A couple of days ago, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations scheduled mark-up for the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013 for Tuesday, May 20th. This legislation includes a Visa Waiver provision that would codify rather than challenge Israel’s discriminatory policies towards U.S. citizens at Israeli-controlled borders.
On Wednesday, May 21st, a day after the Senate has now scheduled to mark-up the legislation, a coalition of organizations has organized a Capitol Hill briefing to examine and challenge Israel’s discriminatory policies. This briefing will include testimonies of entry denial from Sandra Tamari and I, as well as speakers discussing the history and policy of Israeli discrimination at borders.
Members of Congress and Israeli officials alike have denied that any such discrimination exists. And the concern is that they will try to pass the legislation on Tuesday right out of committee, without debate and without any admission of what actually happens at Israeli borders.
If this legislation passes in its current form, it would reward Israel with entry into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, allowing Israeli citizens to come and go to the United States as they please while American citizens are denied entry arbitrarily, and often, on the basis of religious, racial, or political affiliation.
We know that stories of discrimination and entry denials at Israeli borders are many. I am writing today to ask you to share your story.
I wrote once that “Owning our stories, inserting our voices into the larger narrative, is not simply about strengthening the vastness of the library of stories…. In the process of finding the words we want to contribute, we are also empowered to speak. Yes, we speak out against the injustices we endure and witness, but much more importantly, we speak to each other. And when we do that, we feed an immense potential for empowering one another’s actions, as well as voices.”
This is one of those times.
The press that has been created against Israel’s inclusion in the visa waiver program, as well as Israel’s despicable treatment of travelers that has been put on public display in Op-Eds and news pieces has been largely due to your willingness to raise your voices.
I am asking you now to contribute to the testimonies that will be provided in the briefing on Wednesday, as well as efforts to pressure debate on Tuesday.
If you are an American citizen, please write in the comments section below, and share either an instance of discrimination, delay, harassment, or denial at an Israeli border.
Thank you for your time and for your voice,