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.
It should be corrected: Americans visiting Israel today do NOT need a visa to so this is a one way restriction.
also if Israel would want to spy on the US you really think they need this visa waiver? you know how many Israelis have European passports and do not need a visa??? This has nothing to do with Israel having to change its ways with Arab Americans due to moral reasons not visa issues and I agree that it must change.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Ronit: This is simply a lie. How else do you explain the 10% rejection rate of Americans who visit Israel if they don’t need a visa to enter the country?
free man says
As usual you bully Israelis, where you do not know the facts.
Look at the official document for the Visa. Tourists from USA do not require visa to enter Israel.
Israel, just like any other country in the world can refuse entry of any specific person, no matter if he has a visa or if that visa is required.
Richard Silverstein says
@ free man: There is some sort of document required for Americans to enter Israel. You may call it a visa or an entry permit or a birthday invitation for all I care. The fact is that this permission is being refused to 10% of American citizens seeking to enter Israel. If you want to argue that Israel already waives visa requirements for Americans, that’s terribly misleading since it is using the entry permit as a form of visa and it is denying entry in very significant numbers and using racial profiling to do so. Both are anathema to all Americans except Israel Lobby water carriers in Congress.
You completely misunderstood the data. The 10% rejection rate stated is for Israelis applying for US visas, not the other way around. This rejection rate nearly doubled in 2013 from the year before. The regulatory problem with granting Israelis free entry into the US without a visa is that under current regulations, the rejection rate must be must be much lower than 10% – around 3%. Here is a link to a Ynet article explaining this:
The actual rate of US visitors denied entry into Israel is tiny, only 0.023%. Here is a link to another Ynet article quoting that figure.
How could you have possibly believed the rate of US citizens denied entry into Israel is anywhere near 10%?
Richard Silverstein says
Whatever I misunderstood, you did as well. The rate went up 80%, not “nearly double.” How could you have possibly allowed yourself to make such a mistake??
At any rate, the Roll Call article doesn’t specify what the rate of rejection is for Israel. But the “actual rate” you quote of .023% is ridiculous. Simply not credible. Michael Oren claims only 150 Americans were rejected. Knowing how official Israel works I’m betting that those 150 are the ones whose rejections were actually documented. What I’m betting is that there are many more rejections which simply aren’t recorded. There could be scores of ways & reasons to do this. But that number is false & patently ridiculous.
1. All entries to the state of Israel are documented and record kept in central database.
2. In your comment rules you ask for credible sources of information, does your bets considered a credible source of information ? if so please provide the data.
Richard Silverstein says
Sure, they are…except the ones that aren’t. Just. Because. Not to mention 1001 ways in which these numbers can be massaged.
Unlike Michael Oren, I speak clearly about what I know and what I believe. I believe Oren’s numbers are false. Oren will claim as truth what he believes or even what he wishes were true. I will never do that.
I would challenge you to research this issue & find the official numbers you claim exist. I would want to know the numbers of Americans who are not permitted to enter Israel. Not just those who may receive an official rejection stamp on their passport. When you come up with that number & can prove it’s credible, then we can talk further.
Doesn’t the one who comes with the claim needs to come with the data ?
You claimed there are undocumented entries, prove it.
Richard Silverstein says
Amira Hass wrote in Haaretz that there are “thousands” of denials of entry to Israel of Palestinian Americans. If I had a chance to choose between the credibility of Amira Hass & Michael Open it would be Hass any day.
Now you come up with the goods to prove her wrong or explain the discrepancy. I say Oren’s playing games with the facts. Prove me wrong. I dare you.
Ronit is correct. Americans and many other countries do not require a visa to visit Israel. You can see the list at the following link: http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/ConsularServices/Pages/default.aspx
Richard, now this is getting interesting: did you EVER visit Israel??? did you need a Visa? Whose facts are lies mine or yours?
You’re talking different languages!
The law about visas is referring to advanced notice and applying for a visa. Israelis need to do this to go to the USA. It’s not only security but also a source of income.
Everyone entering Israel needs a visa but gets it (or not!) at the airport at immigration on arrival. It may be a student visa, a tourist visa, a work visa, etc but there is no need for advance request.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Shmuel: Correct. Would all the other nattering naysayers stop making these claims about visas. It’s clear that Americans entering Israel need a visa or some sort of document permitting them entry. If you didn’t need an entry permit you couldn’t be stopped and 10% of Americans attempting to enter Israel ARE stopped.
