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Take Action as AIPAC Seeks to Codify Discrimination Against U.S. Citizens

by Mike Coogan, Legislative Coordinator
May 17th, 2013

Tell Your Senators to Uphold Equality, Not Codify Israel's Discriminatory Policies

Yesterday we delivered an open letter signed by more than 50 organizations to U.S. Senators urging them to oppose legislation that would legalize Israel's discrimination against U.S. citizens. 

Today, we need you to write and call your Senators to let them know that you oppose Israel's discrimination against Palestinians and U.S. travelers, and support the open letter delivered to their offices on May 16th. 

The United States-Israel Strategic partnership Act (S. 462) not only designates Israel 'a major strategic partner,' section nine of this legislation proposes to include Israel in the Visa Waiver Program while exempting it from the requirement to extend reciprocal privileges to all citizens and nationals of the United States.  The exemption would allow Israel to arbitrarily deny entrance to U.S. citizens under the rubric of national security, effectively importing Israel's apartheid laws into the U.S. immigration system. 

Israel has a history of discriminating against Palestinian-, Arab-, and Muslim-American travelers and denying them entry. According to the U.S. State Department Travel Advisory for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza : "U.S. citizens are advised that all persons entering or departing...are subject to security screening and may be denied entry or exit without explanation... Those with extensive travel to Muslim countries or U.S. citizens whom Israeli authorities suspect of being of Arab, Middle Eastern, or Muslim origin may also face additional questioning by immigration and border authorities..." 

Let your Senators know this bill will essentially render some Americans second class citizens and ask that they publicly oppose S. 462.   

Pressure is growing on Senators to either oppose the bill or withdraw their sponsorship.  A number of national groups have also come out against the legislation including the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Jewish Voice for Peace, Arab American Institute, and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. 

Media outlets across the country have been picking up the story, including in San Francisco Chronicle,  Los Angeles Times, The Hill, The Baltimore Sun, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Daily Beast, and Mondoweiss. In addition to contacting your Senators, please add your voice to the groundswell of opposition and send an op-ed or letter to the editor to your local paper encouraging your members of Congress to oppose this legislation (be sure to include your Senators name so your letter or op-ed appears in their press clips). 

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., echoed our concerns about this proposed bill: “American citizens deserve to travel without fear of being turned away based on their race, religion, or countries they have visited. Denying law-abiding citizens does nothing to advance understanding between countries or the cause of peace."

Tell your Senators to publicly oppose any legislation that would discriminate on the basis of race, religion, or the rightful exercise of free speech.

Your calls, emails, and media activism are critical in our effort to ensure that Congress does not bestow legitimacy on Israel's apartheid policies.   

So please take a few minutes to either thank your Senator for not co-sponsoring this legislation and ask them to publicly oppose it, or let them know that you would like them to withdraw their co-sponsorship.

PS - We're sure you have heard the exciting news that Stephen Hawking recently decided to pull out of a conference hosted by the Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem in support of the Palestinian call for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS).  Do you want to know more about the academic and cultural boycott of Israel? RSVP here for a briefing on Sunday, May 19 at 4pm EST/1pm PST!