Circular logic: Israel agrees not to discriminate against Palestinian-American travelers — not that it ever did

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin at a Likud party meeting in the Knesset, July 2013. (Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin at a Likud party meeting in the Knesset, July 2013. (Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made a partial admission of discrimination against Palestinian-Americans at Israeli borders, a key issue in its negotiations to join the U.S. visa waiver program.

“All of the changes that the U.S. asked for with regards to not discriminating against Palestinian-Americans, Israel agreed to them,” an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Mondoweiss.

When asked about what specific changes will be made to reduce discrimination, the official then amended: Israel does not practice discrimination—“no, no of course not.” But it was prepared to meet U.S. demands to curtail discriminatory practices.

The official then added, “if there is anybody who comes in from outside of the country, if Israel thinks they are dangerous, it can do whatever it wants.”

Indeed Israel does do whatever it wants when determining who can and cannot access the country, refusing visas to 10 percent of travelers (including many who express the intention to travel on to the West Bank and Gaza). And last year Israel deported around 100 Arab-Americans. Seeking to soften the requirements for a visa waiver, Senator Barbara Boxer has introduced legislation to create a sliding scale for deportation to accommodate Israel’s hefty refusals– allowing visa-free admittance for countries with between three and 10-percent rates.

Yet in order to be considered for the program now, Israel will have to stop airlifting out Palestinian-Americans, which the State Department has labeled “discrimination” and now Israel has too—sort of.

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin, a pro-West Bank annexation “proud settler” who was embroiled in scandal after confessing he turned over Israeli Defense Force movements to a group of settler youth who attacked army bases, and does not speak English well enough to conduct an interview, said in March that the discrimination against Palestinian-Americans stemmed from in the Oslo Accords. Elkin said the peace agreement allowed Israel to deport those with Palestinian identification cards for the purpose of re-routing them to the West Bank crossing with Jordan. Haaretz’s Barak Ravid noted Elkin was prepared to lower the refusal rate, but the foreign minister had yet to acknowledge the discrimination levied at U.S. citizens of Palestinian heritage who are not registered as residents of the West Bank.

Mondoweiss has reported extensively on Israel denying visas to Arab-Americans. In 2012 our account from Najwa Doughman and Sasha Al-Sarabi highlighted how two young Arab-American professionals were detained and then deported from Ben Gurion airport. What made this case stand out is that the women who were flown back to the U.S. were not politically engaged; they were not activists and had purchased tickets for a benign middle class vacation in the Middle East.

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Looking at the adjectives and missing the verve has been the hallmark of Israeli system for a long time . The pattern is also copied with same gusto of indifference to verve – the real actions of Israel – by the American companion . The result will be the acceptance of the Israeli promises to be enough robust of a reason to allow unrestricted travel to Istaeli military ,intelligence,settler movement activist to US without visa.

Just a thought. Do you think the close examination of the proposed Israeli Visa Waiver program is also a result of not only Israel’s harassment and ill treatment of ordinary Americans, but also more prominent Americans such as Donna Shalala, former U.S. Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and current president of U. of Miami? An American who was held in detention, apparently humiliated by her interrogators and then searched over a… Read more »

For Israel to join the visa waiver program, it should be required to reciprocate and waive visas for Americans. But even if it offers reciprocity to Americans, I’m sure Israel will continue to deny entry to anyone even suspected of being sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. Anyone not buying into Israel’s racist practices is automatically deemed to be dangerous.

As usual what Israel promises comes with disclaimer, or very vague “easy out clause:” … if Israel thinks they are dangerous, it can do whatever it wants.” That they are promising anything at all to ostensibly comply with US demands or conditions (for reciprocity) indicates they see a net benefit in terms of reciprocity. A few Palestinian Americans will not get deported, maybe treated a little better by airport security; and we will be left… Read more »

Allison and others: does anyone know of any data about how many Americans who are not of Palestinian or other Arab descent have been denied entry into Israel or into the occupied Palestinian territories through Israeli border controls? I’m thinking about people denied either because they’re known critics of Israel (such as Chomsky) or simply because they admitted planning to go to the OPT (like the flytilla people)?