No To Israel Joining the Visa Waiver Program

Washington, D.C. | www.adc.org | August 27, 2021 – ​​​​The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is calling on President Joe Biden and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to reject Israel Envoy to the U.S. Gilad Erdan’s request for a U.S. Visa Waiver Program deal without explicit guarantees that Arab and Muslim Americans would be provided reciprocal travel privileges.

Following a meeting with Secretary Mayorkas, Erdan posted on August 16 on Facebook that he expects to see “significant progress” on a U.S. visa waiver deal. Additionally, during Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s visit to the White House on August 27, President Biden mentioned that he would discuss with the Prime Minister how to bring Israel into the program. The lack of transparency regarding this potential deal concerns ADC and could lead to a unique exemption for Israel.

If a deal is made without an explicit guarantee of equal treatment, Israel would become the only country participating in the Visa Waiver Program that would be allowed to discriminate against Americans due to their ethnicity or faith. None of the other 39 nations that participate in the program have been granted a similar exemption.

The Visa Waiver Program enables most citizens or nationals of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. To join the Visa Waiver Program, the entering country must allow Americans to enter without a visa as well.

Israel routinely refuses to allow Americans of Arab ethnicity or Muslim backgrounds to enter their country or the occupied territories it controls. According to the U.S. State Department’s website, “some U.S. citizens of Arab or Muslim heritage (including Palestinian-Americans) have experienced significant difficulties and unequal and occasionally hostile treatment at Israel’s borders and checkpoints.” Additionally, “U.S. citizens have been denied entry to Israel and the West Bank for involvement in and/or expressing support on social media for the BDS movement.” Such a discriminatory practice falls well short of the intent of Visa Waiver Program participation and provides clear ground for rejection.

In 2013, ADC and other American Arab and Muslim rights organizations defeated an attempt in the U.S. Senate that would have permitted Israel to join the Visa Waiver Program while keeping its discriminatory and restrictive immigration policies.

June 17, 2021
One People, Segregated IDs Premiere

12:30 pm Central

Join Rabet for the premiere of our latest documentary, “One People, Segregated IDs”.
Learn more about how Israel’s apartheid policies, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, segregate Palestinians based on their ethno-national identity, issuing different types of IDs for Palestinians depending on their location, each with varying freedoms and rights.

The event will include a panel dicussion as well as a live stream of the documentary, followed by a Q&A session on the ways in which the tiered ID system segregates Palestinians and impacts their basic human rights.

We will be joined by the following speakers:
Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director, Human Rights Watch (HRW)
Maha Abdallah, International Advocacy Officer, The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)

Moderated by:
Mayss Al Alami, Research and Advocacy, the Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy (PIPD)

For more information and to attend please register here.

Life Under Occupation: The Misery at the Heart of the Conflict

An eviction in East Jerusalem lies at the center of a conflict that led to war between Israel and Hamas. But for millions of Palestinians, the routine indignities of occupation are part of daily life.


Israeli soldiers firing tear gas towards Palestinian protesters in the town of Kfar Qaddum. Samar Hazboun for The New York Times

David M. Halbfinger and Adam Rasgon, The New York Times, May 22, 2021

JERUSALEM — Muhammad Sandouka built his home in the shadow of the Temple Mount before his second son, now 15, was born.

They demolished it together, after Israeli authorities decided that razing it would improve views of the Old City for tourists.

Mr. Sandouka, 42, a countertop installer, had been at work when an inspector confronted his wife with two options: Tear the house down, or the government would not only level it but also bill the Sandoukas $10,000 for its expenses.

Such is life for Palestinians living under Israel’s occupation: always dreading the knock at the front door.

The looming removal of six Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem set off a round of protests that helped ignite the latest war between Israel and Gaza. But to the roughly three million Palestinians living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 war and has controlled through decades of failed peace talks, the story was exceptional only because it attracted an international spotlight.

For the most part, they endure the frights and indignities of the Israeli occupation in obscurity.

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Progressive U.S. Lawmaker: ‘We Need to Be Able to See What’s Happening in Gaza’

Wisconsin Democrat Rep. Mark Pocan tells Americans for Peace Now that Israeli policies funded by U.S. tax dollars form an obstacle to realizing the two-state solution


Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) at a conference in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2017. Credit: CHRISTOPHER ALUKA BERRY/REUTERS

Ben Samuels, Haaretz, Apr. 22, 2021

WASHINGTON – Rep. Mark Pocan, one of the most vocal supporters of Palestinian rights in Congress, called on the Israeli government on Wednesday to immediately allow U.S. lawmakers entry into the Gaza

WASHINGTON – Rep. Mark Pocan, one of the most vocal supporters of Palestinian rights in Congress, called on the Israeli government on Wednesday to immediately allow U.S. lawmakers entry into the Gaza Strip.

The Wisconsin Democrat told a webinar for Americans for Peace Now, a nonprofit whose stated aim is to help find a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that he is particularly concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Strip. He described the coastal enclave as an “open-air prison,” and lamented the conditions he says are radicalizing Gazan residents.

