Twenty members of Congress have called on US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to demand that Israel end ‘discriminatory’ travel restrictions against Palestinian-Americans visiting family in the occupied territories and the Palestinian territories. American citizens who criticize Israeli government policies.
The letter comes as Israel attempts to negotiate entry to the US Visa Waiver Program, which would allow its citizens to join those of 40 other countries in traveling to the United States with only online approval and without require maintenance.
But US politicians have said Israel should not be admitted to the program until it stops targeting Arab and Muslim US citizens “based on their ethnicity”.
The letter, initiated by Congressman Don Beyer, a Democrat from Virginia, said new regulations imposed by the Israeli Ministry of Defense department overseeing occupied Palestinian lands, which came into effect in October, “codify onerous restrictions and discriminatory”.
The 90-page order further complicates the lives of Palestinian families with dual citizenship, including Americans, who already faced a complex system of travel permits. Among other things, it prohibits people born in Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain and South Sudan from traveling to the occupied West Bank except in exceptional circumstances, even if they use US or foreign passports. About 60% of the Jordanian population is of Palestinian origin.
The letter also noted that Palestinian-Americans wishing to visit areas under Israeli military governance “may be required to provide the names and identification numbers of family and friends,” a requirement that may expose them to intrusive Israeli review.
The letter said the regulations also subject Americans “to an arbitrary and restrictive screening process that would deny entry to those with political positions deemed unacceptable by Israeli authorities.” These include American citizens campaigning for sanctions against Israel during its 55-year occupation of Palestinian territories.
“These restrictions impact Americans’ ability to travel and reside in the occupied West Bank, and lead to many Americans being denied entry at Israeli-controlled borders,” the letter said.
“Unfortunately, Israel has consistently refused to give fair treatment to American visitors attempting to pass through Israeli-controlled ports of entry. The State Department itself acknowledges in its travel advisory that American citizens traveling through Israel were unfairly denied entry.
The State Department warns that “some American citizens of Arab or Muslim descent (including Americans of Palestinian descent) have experienced significant hardship and unequal and sometimes hostile treatment at Israel’s borders and checkpoints.” .
Congresswoman Marie Newman was among those who signed the letter.
“Israel has imposed discriminatory restrictions on people traveling to the Palestinian West Bank, a decision that impacts families in my district, especially Palestinian Americans who will find it harder to see their families. This is wrong and it must stop. she tweeted.
In September, Senator Chris Van Hollen told the Foreign Relations Committee that Israel treats Palestinian Americans differently than American citizens visiting illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories that are not subject to any restrictions.
“The issue is American visitors and whether an American visitor would be discriminated against because of their ethnicity or race,” he said. “It’s pretty clear to me that if you’re a Palestinian American, you’ll get different treatment if you want to travel to the West Bank than if you’re another American who wants to go visit a settlement in the West Bank…That’s not the reciprocity is the unequal treatment of American citizens because of their ethnicity.
In 2019, Israel banned two Muslim members of Congress, Rashida Tlaib, who is Palestinian American, and Ilhan Omar, from traveling to the occupied territories after President Trump tweeted that allowing them to enter “would show great weakness. because the couple “hate Israel and all Jewish people.” Both criticized the occupation and Israeli policies.
Israel later said Tlaib would be allowed to make a “humanitarian visit” to his aging grandmother in the West Bank if she agreed to certain conditions. Tlaib said those restrictions included political speech, including “not promoting a boycott of Israel” and refuse to accept them.
The new regulations also impose significant restrictions on foreigners wishing to volunteer, work or study in the West Bank.
The congressional letter noted that Israel is a “close ally and recipient of generous assistance” from the United States, and said that strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries, including by facilitating travel, “is an admirable goal”.
“Strengthening this critical relationship cannot come at the expense of American grandparents who simply wish to visit their children, or at the expense of Americans who do business, go to school, teach or engage in any other activity. legal in territories controlled by Israel. “, says the letter.
Members of Congress noted that the US Department of Homeland Security has declared that Israel does not qualify for inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) due to its discriminatory practices against certain American citizens.
“In light of this position, it is clear that Israel cannot and should not be admitted to the VWP under the status quo,” the letter reads.