This is an issue of small significance compared to the revelation of our government’s massive surveillance programs and the administration’s Gestapo approach to dealing with informants, but it is symptomatic of our lopsided and self-destructive support for Israel. And you are hardly likely to hear about this in the mainstream media.
Congress is now considering two bills (S. 462 and H.R. 938), which are both versions of the United States-Israel Strategic Partner Act of 2013. Though the US and Israel have been joined at the hip for forty years, Congress continually passes bills such as these in order to fine tune the relationship, which is to say, add more clauses. These are inevitably in favor of Israel, often to the detriment of Americans, and some are simply baffling. For example, last year Congress passed the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Act of 2012, which commits the US to “the security of the state of Israel as a Jewish state.” What does that mean? How (and why) are we to guarantee the cultural make-up of a foreign society? What exactly does “Jewish state” mean anyway, when twenty percent of Israel’s citizen body is not Jewish?
This new partnership act includes a visa waiver agreement with Israel. The Visa Waiver Program permits the US and a foreign country (currently thirty-seven of them) to allow their citizens to visit one another for up to ninety days without a visa. This is of course an excellent arrangement for friendly nations, but not surprisingly the agreement with Israel will contain a provision absent from previous agreements: Israel will retain the right, not extended to the US, to deny entry to any American citizen without explanation. Apart from being blatantly unfair and insulting to Americans (who were not consulted about this), this provision is a humiliation for America.
Israel’s history of hassling visitors and denying many access to Israel or the Occupied Territories, often seemingly capriciously or for incomprehensible reasons, is so rich that the Department of State felt compelled to post a travel advisory on its website: “U.S. citizens are advised that all persons applying for entry to Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza…may be denied entry or exit without explanation.” One would think that this essentially guts the agreement as far as Americans are concerned, but nothing is impossible in the Alice-in-Wonderland world of our relationship with Israel. And the advisory specifically notes that “U.S. citizens whom Israeli authorities suspect of being Arab, Middle Eastern, or Muslim origin may face additional, often time-consuming, and probing questioning by immigration and border authorities, or may be denied entry.”
Indeed! Negroes and Irish need not apply. This sort of blatant profiling and discrimination is technically illegal in America and counter to our stated values, but one might argue that given Israel’s experience with Palestinian terrorism, it is a perfectly sensible policy. Perhaps, if the profiling actually only dealt with reasonable suspicion of a threat, but example after example demonstrates that this is quite obviously not the case. If there is even the vaguest suspicion that you are pro-Palestinian or a critic of Israel, that you work for an NGO that has been critical of Israel or that you have simply visited a country hostile to Israel, you will be hassled and possible thrown out. That this sort of thing really does happen is clear from the State Department advisory, since the statement must necessarily be an implicit criticism of Israel, something that is normally a mortal sin for the US government.
Here is a particularly obnoxious though typical example. Nour Joudah, a US citizen, began teaching high school in the West Bank town of Ramallah last year; she had a one year multiple entry visa and a residency permit. After one semester she took a vacation out of the country, and when she returned in January via the Allenby Bridge from Jordan, she was held up for six hours and then denied entry with no explanation. Acting on the advice of the Israeli embassy in Washington, she tried again through Ben Gurion airport. This time she was interrogated for hours, strip searched, taken to a detention center and deported back to Jordan the next day. A surprisingly frank call from the US Consulate in Jerusalem informed her that nothing could be done to help “when it comes to Israel.”
There are endless stories similar to this, and I also experienced this petty behavior, though on a much smaller scale. In 1991 I entered Israel through the Ben Gurion airport and made the mistake of accompanying my travel companion to the same customs station. He was a Black from Cincinnati who had converted to Islam and adopted the very unlikely name of Herb Mohammed. When the official saw Mohammed on his passport, she asked me if I was with him, to which I said yes. We were then both sent to a room occupied by what looked like the Israeli military, who took our passports. After cooling our heels for an hour or so we were given our passports and dismissed without a word of explanation. Trivial perhaps, but common – and insulting, especially for a citizen of a country that is sending Israel, a very wealthy state for its size, a few billion dollars every year. Incidentally, when I left Israel on El Al, I received the most thorough search I have ever experienced, and I had crossed frontiers in the Warsaw Pact curing the Cold War.
Why are our national politicians so willing to do this sort of thing? Can you imagine this arrangement being proposed for any other country? Are they afraid to be called anti-Semites? Do they believe in some Jewish international financial cabal that will finance their campaigns? It must be some sort of fear thing, since it is very hard to believe that virtually all our national politicians are so enamored of Israel, a state that frequently spits in our face and violates almost as many international agreements as the Third Reich, that they would continually adopt positions that are actually detrimental to the US. Apparently the powerful Zionist lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, looms over the frightened gentiles in Congress like some Lord of Hosts, ready to smite those who will not do Their will.
Actually, the Christian extremists perhaps have a positive reason: watch over Israel and lobby for the third temple, which would bring on the End of Times they desire so much. Then those pesky Jews will either become good Christians or be slaughtered. Meanwhile, better that Jews should live in Israel instead of their neighborhoods.