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February 13, 2021
Love in the Time of Apartheid

10:00 am CST

 

How will many Palestinians be spending their Valentine’s Day?

For a lot of us in the UK, Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate love and romance; to show our affection through gifts, cards, and flowers. Or we may choose to avoid the hyper-consumerism in the Hallmark holiday, shun the ritualistic exchange of commodities, and simply spend time with those we hold dear.

For Palestinians, however, February 14th comes as a reminder of Israel’s suffocating restrictions on their movement, cutting them off from their loved ones. A coercive matrix of ID cards, blockades, borders and prisons means many Palestinians are separated from their Valentines, simply because they are Palestinian, and live under a discriminatory system of rule amounting to the crime of apartheid.

For those living under Israel’s brutal military occupation of their land, even the act of buying a gift is fraught with difficulty. Segregated roads, soldiers and checkpoints can make going to the shop a difficult affair.

Don’t miss this fascinating free online talk and film screening to learn more about how many Palestinians will be spending Valentine’s Day. We’ll be joined by Palestinian journalist and filmmaker Elia Ghorbiah, as well as more speakers to be announced.

Film: The Present by Farah Nabulsi (2020, 24′) 
Yusef and his daughter, Yasmine, set out in the West Bank to buy his wife a gift. Between the soldiers, segregated roads and checkpoints, how easy would it be to go shopping?

Register here to join us on Saturday 13th February, 10 am Central!

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July 27, 2020
Pandemic and the Creative Response

JULY 27
Pandemic and the Creative Response: How can art pave the way for justice?

In recent weeks, we’ve witnessed a global cry for justice in face of systemic racism. How can art be a catalyst for social change? We’ll hear from students and faculty of Dar al-Kalima as they share how art provides a social justice lens in which to critically reflect on reality while imagining new futures. Learn how the students are navigating the unique challenges and opportunities of a pandemic learning environment.

Join our Bright Stars team and friends in Palestine for a Virtual Summer Series: Palestine During Double Lockdown.

The series title, taken from Rev. Dr. Raheb’s latest book, speaks to the additional layer of oppression that the pandemic has inflicted on Palestinians. Hear from Bright Stars co-founder and Dar al-Kalima University President, Mitri Raheb alongside students, faculty, and scholars from the university.

We’ll be highlighting how our friends in Palestine are unlocking hope amidst this “double lockdown.”

Limited space available. Registration required. Free. For more information and to register, visit Bright Stars of Bethlehem.

Palestinian Scholar Noura Erakat: Israeli Forces Killed My Cousin on His Sister’s Wedding Day

Democracy Now!, JUNE 24, 2020

Israeli soldiers on Tuesday killed 27-year-old Ahmed Erekat at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank as he was on his way to pick up his sister, who was set to be married that night. Ahmed Erekat is the nephew of senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and cousin of Palestinian American legal scholar Noura Erakat, who says Israeli claims that Ahmed was attempting a car-ramming attack on soldiers are completely unfounded. “What we understand is that Ahmed lost control of his car or was confused while he was in his car. That was all it took to have a knee-jerk reaction … and immediately to cause the soldiers to open fire on him multiple times,” she says.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to begin today in Israel and the West Bank. Israeli officers on Tuesday shot dead a Palestinian man at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank as he was on his way to pick up his sister, who was set to be married last night. A warning to our viewers: This story contains graphic footage. The video from the scene shows 27-year-old Ahmed Erekat bleeding, but still alive on the street where he was shot. He’s the nephew of senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, who said his nephew was, quote, “murdered in cold blood,” and wrote in a tweet that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is responsible for his death.

Ahmed Erekat’s family said he was killed while on his way to a beauty salon to pick up his sister and his mother, but Israeli authorities claim he tried to run over an officer at a checkpoint in the Palestinian village of Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem. His family rejects the allegations, is calling for Israeli authorities to release security footage. Ahmed himself was also due to be married soon.

His killing comes nearly a month after another Palestinian man was killed in similar circumstances near Ramallah, also in the West Bank, and as Netanyahu plans to start annexing nearly a third of the occupied West Bank next month.

For more, we’re joined by Ahmed Erekat’s cousin, Noura Erakat, who’s a Palestinian human rights attorney and legal scholar, assistant professor at Rutgers University, author of Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine.

Noura, our condolences to you and your family. This is such a terrible time for you. We so deeply appreciate you’re able to join us. This is just hours after your cousin was killed. Can you describe the circumstances under which you understand he died?

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Coronavirus Is a Death Sentence for Palestinians Caged in Gaza

Even a small outbreak among Gaza’s densely-packed, blockaded population would put an impossible strain on a healthcare system already teetering on the verge of collapse


A man, wearing a mask against coronavirus infection, looks through a fence as he waits for Palestinians returning from abroad. Gaza’s Rafah border crossing with Egypt. March 8, 2020. (IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS)

Shannon Maree Torrens, Haaretz, Mar 12, 2020

Imagine two million human beings living in the space of just 365 square kilometers. One of the most densely populated places on Planet Earth, confined in a cage from which they cannot escape. These two million people cannot leave, even if they wanted to, without great difficulty.

