Posted by on July 26, 2013 in Blog

By: Margaret Lowry
Summer 2013 Intern

Here at AAI we have been working to call attention to proposed legislation in Congress that would extend visa waivers to Israel including the “United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013,” proposed by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA)’s “Visa Waiver for Israel Act.” The language in these bills would allow Israel to continue their discriminatory practices against Americans - especially those of Arab descent, and American Muslims.

The Palestine Center featured a discussion on the visa waiver bills this week with their event “Failed Attempts to Return Home: Discrimination Against Palestinian-Americans at the Israeli Border.” The panel, part of their intern organized summer lecture series on “Exile and the Palestinian Consciousness” featured Nour Joudah and Sandra Tamari as they discussed their own experiences with discrimination and denial of entry at Israeli borders. Their stories are also featured in our growing collection of narratives, “Snapshots: American Citizens Discriminated Against at the Israeli Border.”

Despite publicity surrounding her case, the panel was Nour’s first time telling her story in public. While a teacher at the Friends School in Ramallah she was stopped at the border, interrogated, detained, and eventually denied entry twice despite coordination with her Congresswoman and a valid visa issued through USAID.

She emphasized the importance of act of sharing stories of denial of entry into Israel as a way of spreading awareness of exile and injustice. Nour expressed the need to treat exile in the same manner as the Nakba, by discussing it as an ongoing event. “Our passports didn’t wipe our exile away” she told the audience, noting that each denial of entry acted as an “affirmation of exile.” Nour encouraged the audience to share these concrete instances of exile on a personal level, stressing the importance of working within local communities.

Sandra’s story is similar to Nour’s. She was entering Israel with a delegation when she was pulled aside, interrogated for 8 hours, deemed a security threat, and put on a plane home with no way of informing her family of her whereabouts. Sandra joined Nour in her resolve to tell her experience as a way of spreading awareness and understanding of exile and discrimination. “The act of telling stories has spurred more action,” she told the audience. Facts can be debated but “[they] can’t challenge your personal history.”

Nour and Sandra both stressed the need to continue the conversation about the discrimination faced by Americans face at Israeli borders. By speaking publicly about their experiences, both women are adding to the growing evidence of Israel’s failure to respect the rights of American citizens; a failure that would be deemed acceptable by our government should it choose to grant visa waivers to Israel. If you, like Nour and Sandra, are an American citizen who have been harassed, detained, or deported when attempting to enter Israel or Palestine you can report your experience here. To continue the dialogue and take action against the discrimination faced by American citizens tell your member of Congress to oppose the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013 and the Visa Waiver for Israel Act.

 

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