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Federal agencies express concerns about Israel’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program

Mike Coogan on

Israel has long sought to enter the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, which allows citizens from participating countries to obtain an automatic 90 day visa to travel to the United States. Yet, Israel has not been admitted to the program because of its ongoing discrimination against Palestinian and Arab Americans. In a State Department press briefing on Friday, spokesperson Jen Psaki again acknowledged Israel’s pattern of discrimination noting the “unequal treatment of Palestinian Americans and other Arab Americans receive at Israel’s borders and checkpoints.”

Iran politicking gets in the way of visa waivers for Israelis

Alex Kane on

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was supposed to vote on the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act this week. But a Republican attempt to hamstring a potential U.S. diplomatic deal with Iran on its nuclear energy program unexpectedly scuttled the vote for now. The legislation has attracted attention over language providing Israel a path to join the club of countries whose citizens don’t need to possess a visa to enter the U.S.

House committee advances bill to make Israel ‘major strategic partner’–and waive visas for Israelis

Alex Kane on

The House Foreign Affairs Committee voted unanimously for a bill that designates Israel as a “major strategic partner” and waives visa requirements for Israelis who visit the U.S. While the House version of the legislation does not include much criticized exemptions for Israel’s participation in the visa waiver program, activists for Palestinian rights see other pro-Israel provisions of the bill as deeply problematic.

Barbara Boxer’s visa bill for Israel comes under concerted attack

Alex Kane on

In the wake of the horrific Nour Joudah case, in which an American teacher was refused entry to Palestine to resume her job this year, activists are ramping up their campaign to thwart the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act. The legislation would “codify into law U.S. acceptance of Israel’s discrimination and allow it to continue to deny visas to U.S. citizens,” according to a letter sent by a coalition of Palestine solidarity groups.

Modern Language Association members condemn Israeli border policies, but vote is not ratified

Alex Kane on

Modern Language Association (MLA) members voted 1,560-1,063 to condemn Israel’s discriminatory border policies. But the vote was not ratified because 10 percent of MLA members have to affirm the vote for a measure to count, leading pro-Israel groups to celebrate the end result. Despite that, MLA member David Lloyd saw the vote as evidence that “on the battleground of ideas, Israel and its supporters are continuing to lose ground.”

House delivers for AIPAC, 410-1, passing Israel as ‘strategic partner’ bill

Alex Kane on

The House of Representatives passed the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act by a 410-1 vote today. The legislation, a major priority for the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), designates Israel as a “major strategic partner”–a first for any U.S. ally. AIPAC members lobbied Congress to approve the bill on Tuesday, in addition to asking elected officials to sign letters stressing that Congress should be informed of the nuclear negotiations with Iran. Only Thomas Massie of Kentucky voted against the bill.

Israeli gov’t upholds denying entry to American teacher in Ramallah

Philip Weiss on

In yesterday’s New York Times, Yousef Munayyer slammed the bills in Congress to grant Israeli citizens visa waivers when they visit the U.S., and Munayyer cited Israeli discrimination against Arab-Americans at its borders– specifically, the arbitrary refusal of Israeli authorities to allow Nour Joudah, above, a dedicated young American teacher, to return to her job at the Friends School in Ramallah. There is news in Joudah’s case: the Israeli Ministry of Interior responded last week to a written “hearing” it agreed to provide her following her appeal of the denial of entry. And the Ministry upheld the denial decision, without addressing any of the lengthy legal and factual claims raised by Joudah, her lawyer reports.

Denied entry by Israel, American teacher prepares to say goodbye to Palestinian students

Philip Weiss on

Here is an important story from Palestine: Nour Joudah, 25, a Palestinian-American masters graduate of Georgetown who teaches at the Friends School in Ramallah was denied entry into Israel on Monday. This is the second time in two months Israel has stopped Joudah from going back to her classes in Palestine. In a heartbreaking goodbye to her students Joudah writes, “I’ll always be your teacher. The Israelis can’t take that from me or from you . . Remember – just because I lost this small fight now, doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth fighting – and it doesn’t mean the larger fight is over. Never let anyone keep you from living in your country.”

Congress leaves town without passing lobby priority: visa-waiver bill for Israelis

Alex Kane on

The Israel lobby suffered a major defeat this week when it failed to pass a visa-waiver bill for Israelis. Since March, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee had pushed legislation that would have codified discrimination against Arab- and Muslim-American travelers to Israel/Palestine. But Congress has now left town for winter recess without passing the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act.

