Israel Refuses to Allow Arab Americans to Come Home

Washington, D.C. – On June 4 over 40 American citizens of Palestinian origin were denied the right to leave Israel and return home to the United States. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has learned that Israeli security officials are cancelling all exit visas of U.S. citizens of Palestinian origin, and are thus keeping them in Israel against their will.
ADC President Hala Maksoud called on the State Department and the rest of the Administration to intervene immediately with Israel to stop this abuse and insist that all Americans are treated equally by Israel regardless of their ethnicity. She said that “this blatant abuse of Arab Americans, holding them in Israel against their will and in spite of advice from our government that Americans avoid being in that country, cannot be tolerated. To allow Israel to extend its systematic discrimination against Arabs and modes of collective punishment to Arab Americans, especially given the massive aid which the American tax payers provide that country is an intolerable outrage.”
These scores of Arab Americans were turned back upon their arrival to Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv as they were attempting to leave Israel and return home to the United States in accordance with a recent U.S. Travel Advisory. The Advisory states that, “The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer travel to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. The U.S. Government has indications that there is a heightened threat of terrorist incidents in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. In light of several recent terrorist bombings in Israel and continuing violence in Gaza and the West Bank, American citizens should exercise extreme caution.” The Israeli practice of discriminating against Arab Americans because of their ethnicity is contrary to international law. It also violates Israeli law, specifically Article 6(a) of the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, which states, “every person is free to get out of Israel.”
For several months ADC has been raising concerns with Secretary of State Colin Powell and the State Department about Israel’s racist treatment of American citizens of Arab origin. Numerous cases have come to light since the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising of Arab Americans being denied use of their U.S. passports and forced to obtain Palestinian travel documents in order to leave Israel and the Palestinian territories it occupies. However, the extremely large number of reports ADC received regarding this abuse of Arab Americans by Israel on June 4 suggests that such discrimination is becoming systematic and pervasive.

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