Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Legalizing Discrimination against U.S. Travelers

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Legalizing Discrimination against U.S. Travelers

Article excerpt

In May last year, I traveled to Israel on an interfaith delegation with Palestinians and Israelis who were working in support of peace and coexistence. Upon arrival at Israel's Ben Gurion airport, I was detained, questioned for eight hours, told to sign into my email account so Israeli officials could view its contents, and then deported back to the United States. Prior to being deported, Israeli officials accused me of being a terrorist and the U.S. Embassy informed me there was nothing they could do to help because I was not Jewish.

While receiving such treatment by Israel was deeply offensive, the response from my own government was even more disturbing. The experience left me wondering: Has the U.S. adopted Israel's racial and religious profiling tactics to discriminate against Arab and Muslim Americans? Nearly a year later, members of Congress provided an alarming response.

In March, Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., introduced the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013. Instead of condemning Israel's actions and calling on embassies to do everything in their power to protect U.S. passport holders, this legislation would legalize Israel's racist immigration policies and routine discrimination against American citizens.

Section 9 of the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act would allow Israel to participate in the U.S. visa waiver program, enabling Israeli citizens to visit the U.S. for 90 days without first obtaining a tourist visa. Normally the visa waiver program would require that participating countries extend similar privileges to U.S. citizens, but the Senate version of the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act contains an exemption that would allow Israel to arbitrarily deny entrance to U.S. citizens under the rubric of national security. In other words, Israeli officials could continue to do to others exactly what they did to me.

In addition to my own experience last May, let me share two other examples from the past year that paint a clear picture of the type of U.S. citizens that Israel considers a national security threat.

In January, Nour Joudah, a Palestinian-American, was denied entry back into the West Bank at the Israeli-controlled Allenby Crossing, despite having obtained a multi-entry visa through USAID to teach English at a Quaker-run school in Ramallah. …

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