‘Jews Against Genocide’ take the blood bucket challenge at Yad Vashem

Kelly Lynn on

Activists from Jews Against Genocide have released a video compilation depicting their version of the Blood Bucket Challenge, an extreme spin on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which flooded Facebook feeds for the last three months. Originally conceived by Ohio University student senate president Megan Merzak, who received a barrage of death and rape threats following the release of her video, activists poured buckets of fake blood over themselves after reciting “we remember…,” statements in memorial of the more than 2,100 Palestinians killed in the last Israeli assault on Gaza. The activists filmed themselves in front of Yad Vashem, the holocaust museum in West Jerusalem, the US embassy in Tel Aviv, the Israeli Supreme Court in Jerusalem, the Israeli military radio station in Tel Aviv, and the Knesset, Israel’s parliament building in Jerusalem.

Five US citizens detained, interrogated, denied entry to Israel

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation on

On July 17, 2016, a group of young American delegates traveled to Israel-Palestine in order to observe the conditions under which Palestinians live, and to gain a better understanding of the situation on the ground. Upon their arrival, a US Campaign staffer and four other members of the group — all carrying US passports — were interrogated by Israeli border police about their backgrounds and political involvement. Four of the five delegates who were questioned, held, and denied entry were people of color and Muslim, and the fifth had a long beard. Israel has ethnically and religiously profiled visitors so often that the State Department’s travel advisory for Israel reads: “Some US citizens of Arab or Muslim heritage not on the Palestinian Population Registry or otherwise prohibited from entering Israel have experienced significant difficulties and unequal and hostile treatment at Israel’s borders and checkpoints.”

Is the U.S. quietly imposing travel sanctions on Israeli officials?

Mike Coogan on

As the United States begins implementing travel restrictions on Russian officials involved in the military occupation and annexation of Crimea, there are signs that the State Department has been quietly denying visas to Israeli military and intelligence officials in accordance with a separate set of U.S. laws.

Denial of entry – the real targets are Palestinians

Ariel Gold on

Ariel Gold on getting denied entry to Israel: “My denial of entry received an enormous amount of coverage in Israeli and American Jewish media. Though I am disappointed I was not able to get into the country, I am glad that what happened to me contributed in a strong and positive way to the conversations that are taking place right now in Israeli and diaspora Jewish communities around Palestinian rights and democracy. But, refusing to allow me into the country is only a small glimpse of Israel’s border policies.”

Despite potential groundswell, Congress reluctant to recognize Palestinian rights

Sam Knight on

If the polls are to be believed, the days of unconditional US support for Israel are numbered. Younger American voters are increasingly blaming the IDF for the wanton havoc it wreaks in occupied Palestine. Those who have, for years, considered Palestinians to be their equals are probably wondering what took so long for this oft ahead-of-the-curve cohort to arrive at a level of tepid criticism for Israel. But Congress is lagging behind. With a zealous, unwavering love for Israeli military operations still pervasive on Capitol Hill, one prominent progressive representative told Palestinians’ advocates and allies that they mustn’t cease Congressional outreach. “We have got to keep the pressure on,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said on Friday evening, at a gathering of solidarity activists. “Make sure this is a dialogue not a monologue,” he instructed.

Netanyahu is a paper tiger

Mike Coogan on

Stories of the power of the Israel lobby have long haunted efforts in the U.S. to advocate for a more balanced American policy toward Israel/Palestine. But at a moment when an unprecedented number of members of Congress are up in arms over Netanyahu’s efforts to sabotage the Obama administration’s policy towards Iran, there are other signs that the pro-Israel lobby may not be invincible in Washington. Here are seven pieces of news from the last year that proponents of a less lopsided policy towards Israel/Palestine should find heartening.

Palestinian-American teen denied access to Israel’s airport

Allison Deger on

A Palestinian-American teenager was denied from exiting Israel via Ben Gurion airport and told she must travel through the land crossing with Jordan. While detained she learned, to her surprise Israeli security no longer considered her an American citizen with American travel privileges. The Palestinian identification card her family filed for her the year before, a registry requirement for children of West Bank Palestinian ID holders, erases her rights as a U.S. citizen.