Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Blog
In a video released this week by the Institute for Palestine Studies, Arab American Institute founder Jim Zogby sits down with Sandra Tamari, a Palestinian American activist recently detained at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, and host Cléa Thouin to discuss Israeli policy towards Arab Americans at the border and American reactions to those policies. As Jim explains, Arab Americans have long faced more intense scrutiny from Israeli border guards than other Americans. Ms. Tamari offered an example of this phenomenon last month, when she was detained on her way to participate in a peace conference in Israel. After seeing her name, which indicated her Palestinian heritage, Israeli border officials kept her for more than eight hours, asking her to log in to her Facebook and Gmail accounts, apparently in search of evidence of her pro-Palestinian activism. When she contacted American consular officials at the embassy in Tel Aviv, they asked if she was Jewish, implying that little could (or would) be done for an Arab American being detained by the Israeli authorities. Needless to say, this exchange raises concerns that American officials do not protect the rights of Arab Americans to the same degree as those of other citizens.
Though this problem has existed for decades, and has been raised to many policy-makers over the years, it is difficult to see a path towards equal treatment. Arab Americans need to ally themselves with other victims of profiling to build a broad coalition that will pressure American authorities into action. Fundamentally, Arab Americans have an indisputable argument: every American is entitled to the same protections when traveling abroad. A united and mobilized Arab American community can force their representatives in Congress and at the State Department to enforce these rights.