When I travelled to Israel (twice) I got visas.
I have to concur with Ronit. American citizens do not need a visa to enter Israel. However Israel, like any other country in the world, has the right to refuse entry to anyone at the border. Recent reports here have cited an 80% rejection rate for young Israelis seeking a visa to the US. I’d be interested to see any documentation that corroborates a 10% rejection rate for Americans visiting Israel. Seriously. Any link at all would do. That having been said, I imagine young rootless Israelis are probably rejected because so many of them use their time in the US to work illegally. All you have to do is go to just about any mall in the US and almost every kiosk is manned by young Israelis selling everything from Dead Sea products to e-cigs. They can’t all be spies… but they can’t possibly all be working legally either. I think that’s the main concern. The US Embassy in Tel Aviv even released a video warning young Israelis against working illegally in the US: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LiorPHmGyY
Richard Silverstein says
@ Pea: Before you ask for documentation read every link in my post & you will save me the trouble of having to lead you to it. The Hill article notes a 10% refusal rate. Nor do I believe the 80% rejection rate for young Israelis. Now you provide proof for that claim.
I was mistaken. The actual statistic is that the visa rejection rate for Israelis seeking to enter the US has increased by 80% since last year from 2.5% to 9.7% as per this article in Haaretz: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.576109 – that figure is also in your first Roll Call link. Also, I read every single link in this article and still don’t see any mention of a 10% refusal rate for American citizens seeking entry into Israel. I don’t know what “Hill” article you are referring to. Not meaning to be a nudnikit but 10% is really high! I’d like to share that info with my friends who are complaining about how difficult it is for them to get a visa to the US. That and the articles about the way Palestinian Americans are treated at the border are shameful. Thanks!
The internal contradiction in this post is exquisite: you dismiss Israeli security fears, despite everything that Israelis have endured in terms of terrorism and murder, while maximizing (daresay exaggerating) the threat of “Israeli spies” on “US infrastructure” etc.
I think you have this one wrong as well: If Israel has high security issues, and the US has security issues, then visa waiver is not appropriate,is it? If Israel hassles American citizens, then the US will need to hassle most Israelis as suspected spies. Fair is fair — except where Israel is concerned.
My understanding is that Israel did not, does not, meet the standards of the waiver program. Plain and simple.
Well on the Interpol’s wanted list are 57 Israeli citizens (most of them are Jews). That is relatively much compared to other European countries. Finland 10 persons, Sweden 45, Netherlands 38 etc. The Israelis are wanted for fraud, organized crime membership, narcotic smuggling, illegal arms trade etc . The Israeli (Jewish) close and comprehensive links to Russian, Ukrainian and US organized crime organization are well known and documented. Pretending that Israel is full of frightened victim Jews is somewhat hilarious considering the news coming from Israel. Israelis have their strong contribution in narcotics smuggling (chemical drugs), illegal organs trade networks, blood diamonds, illegal and legal arms trade, “technology transfers” etc.
Also considering, that many Israelis have made war crimes and crimes against humanity, all countries should demand a visa from Israelis and demand a detailed report what they personally have done on the occupied areas. See the video of Jewish soldiers detaining and dragging a 6 year old child. Should these swines in the video be allowed to enter any country? Not even with a visa…
Of course, Interpol is probably just anti-semitic, like the 160 or so UN member states which reguarly vote resolutions condemning Israeli lawlessness! If Israeli “explanations” regarding its state aggression provide any guidance, all 57 have been forced into criminal activity against their will and better intentions.
If Israel is upset about Palestinian “terrorism”, then perhaps it should treat the Palestinians with decency, courtesy, and respect, per the moral teachings of Judaism. As long as Israel treats the Palestinians like sh*t, it’s going to have a “terrorism problem” – funny how that works, isn’t it?
Henry Norr says
What about American citizens not of Palestinian or other Arab descent – including American Jews – who are not allowed into Israel or inordinately hassled at Ben Gordon or Allenby simply because of our politics? It’s nowhere near as bad as what Arab-American suffer, but it’s another real problem. What’s the US government doing to ensure equal treatment for us?