space traveling warriors tier list : Want to give the Israelis a perfect trip? First you have to recognize Arab Americans as Americans.

Last week, an Israeli liberal daily newspaper, haartz, cited a senior US official in Jerusalem who said concern about Israel’s discriminatory treatment of Palestinian Americans wishing to enter the West Bank was not related to Israel’s petition to enter the US Visa Waiver Program. They were two different issues, the official said.

The article bothered me so much that I wrote Secretary of State Antony Blinken demanding an explanation. I reminded him that the two issues are indeed related: The essential condition for joining the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which allows foreign nationals to enter the United States for up to 90 days without a visa, is reciprocity. Any country participating in the VWP must agree to provide non-discriminatory treatment to US citizens, just as they expect their citizens to be received by the US.

In 2014, the last time Israel sought entry into the program, the State Department rejected its application, citing Israel’s history of discrimination against American citizens of Arab descent, especially Palestinian-Americans, as a reason.

Over the years, I have received hundreds of complaints from Arab Americans, who have provided us with sworn statements of their treatment while trying to enter Israel-Palestine. They were pursued and interrogated for hours. Some were detained for a day, denied entry and deported. Israeli officials told Palestinian-Americans, even those born in the US, that Israel did not recognize them as Americans. They were considered Palestinians and therefore had to leave the country, obtain a Palestinian identity and enter through Jordan. Here at the Arab American Institute, we complain to the State Department demanding that our government insist that our rights as American citizens be protected.

Former secretaries of state – most notably Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice – have vigorously raised this issue with the Israelis, to no avail. The best we could get was a State Department “travel advisory” warning that American citizens of Arab descent, especially those of Palestinian descent, can expect to be treated differently from other US visitors. This acknowledgment of a problem, without doing anything to correct it, only added insult to injury.

An additional concern, unrelated to the VWP, is the fact that Arab Americans, as citizens, should be afforded the same protections that our government offers all other citizens. The first page of the US passport says that the Secretary of State “requests all interested parties to allow the citizen/national of the United States mentioned herein to pass without delay or impediment and, if necessary, give all legal assistance and protection.” And in the 1951 US-Israel Treaty on “Friendship, Commerce and Navigation”, both parties agree to guarantee the rights of each other’s citizens when visiting their countries, including the right to “travel freely; and to reside in places of their choosing, to enjoy freedom of conscience… free from unlawful harassment of every kind… the most constant protection and security.” From our 40 years of work dealing with the discriminatory treatment of Arab Americans traveling to Israel-Palestine, it is clear that the commitments found in our passports and in the treaty are, as the phrase goes, “honored more in violation than in observance.” .

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