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.