For the past few months, Congress has debated whether to permit Israel to join the U.S. visa waiver program which would permit Israelis and Americans to visit each country for 90 days without the traditional need for visas and other formal travel procedures and documents. One of the main sticking points which human rights and pro-Palestine activists have advanced is the complaint that Israel conducts racial profiling of Arab and Middle Eastern travelers, especially those seeking to visit the West Bank. This means that most Arab-Americans seeking to visit Israel are treated roughly the same as Israeli Palestinian citizens who travel to and from Israel. That is, they are treated, regardless of profession, gender, or age uniformly as security threats. They are searched, interrogated, isolated, detained, surveilled, disrobed, and harassed at an extraordinary rate. Often Arab-Americans are simply refused entry and deported. Israel doesn’t have to give a reason other than a vaguely-worded statement that the traveler was seen as a potential security threat. No evidence is ever offered, nor is none needed under Israeli law.
Nour Joudeh, an Arab-American teacher, is an example of how the system works. While teaching at the Ramallah Friends School, she returned to America for the winter holidays. When she attempted to re-enter Israel in order to resume her teaching during the second semester she was refused entry. Randa Jarrar suffered a similar fate. Even families with young children are sundered and deported. These are representatives of a class of as many as 120,000 individuals similarly denied entry into Israel.
But if Israel wishes to be included in the visa waiver program, it will need to change its tune…or will it? Haaretz reports that PM Netanyahu has appointed deputy foreign minister and settler extremist, Zeev Elkin, as his point person to negotiate with U.S. authorities on the provisions of a deal that would enable Israel to join this select club. One of the U.S. demands is that Arab-Americans be treated no differently than any other American traveler coming to Israel.
In response, Haaretz notes the Israeli officials have come up with a cockamamie explanation for the high refusal rate for Arab-American visitors: the Oslo Accords. That’s right. That Labor Party-led conspiracy to destroy Israel and hand it over to Palestinian terrorists–it’s responsible for yet another evil. You’ve got to read this to believe it:
According to the [Israel] official, the problem is the Oslo Accords…Under the agreements, Palestinians who hold foreign citizenship but are registered in the Palestinian population registry, and who seek to visit the West Bank, must cross into Israel via the Allenby Bridge from Jordan, not through Ben-Gurion International Airport.
Under this clause, Israel has refused to admit many Palestinian-Americans who arrive at Ben-Gurion and say they intend to visit the West Bank. But other Americans who arrive on the same flight are allowed to enter. The passports of Palestinian-Americans entering at the Allenby Bridge receive a stamp stating that their entry is restricted to the West Bank.
So if you follow the logic here: Americans who enter the West Bank through the Allenby Bridge are cool. But those who try to enter Israel through Ben Gurion and are suspected of seeking to visit the West Bank are rejected because of…Oslo. Right.
And Israel is going to fix this because it makes a solemn vow to do so:
At the meetings, Elkin said Israel would ensure egalitarian treatment of Palestinian-Americans if Israel were included in the visa waiver program. He said Israel would change procedures so that Palestinian-Americans would be exempt from the clauses in the Oslo Accords that discriminated against them.
This is utter dreck. Israel discriminates against Arab-Americans at Allenby and at Ben Gurion. It will continue to discriminate against them after it is admitted into the visa program. It will, if it’s subtle, seek ways to disguise the discrimination. It will use new terminology to hide visa rejections saying they’re based on other grounds than security threats. But if any American official can be suckered into believing Israel will all-of-a-sudden drop its prejudice against dark-skinned Arabs simply because it made a promise to the former to do so, then I’ve got a bridge to sell them.
Another interesting development regarding this matter, is the Roll Call story quoting U.S. intelligence officials expressing their concern that easing travel restrictions for Israelis will make it far easier for Israeli agents to infiltrate U.S. territory:
“The U.S. intelligence community is concerned that adding Israel to the Visa Waiver program would make it easier for Israeli spies to enter the country,” a senior House aide said.
Several congressional aides said that members of the intelligence community, as well as officials from the State and Homeland Security departments, expressed those concerns in a classified briefing to lawmakers and staffers on the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over visa issue.
Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., “has heard reservations from the intelligence community about allowing Israel into the visa waiver program because of concerns that it would allow in Israeli spies,” a House Foreign Affairs Committee aide said.
Removing visa requirements will make it more difficult for U.S. counter-intelligence to monitor the whereabouts of Israeli agents. It will give them 90 days inside the country without any accountability to anyone.
Those members of Congress who are carrying water for the Israel Lobby on this issue should consider that they are opening this country to the penetration of Israeli agents into our academic, industrial, and technological infrastructure. They will be allowing them carte blanche to wander the country at-will ferreting out our secrets and seeking to assert Israeli influence in key areas of our political, social and economic life. For anyone who doubts this, they must read the stories which documented that Israel was the third most intrusive foreign power (after Russia and China) in terms of its espionage operations in this country.