October 2, 2023
From Popular Resistance

Above photo: President Joe Biden meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York, Sept. 20, 2023. Susan Walsh / AP.

The Biden administration just handed the racist war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu another personal political victory in the way of the visa waiver program. As people speculate whether or not relations between the apartheid state and the United States are strained and whether or not Biden and Netanyahu will meet in the White House, Biden just handed Netanyahu another priceless gift.

The Visa Waiver is almost as big a political gift to Netanyahu as was the Trump announcement recognizing the occupation of the city of Jerusalem by the apartheid state as the legitimate capital of Israel. It is as though the Republicans and the Democrats are competing with each other as to who will be a better, stronger enabler of crimes against the Palestinian people.

Reprehensible Treatment

The treatment of Palestinians by Israeli officials at the various border crossings is inexcusably reprehensible by any standard. Even Palestinians who hold a U.S. or other foreign passport never know how long they will be held, what humiliations they will face and whether or not they will be permitted to enter their ancestral homeland. This unacceptable treatment of Palestinians was recently given a reward. This reward was described as “Israeli citizens have joined an exclusive club that allows visa-free entry to the U.S.” Israelis know that they have one man to thank for this: Benjamin Netanyahu.

Ben-Gurion Airport, which sits on lands stolen from the occupied Palestinian city of Lyd, is racist. The officials who work at the airport, who might be compared to TSA employees in U.S. airports, are agents of the Israeli intelligence agencies. They have two main objectives: First, to welcome Israelis and Zionist Jews who come to visit and second, to make life hell for anyone else who attempts to enter the country.

The abusive treatment is used mostly for those of Palestinian descent but not exclusively. If the officials suspect a person might have pro-Palestinian sentiments, they will administer similar abuse.

Senator’s Letter

A letter dated September 8, 2023, was sent to U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken by a group of fifteen U.S. senators. The letter states, “Israel is not in compliance with this law as it relates to reciprocal treatment for all U.S. citizens and is not on track to come into compliance before the September 30, 2023 deadline.” The senators continue to say that, according to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the government of Israel, “it envisions that the program would be launched with a two-tiered system that discriminates between different groups of U.S. citizens.” The two-tiered system violates the reciprocity requirements of the law.

The senators further expressed concerns that during a July 26, 2023 briefing, “the representative from the Department of Homeland Security indicated that next fiscal year Israel may not meet another factor required for entry into the Visa Waiver Program.”  This factor is crucial: “the requirement that the Non-Immigrant Visa refusal rate be below the three percent threshold.” In other words, the percentage of Israeli citizens now refused a visa is higher than three percent, disqualifying Israel from the Visa Waiver program.

The senator’s letter points out “inconsistencies between the language in the MOU and the Government of Israel’s guidance.” The MOU states that “All U.S. citizens and nationals traveling with a U.S. passport (hereinafter “U.S. citizens”) are to be recognized by Israel as U.S. citizens,” the guidance published the same day on the Israeli Population and Immigration Authority website states that visa waiver travel “does not include U.S. citizens whose documents identify them as residents of the Gaza Strip.”

Entry is not the only problem Palestinians with a U.S. passport face. Again, in the letter to Blinken, the senators state, “We have already received reports that U.S. citizens with Palestinian ID cards who land at Ben Gurion Airport cannot then rent cars to travel within Israel.” Those who could rent a car were then stopped at checkpoints or were not permitted to drive across certain checkpoints within Israel.

“If the U.S. were to reciprocate,” the senators conclude, “it would mean that certain groups of Israelis like, for example, those living in settlements on the West Bank, would not be permitted to rent cars upon arrival in the United States, or would be otherwise given different treatment.”

No Surprise At All

If anyone is surprised that Israel was once again treated favorably by a U.S. administration, they need to wake up. U.S. administrations treat Israel with deference even when it means ignoring – not to say blatantly violating – U.S. and international law. With all the criticism of the Netanyahu government, President Biden has just given him a personal political victory, and once again, there is no reciprocity. The United States government and the citizens of the United States have nothing to gain from this. It is purely for the benefit and satisfaction of Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israeli citizens who wish to travel to the U.S..

Israel is an apartheid state which commits horrendous crimes regularly. Palestinians who hold United States citizenship get no benefit – or, for that matter, protection – from their U.S. citizenship. Rather than demand U.S. citizens receive fair and decent treatment by Israel, the Biden administration added yet another award to the government leader of apartheid Israel.

Source: Popularresistance.org