They must live their lives within the confines of this rapidly deteriorating area of land, some persisting in the hope that one day things may change, but many surviving with the realization and resignation that they very well may not. No matter their degree of optimism or pessimism, all are isolated from the rest of the world. We call this place the Gaza Strip, and it has been under blockade by Israel since 2007.

It is now March 2020. The novel coronavirus, has become an issue of global concern. The disease it causes, COVID-19, has spread far from its origins in China. In a short space of time, coronavirus is seemingly everywhere. It moves as frequently as the planes and people who spread it back and forth across the world.

As of 11 March, more than 118,000 people have been infected globally, almost 4,300 people have died and at least 114 countries/territories and areas are affected. The world buys masks and hand sanitizer. The World Health Organisation classifies novel coronavirus as a pandemic. People stock up on food. "What will happen to us?" the world says. "What if we get sick?"

And what of the people who live in the cage of Gaza? What will happen to them? 

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Strangers in Our Homeland


MK Aida Touma-Sliman, January 15th, 2019. Photo: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk via Flickr

Aida Touma-Sliman, JewishCurrents, February 6, 2020

LAST WEEK, Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu announced a deal that is intended to determine the future of the Palestinian people, without a single Palestinian present in the room or involved in the consultation process. They unveiled the plan in the midst of Trump’s impeachment trial and on the same day that Netanyahu was indicted for corruption. Like a group of men deliberating women’s reproductive freedoms, the Americans and Israelis who drafted the plan intend to unilaterally decide the fate of Palestinians, our land, and our fundamental rights. The plan’s total erasure of Palestinian voices and blatant denial of these rights lays bare the real intentions of the Trump and Netanyahu administrations.

Just as importantly, the past week clarifies the positions of so-called moderates—from US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Israel’s Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White Party—who have either barely protested or outright endorsed the plan. While it is no secret that the US and Israel have always rendered Palestinian narratives, demands, and aspirations secondary, centrist acquiescence to Trump’s plan suggests that the “deal of the century” is the logical culmination of a long-held vision of an apartheid Palestinian pseudo-state, bereft of meaningful sovereignty or self-determination. 

Trump and Netanyahu have inherited this vision and added their typical vulgarity. Their plan would enshrine Jewish supremacy in all of Israel and historic Palestine, annexing Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank, the Jordan Valley, and East Jerusalem, while leaving Palestinians in the occupied territories with a patchwork of isolated ghettos surrounded by walls and military checkpoints. Israeli law would be applied in all settlements, which violate international law and numerous UN resolutions. Israel would retain sovereign control over the air and sea, as well as absolute “security” control in the entire territory west of the Jordan River. Jerusalem, including occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem and its holy sites, will remain entirely in Israeli hands. And Palestinian refugees will be categorically denied their right to return to the land from which they were expelled by Israel because they were not Jewish. 

The plan would also have dire consequences for Palestinian citizens of Israel, many of whom would probably be stripped of their citizenship and transferred to the new Palestinian “state” under the plan’s proposed land swaps. To those ends, Israel’s Tourism Minister, Yariv Levin, has already raised the specter of de-nationalizating Israel’s Palestinian citizens, who make up about 20% of the population, or about 1.8 million people. Many people in this category would likely lose the ability to travel within most of historic Palestine and be subject to the same restrictions, including on movement, imposed on citizens of the new Palestinian “state.” 

As a Palestinian citizen of Israel myself, I have been treated with suspicion and as a threat by the government for my whole life, a fifth column in my own homeland. Will I now be told to move to the new Palestine, or remain and accept permanent second- or third-class Israeli citizenship? We already face dozens of laws that discriminate against us—including the so-called “Jewish nation-state” law, which has effectively made segregation official national policy—because we are not Jewish. With Trump’s plan, Israel’s claim to being a liberal democracy that values human rights has been discredited once and for all.

Trump and Netanyahu’s plan, then, is outrageously unapologetic in its denial of Palestinian rights and its whitewashing of Israeli colonization. In key respects, however, it does not represent a radical break with the many previous plans proposed over the past several decades—by both Democrats and Republicans, by Israel’s Labor and Likud—to “grant” Palestinians nominally autonomous, discontiguous parcels of land surrounded by Israeli settlements and under the control of the Israeli military, and to pass off these bantustans as an independent state. As far back as 1978, Prime Minister Menachem Begin proposed granting Palestinians a limited “autonomy” or home rule in scraps of the occupied Palestinian territories in an attempt to quash Palestinian demands for independence. The 1993 Oslo Accords offered Palestinians limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, while allowing unfettered Israeli settlement expansion—with the number of Israeli settlers more than tripling since the signing of the peace agreement. 

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