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The U.S. Government Wanted to Know: Am I Jewish?

by Sandra Tamari, St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee
June 15th, 2012

Take Action to End U.S. and Israeli Discrimination against U.S. Citizens

My name is Sandra Tamari.  I am active with the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee, a member group of the US Campaign. I’ve attended previous national organizers’ conferences of the US Campaign, and I’m looking forward to seeing you in my home city of St. Louis for the US Campaign’s next annual conference, September 21-23.

As you may have heard when my story broke in media around the world, Israel detained me last month as I tried to enter through the Tel Aviv airport on an interfaith trip and for my cousin's wedding. As any U.S. citizen would, I called the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv for help.  

I was shocked when the first question the embassy staffer asked me is: "Are you Jewish?"

When I told him that I am a Palestinian with family in the West Bank, he told me that there was nothing he could do to help me and that if he interceded on my behalf, then things would get worse for me.

So, I endured eight hours of interrogation by Israeli Shin Bet officials who accused me of being a terrorist because I would not surrender my privacy rights by giving them access to my personal email account.

I was forced to stay overnight in a prison and was then deported back to the United States.

I’m coming to Washington, DC on June 26 to let the State Department know that it cannot discriminate against U.S. citizens based on their religion or ethnic background. I know that you share the belief that the treatment I received from my government is patently unacceptable. Will you sign this petition to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to let her know your feelings?  

Help me reach my goal of delivering 20,000 signatures to the State Department on June 26 by signing today!

Sadly, my case is far from unique.  Israel often denies Palestinian-Americans entry.  Many Palestinians have come forward recently to share their ordeals in trying to enter the country.  The organization Right to Enter documents these incidents.  Anyone who has suffered this treatment can report her/his story here.

Not only are Palestinian-Americans targeted for denial of entry by Israel. Israel engages in systematic profiling of Arab- and Muslim-Americans too, and frequently deports anyone who seeks to visit, or show solidarity with, Palestinians.

The most shameful part of my story is that the U.S. State Department did absolutely nothing to help a U.S. citizen in distress and has adopted the same racial, ethnic and religious profiling that Israel employs.

Recently, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano unbelievably praised Israel’s discriminatory airport policies! “Israel has perfected a system that works very well there,” she said. “They do a terrific job.” This is simply wrong.

Sign our petition to the State Department right now, telling them that it is "unacceptable for the U.S. Embassy to engage in such blatant discrimination. We demand that the Department of State issue clear guidelines to its embassy in Tel Aviv and consulate in Jerusalem that embassy employees are to respond immediately to all requests for assistance from U.S. citizens irrespective of their religion or ethnicity."

Thank you for doing your part to help me deliver 20,000 signatures to the State Department demanding that the United States put an end to systematic discrimination against U.S. citizens by it and Israel. 


Sandra Tamari
St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee