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19 May, 2013

U.S. Groups Blast Israeli Bias Against Americans of Palestinian, Arab, Muslim Origin


WASHINGTON, May 18, 2013 (WAFA) – Over 50 American organizations signed a letter asking US senators to oppose the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act on the ground Israel mistreats US citizens travelling to its country, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation said in a press release on Friday.

It said section nine of this legislation would include Israel in the Visa Waiver Program without requiring Israel extend reciprocal privileges to citizens and nationals of the United States through an exemption that allows Israel to arbitrarily deny entrance to US citizens under the rubric of national security.

“Israel has a history of discriminating against Palestinian-, Arab-, and Muslim-Americans travelers and denying them entry,” said the release.

The US State Department Travel Advisory for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza says that “US citizens are advised that all persons entering or departing…are subject to security screening and may be denied entry or exit without explanation… Those with extensive travel to Muslim countries or US citizens whom Israeli authorities suspect of being of Arab, Middle Eastern, or Muslim origin may also face additional questioning by immigration and border authorities.”

“Rather than hold Israel accountable for its ethnic, religious, and political profiling of US citizens, (the legislation) would codify into law US acceptance of Israel’s discrimination and allow it to continue to deny visas to US citizens through its unique catch-all ‘reasonable efforts’ and ‘security’ loopholes,” the letter states.

“This bill if passed will essentially render some Americans second class citizens,” said Mike Coogan, US Campaign Legislative Coordinator. “It will set a dangerous precedent of the US government officially sanctioning discrimination by foreign countries against US citizens.”

Pressure is growing on senators to either oppose the bill or withdraw their sponsorship. A number of national groups have come out against the legislation including the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Jewish Voice for Peace, Arab American Institute, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a coalition of 400 groups.

US Representative Keith Ellison recently expressed concerns about such a move, noting for a Congressional Quarterly article that “American citizens deserve to travel without fear of being turned away based on their race, religion, or countries they have visited. Denying law-abiding citizens does nothing to advance understanding between countries or the cause of peace.”

“We are calling on all Members of Congress to publicly oppose any legislation that would discriminate on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, or political views,” Coogan said. “Congress should instead be making sure Israel complies by US laws, not continuing to make exemptions for it.”