Coalition Demands Sen. Boxer Drop Support for Israeli Visa Waiver Exemption

Exemption codifies Israel's discriminatory travel policies against American citizens of Arab descent, Muslims

(May 21, 2013 - Anaheim, CA) 

(Anaheim, Calif. – 5/21/13) – Today, a coalition of civil rights and interfaith organizations joined the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA) in calling Sen. Barbara Boxer to drop her support for the United States-Israeli Strategic Partnership Act of 2013.
 
The bill grants Israel’s entrance into the U.S. visa waiver program, which allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the U.S. without a visa, and vice versa.
 
Sen. Boxer proposed admitting Israel into the program on a provision that Israel will make “every reasonable effort, without jeopardizing the security of the State of Israel, to ensure that reciprocal travel privileges are extended to all United States citizens.”
 
In essence, this provision precludes Israel from engaging in equal treatment of American citizens—an exemption that no other country in the program is explicitly permitted.
 
While we agree with Sen. Boxer that “every country in the world retains the right to deny entry to individuals based on national security concerns - including the United States,” this exemption is unnecessary to preserve Israel’s authority to exclude visitors on legitimate security grounds.

SEE: Boxer’s Israeli Visa Bill Stirs Backlash
Debating Israeli airport security and racial profiling

In a letter to Sen. Boxer, CAIR-CA stated:

“On behalf of the undersigned civil rights, interfaith and community organizations, we strongly disapprove of your lead sponsorship of the U.S.-Israeli Strategic Partnership Act of 2013. As stated, the bill mandates Israel’s entrance into the visa waiver program on a provision that Israel will make “every reasonable effort, without jeopardizing the security of the State of Israel, to ensure that reciprocal travel privileges are extended to all United States citizens.” This provision precludes Israel from engaging in equal treatment of American citizens traveling to Israel–a special immunity that no other country in the program is permitted. 

“As a result, we find this exemption disturbing as it not only allows, but also codifies, Israel’s routine practice of racial profiling and discriminatory treatment of Americans of Palestinian or Arab descent, as well as Muslims and human rights activists critical of Israeli policies. Israel’s prejudicial treatment of some Americans is so deliberate that the State Department travel advisory warns that U.S. citizens ‘are subject to security screening and may be denied entry or exit without explanation.’ The advisory goes on to state that those ‘U.S. citizens whom Israeli authorities suspect of being of Arab, Middle Eastern, or Muslim origin may also face additional questioning by immigration and border authorities.’ Such standards also extend to U.S. travelers visiting Palestine through the Jordanian border, who have no intention of entering Israel.

“It should be recognized that Israel’s problematic policies extend to its own inhabitants and neighbors of Arab descent. A recent United Nations report indicates that Palestinians are suffering the ‘worst poverty rate of all time,’ due to Israel’s isolation policies including its Separation Wall, along with its unjust housing and taxation moves.

“This bill is not about alliance building; it is about upholding Israel’s discriminatory practices over the rights and interests of Americans. Your support for this bill violates basic American values of equality, liberty, and dignity for all.

“Your commitment to protecting the civil liberties of all Americans obliges you not to immunize Israel’s illegal practices with the privilege of a visa waiver. Therefore, we strongly request that you remove the visa waiver from the Senate bill, and publicly condemn Israel’s discriminatory policies of refusing entrance to select U.S. citizens based on racial and religious profiling.”

Sincerely,

Al-Awda The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, Bay Area
Al-Awda The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, San Diego
American Muslims for Palestine
Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, Orange County
Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, San Diego
Arab American Cultural Center of East Bay
Bay Area Women in Black
Council on American-Islamic Relations, California chapter
Council of Sacramento Valley Islamic Organizations
Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace
Islamic Circle of North America, Los Angeles
Jewish Voice for Peace, Los Angeles
Jewish Voice for Peace, Sacramento
KARAMA
Muslim American Society Public Affairs Civic Engagement (MAS-PACE), San Diego
Medina Education Center, Newark, Calif.
Muslim American Society, Los Angeles
Muslim American Society, Sacramento
Muslim American Society, San Diego
Muslim Public Affairs Council
Progressive Christians Uniting
Shura Council of Southern California
United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance
 
In April, CAIR urged Americans who are concerned about equality under the law to contact their congressional representatives, and demand that they drop this attempt at creating a two-tiered system of legal protection for American citizens.
 
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

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CONTACT: CAIR-LA Communications Coordinator Yasmin Nouh, 714.851.4851, ynouh@cair.com

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