A number of pro-Palestinian Arab groups have called on the US Department of Homeland Security and State Department to suspend Israel's entry into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), until pending litigation alleging the program unlawfully discriminates against US citizens of Palestinian Arab origin is resolved.
The groups which made the call include Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) and the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).
Both these groups are plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed in the Eastern District of Michigan, that seeks an injunction against the US government's admission of Israel to the VWP.
"The US should halt implementation of the visa waiver for Israel at least until a judge reviews what we believe to be the government's arbitrary and capricious actions that enshrine Israeli apartheid in a US program," said DAWN member Adam Shapiro in a statement released on Wednesday, the day that the US government announced that Israel had been accepted to the VWP.
"Our government should not allow Israel to discriminate against Americans, regardless of their national origins," added Shapiro.
The lawsuit, brought under the Administrative Procedures Act, alleges that the DHS and the State Department took arbitrary and capricious action to redefine the Visa Waiver Program statute rule requiring reciprocal privileges for US citizens. The plaintiffs claim that the July 19, 2023 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the DHS, the State Department and the government of Israel allows Israel to offer differential treatment to US citizens based on their national or ethnic identity.
They further claim that Gaza is off-limits under the MOU, including to those with Gaza ID and family in Gaza. The lawsuit alleges that these classes effectively permit disparate and discriminatory treatment against US citizens.
"Separate can never be equal, as was determined decades ago in the fight for civil rights in this country," said Shapiro. "Forty countries participate in the VWP, and none have formal arrangements to discriminate against American citizens; only Israel has demanded and been granted this unconscionable favor by the US government."
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas presented the certificate of approval for Israel’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program.
Since signing the MOU, Israel has been going through a pilot program during which the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have been reviewing and scrutinizing the implementation of the new regulations toward Palestinian and Arab Americans by the Israeli authorities.
Under the stewardship of former US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides, Israel reached several significant milestones in the process, including helping the refusal rate for tourist visa applications to fall to below the three percent benchmark set by the US State Department, while the Knesset finalized legislation allowing Israel to share biometric data with the US.
During the process, there were several attempts by Democrats to prevent Israel from being accepted into the VWP.
Earlier this month, a group of 15 Democratic senators called on the Biden administration to not accept Israel into the US Visa Waiver Program, claiming it is not abiding by its commitment to grant equal treatment to Palestinian Americans wishing to enter the country.
In May, a group of senators from the Democratic Party sent a similar letter urging the Biden administration not to allow Israel into the WWP before it ensures that equal treatment of all US citizens is upheld.
(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Sukkot in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)