In March of 2013 JVP began working on a campaign to challenge AIPAC’s top priority legislation, the US Israel Strategic Partnership Act. The legislation included a provision that would have admitted Israel into the Visa Waiver Program, a program of the U.S. Department of State that allows citizens of selected countries to visit the United States for a three month period without first obtaining a visa, in exchange for reciprocal entry privileges for U.S. citizens.
Yet, there are countless stories of discrimination of American citizens of Arab and Muslim background forced to undergo humiliation and clearly unnecessary search when visiting Israel. One Palestinian American woman who lives with cerebral palsy was first strip searched and then denied access to her anti-nausea medication and menstrual products when she attempted to exit Israel. She reports both vomiting and menstruating on herself during the grueling twelve-hour flight to New York.
Another Palestinian American woman was detained for eight hours and then forced to show Israeli officials her private e-mail account before she was denied entry. When she contacted the State Department, they told her they could not help her fight the denial because she is not Jewish.
This ongoing discrimination and mistreatment of Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans visiting Israel led JVP to work with coalition partners on a campaign to stop the legislation.
We insisted that as American Jews, we believe all U.S. citizens should be treated with respect and dignity when they travel to any country upon which our government bestows special privileges.
Through call-in days, meetings with legislators, briefings on Capitol Hill, and op-eds, we succeeded in changing the language of the legislation to bar Israel from entering the program so long as it continues to discriminate.
American Muslims for Palestine
US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
American Friends Service Committee
Friends Committee on National Legislation
National Lawyers Guild International Committee
Christian Peacemaker Teams