by: David Harris-Gershon on April 14th, 2013 | 2 Comments »
Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) have introduced a bipartisan bill that seeks to codify – in unprecedented fashion – another country’s ability to discriminate against American citizens of Arab and Muslim descent.
The bill, the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013, contains a provision that would allow Israel to enter America’s “visa waiver” program. This is a program whereby citizens of another country are allowed to enter the United States without a visa, making it easier for them to visit America.
The U.S. currently has this agreement with 37 other countries, and as Glenn Greenwald reports, all of these countries fully reciprocate, making it easier for American citizens to similarly visit without a visa.
However, the current bill would, for the first time ever, allow another country (Israel) to enter the “visa waiver” program without having to fully reciprocate. See, Israel regularly refuses entry to Arab- and Muslim-Americans, as well as those who are publicly critical of Israel’s geo-political policies. Since this is not something Israel is willing to relinquish – modulating entry of American citizens based upon their ethnicity or religious affiliation for perceived security reasons – something had to be done.
And so, for the first time, the U.S. is poised to allow Israel entry into the “visa waiver” program while still allowing it to discriminate against American citizens. Meaning: no full reciprocity. Meaning: the codification of discrimination against Arab- and Muslim-Americans by an ally nation.
As a result, at the behest of AIPAC, Democrat Barbara Boxer, joined by Republican Roy Blunt, has introduced a bill that would provide for Israel’s membership in the program while vesting it with a right that no other country in this program has: namely, the right to exclude selected Americans from this visa-free right of entrance. In other words, the bill sponsored by these American senators would exempt Israel from a requirement that applies to every other nation on the planet, for no reason other than to allow the Israeli government to engage in racial, ethnic and religious discrimination against US citizens.
As Lara Friedman explained when the Senate bill was first introduced, it “takes the extraordinary step of seeking to change the current US law to create a special and unique exception for Israel in US immigration law.” In sum, it is as pure and blatant an example of prioritizing the interests of the Israeli government over the rights of US citizens as one can imagine, and it’s being pushed by AIPAC and a cast of bipartisan senators.
Israel’s discrimination against American citizens of Arab or Muslim origin is so pervasive that the U.S. State Department has it listed as an official travel warning for those thinking about heading to Israel or the Occupied Territories.
While many have balked at codifying such discrimination, this bipartisan bill, with the visa waiver provision included, has (unsurprisingly) picked up numerous co-sponsors.
If this discrimination against American citizens was purely being done based on legitimate security concerns, perhaps it would be reasonable (perhaps being the operative word). However, such is not the case, as Israel often discriminates against such groups for their political alignments with the Palestinians.
And the U.S. is moving closer to sanctioning such discrimination, against its own citizens.
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