Statement: The Biden Administration Must Remove Israel from the Visa Waiver Program

Black and white protest graphic reading "STATEMENT: The Biden administration must remove Israel from the Visa Waiver Program," with USCPR logo

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WASHINGTON, DC, SEPTEMBER 27, 2023—Since the beginning of the process to admit Israel into the Visa Waiver Program, the Israeli government has continuously violated the rights of U.S. citizens while acting with impunity. Israel’s human rights violations have included murdering two U.S. citizens (Shireen Abu Akleh and Omar Assad), discriminating against U.S. citizens based on their identity, and maintaining dozens of laws that deny equal treatment and full reciprocity to millions of Palestinian people under Israeli military occupation and U.S. citizens from several racial, ethnic, and religious identities.

“We learned from the civil rights movement the fallacy of ‘separate but equal,’” said Ahmad Abuznaid, Executive Director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR). “Today we are obligated to reject Israel’s inclusion into the Visa Waiver Program because separate is never equal. Palestinian Americans’ tax dollars are just as green, our passports are just as blue, and our rights are just as precious as any other American.”

“My family has been discriminated against each time we’ve tried to cross into apartheid Israel to visit our Palestinian homeland,” said Iman Abid, USCPR Organizing & Advocacy Director. “My mother was most recently held at the Israeli airport for eight hours for interrogation, only to deny her boarding. I was also held at the airport for 10+ hours to be interrogated, shamed, and name-called by Israeli soldiers for simply being Palestinian.”

The U.S. government is providing more resources and privileges to an occupying power that consistently violates the rights of U.S. citizens, sells arms and other capabilities to authoritarian nations like Azerbaijan and Myanmar responsible for acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing, and commits atrocities against Palestinians.

“The Biden Administration’s designation of Israel to be admitted into the Visa Waiver Program is a heinous lapse of oversight that relegates U.S. law below Israeli law and exchanges the rights of U.S. citizens for closer ties with an apartheid state that arms authoritarian governments abroad,” said Mohammed Khader, Manager of Policy and Advocacy Campaigns for the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights. “Lawmakers must ensure all snapback measures are triggered toward Israel, as it continues to show a clear and consistent pattern of unequal treatment of U.S. citizens in violation of U.S. law.”

The Biden Administration’s decision to admit Israel into the Visa Waiver Program without fully demonstrating compliance or eligibility was performed in an accelerated period, inconsistent with the Administrative Procedures Act and without appropriate oversight from Congress. This shameful decision emboldens Israel’s institution of apartheid and decades-long military occupation. USCPR urges the Biden Administration to remove Israel from the Visa Waiver Program, and for lawmakers to hold the administration accountable based on relevant precedents.

About the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights

The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR) is a national network of activists and organizations who are committed to freedom, justice, and equality for the Palestinian people and who work to end U.S. complicity in their oppression. USCPR is a political home for all who believe that freedom for the Palestinian people is an integral part of achieving our collective liberation. USCPR provides resources and strategic support to the U.S.-based Palestine solidarity movement, channeling grassroots power into positive change in U.S. policy and public opinion. USCPR works with local organizers and activists, policymakers, movement leaders, media, and advocacy organizations to advance a rights-based, accountability and justice-oriented framework from the U.S. to Palestine.

READ MORE: “Civil Society Organizations United in Opposition to Israel’s Admission into the Visa Waiver Program”