime".

Palestinians have also witnessed heightened violence this year from Israeli forces and settler groups. More than 170 Palestinians have been killed both by these settlers and Israeli forces.

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Earlier this month, Israel launched a military raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, killing 12 Palestinians and wounding more than 100 others. 

So far, four lawmakers are boycotting Herzog's speech, but the number does not come close to the amount that skipped the speech Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered to Congress in 2015. Nearly 60 Democratic members of Congress did not attend that speech, in which Netanyahu criticised then-President Barack Obama over his attempts to secure a nuclear agreement with Iran.

‘No way in hell’: Ilhan Omar to skip Israeli president speech to Congress
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However, this is the second time this year that a small number of progressives in Congress have boycotted the speech of a major world leader over human rights issues.

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came and delivered a speech to Congress, six lawmakers - Bush, Omar, Bowman, Ocasio-Cortez, Summer Lee and Rashida Tlaib - did not attend. Omar also conducted a parallel policy briefing on the human rights situation in India, which was attended by Tlaib.

In announcing her boycott of Herzog's speech, Omar in a Twitter thread on Wednesday referred to a 2019 decision by Israel to bar her and Tlaib from entering the occupied Palestinian territories.

"There is no way in hell I am attending the joint session address from a president whose country has banned me and denied Rashida Tlaib the ability to see her grandma," Omar said.

Omar said that “we should not be inviting the president of Israel - a government who under its current prime minister barred the first two Muslim women elected to Congress from visiting the country - to give a joint address to Congress."

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