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Tuesday June 05, 2012

Treatment of Arab Americans on Israel’s Borders Becomes More Invasive

Posted by Omar Baddar at 11:23 am

For several decades, the Arab American community has faced discrimination and invasive searches by Israeli authorities upon attempting to enter Israel or the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Nearly 3 years ago, the Arab American Institute (AAI) wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton complaining about the treatment of Arab Americans by Israeli border authorities. In that letter, we recounted the following:

Documented cases from the past eight months describe: Arab Americans trapped in Gaza and prohibited from exiting into Israel; American-born Palestinians forced to surrender their U.S. passports on entry and receive, against their will, a Palestinian ID document; numerous reports from American-born U.S. citizens of Palestinian descent or Arab heritage being singled out for prolonged questioning on entry and departure, and burdensome and discriminatory visa requirements imposed upon Palestinian Americans severely impacting their families and businesses.

As if all of this was not bad enough, Israel is now forcing many Arab Americans to open up their emails so security can go through their messages and chats. When 42-year-old Palestinian American Sandra Tamari refused to log into her Gmail to let Israeli border police go through it, she was expelled from the country.

How does the U.S. government deal with such treatment of Americans? Instead of aggressively defending its citizens’ right to travel without facing ethnic discrimination or invasive measures by allies, it has chosen to play nice with the Israeli government while cautioning its own citizens that:

U.S. citizens with Arabic or Muslim names, those born in Muslim or Middle Eastern countries, those who have been involved in missionary or activist activity, those who ask that Israeli stamps not be entered into their passport, and other U.S. citizen travelers have been delayed and subjected to close scrutiny by Israeli border authorities.

This is really not good enough. Americans of Arab descent are no less entitled to the protections of American citizenship than other Americans. The U.S. government has a serious responsibility here to tell Israel, a country that draws unprecedented (indeed, too much) military aid and diplomatic support from the U.S., that they must treat our citizens with respect.

Of course, once the mistreatment of one group is acquiesced to, mistreatment of other groups is tacitly encouraged. If you haven’t noticed signs of this, consider the strip-searching of Dan Rather’s camera crew, the “blatant cruelty” that a pregnant New York Times journalist faced, and countless other examples. This is the time for all Americans to demand a stronger position from our government on this.

Tagged as Issues, Palestine, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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