News Release

Legal Challenge Launched Against U.S. Government for Enabling Israeli Discrimination


The U.S. government on Wednesday announced that it plans to admit Israel into the Visa Waiver Program.

Many criticized this planned move since while the U.S. will treat all Israeli citizens equally under the program, Israel will not treat all U.S. citizens equally.

Lara Friedman of the Foundation for Middle East Peace writes that the U.S. is “violating its own rules to admit Israel into the Visa Waiver program” and is “just the latest in a U.S. policy that has for decades centered on guaranteeing Israeli impunity while lavishly rewarding it for thumbing its nose at U.S. policy and international law.”

Josh Ruebner similarly stated that the administration’s plans are proceeding “despite the fact that it discriminates against Palestinian Americans, making a mockery of the requirement to treat all U.S. citizens equally. Yet another way in which the U.S. singles out Israel for special treatment.”

The group DAWN — Democracy for the Arab World Now — founded by slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi just released a statement announcing a legal challenge to the move by Shapiro, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and three Palestinian Americans: “U.S.: Suspend Israel’s Admission to U.S. Visa Waiver Program Pending Lawsuit Challenge.”

“The U.S. 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 U.S. program,” said Adam Shapiro, DAWN’s director of advocacy for Israel/Palestine. “Our government should not allow Israel to discriminate against Americans, regardless of their national origins. …

“The lawsuit, brought under the Administrative Procedures Act, alleges that DHS and the State Department took arbitrary and capricious action to redefine the Visa Waiver Program statute rule requiring reciprocal privileges for U.S. citizens. 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 U.S. citizens based on their national or ethnic identity. For example, Palestinian-American U.S. citizens who are on the Palestinian Population Registry are divided into those with West Bank ID and those with Gaza ID, and each are subjected to different rules and treatment. Under the MOU, Gaza is off-limits, including to those with Gaza ID and family in Gaza. The lawsuit alleges that these classes effectively permit disparate and discriminatory treatment against U.S. citizens.”