American organizations reiterate the urgency to hold Israel accountable for discrimination and crimes against Palestinians during President’s trip to Israel and the Occupied West Bank
The following is a joint statement from the American Federation of Ramallah, Palestine (AFRP), the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the Dallas Palestine Coalition, Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA), Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), US Palestinian Council (USPC), National Arab American Women’s Association (NAAWA), Progressive Voices for Peace PAC, Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace (PCAP), the Virginia Coalition for Human Rights (VCHR), New Generation for Palestine (NGP), Beit Sahour USA, Palestinian American Organization’s Network, Eyewitness Palestine, Arab Thought Council, and Nablus Association USA on President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel, Occupied Palestine, and Saudi Arabia this week:
President Biden has embarked on a three day diplomacy trip this week to Israel, Occupied Palestine, and Saudi Arabia with purported goals to “reinforce the United States’ iron-clad commitment to Israel’s security and prosperity”, “reiterate his strong support for a two-state solution”, and “advance U.S. security, economic, and diplomatic interests”, as outlined in an official statement from White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre last month. In a recent op-ed for the Washington Post addressing the decision for his visit, President Biden wrote, “My views on human rights are clear and long-standing, and fundamental freedoms are always on the agenda when I travel abroad, as they will be during this trip, just as they will be in Israel and the West Bank.”
Yet this commitment to defending the fundamental freedoms of all peoples has yet to be seen in the Biden Administration’s policies and priorities towards Israel and Occupied Palestine, particularly in its total lack of accountability for Israeli crimes and discrimination against Palestinians, including those with U.S. citizenship.
On May 11, 2022, Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli military forces while covering an Israeli raid in the city of Jenin. Multiple independent investigations into her killing conducted by the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Associated Press, CNN, the United Nations, and human rights organizations all concluded that Abu Akleh was assassinated in cold blood by an Israeli soldier. Despite these findings, the State Department released a brief yet appalling statement on July 4 effectively absolving Israel of any guilt or accountability for Abu Akleh’s murder. A slap in the face to the Abu Akleh family and Palestinians across the world, the summary stems from no legitimate U.S. investigation into her death, but rather simply repeats Israeli talking points, stating that the U.S. Security Coordinator (USSC) “found no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances during an IDF-led military operation”.
The State Department and Biden Administration’s handling of the investigation into Shireen Abu Akleh’s murder has thus far been offensive and negligent, and completely disregards the long history of Israeli troops targeting Palestinian civilians, particularly journalists.
This dismissive and dangerous attitude toward the rights of Palestinians – including those with U.S. citizenship – is not new. It has permeated the Biden Administration’s policies regarding Israel/Palestine at every level. We see this in the administration’s publicly stated desire to expedite Israel’s admission into the Visa Waiver Program, despite its consistent record of unequal and discriminatory treatment of Palestinian-Americans seeking to enter at Israeli-controlled ports of entry, effectively deeming Israel ineligible for the program. This is also despite Israel’s new proposed Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) entry rules, a 97-page document of procedures which seek to severely restrict, track, and trace the travel of foreign nationals to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, control Palestinian population growth, and keep data on the land claims of Palestinians holding foreign nationality, therefore laying the groundwork to steal more Palestinian land. It is also a brazen attempt to obscure the unequal treatment of Arab-Americans generally, and Palestinian-Americans specifically, by moving those interactions from ports of entry to Israeli embassies and consulates. This policy is blatantly discriminatory, as it will only affect Americans who wish to visit Palestinian neighborhoods in the West Bank, but not those seeking to travel to any of the illegal Israeli settlements.
This unequal treatment under the law is deeply concerning to Palestinian-Americans, and should also be of grave concern to President Biden as he embarks on his first official visit to the region as president.
As organizations committed to the defense of human rights and representing tens of thousands of Palestinian-Americans taxpayers and voters across the United States, we are calling on President Biden and his administration to fulfill his promise to protect the fundamental freedoms of all peoples through action on the following demands:
- Meet with the Abu Akleh family during his upcoming visit to Israel and the Occupied West Bank to hear their concerns and demands following Shireen’s assassination.
- Retract the July 4 State Department statement and launch a thorough FBI investigation into the murder of Abu Akleh.
- Meet with Palestinian civil society groups during his visit, particularly with the six organizations wrongfully designated as “terrorist” groups by the Israeli Government in 2021.
- Demand a recission of the COGAT rules and oppose any and all Israeli policies and procedures that deny equal treatment of Palestinians.
- Clearly state to the Israeli government that inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program is not a matter of negotiation, and will not happen unless and until reciprocity is fully implemented.
- Pressure Israel to stop the expansion of its colonial settlement projects in the E1 area and in Masafer Yatta, and throughout the West Bank.
- Cancel plans to build the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.
We urge President Biden to have the political courage and will to do what is right and truly stand up for the fundamental freedoms of Palestinians, U.S. citizens, and all people during his visit by heeding our demands.
The American Federation of Ramallah, Palestine (AFRP) is the largest Palestinian membership organization in the United States, estimated at approximately 40,000 members across the U.S. AFRP aims to promote the rich, cultural Palestinian heritage of the Ramallah family and their descendants in the diaspora – – by providing programs that foster cultural and social interaction, as well as educational, humanitarian, civic and charitable opportunities. Learn more at https://afrp.org.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is a civil rights organization committed to defending the rights of people of Arab descent and promoting their rich cultural heritage. Founded by former U.S. Senator James Abourezk in 1980, ADC is today the largest Arab American grassroots organization in the U.S. ADC supports the human and civil rights of all people and opposes racism and bigotry in any form. Learn more at https://adc.org.
Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) conducts research and advocacy to promote human rights, achieve accountability for abuses and shift US foreign policy towards the Arab world to uphold human rights law and principles.
Dallas Palestine Coalition (PAC) is a coalition of organization that advocate for the just Palestinian cause.
Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA) is a trans-denominational Christian organization seeking justice and peace in the Holy Land through education, advocacy, and nonviolent action.
US Palestinian Council (USPC) is a non-profit, non-partisan and independent organization that aims to represent, educate and advocate on issues of concern to Palestinian Americans, strengthen ties between the US and Palestine, and push forward a vision based on liberty, justice, and human rights for all.
National Arab American Women’s Association (NAAWA) is a membership grassroots organization of Arab American Women that serves as a platform to support our community members with like-minded organizations advocating for social justice.
Progressive Voices for Peace PAC is a bi-partisan national political action committee that supports local, state, and federal candidates who share our vision of an inclusive and just America.
Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace (PCAP) represents Palestinian American Christians and seeks to mobilize American churches and Christian organizations and individuals to act for peace for all people in the region by ensuring justice and human rights for Palestinians.
The Virginia Coalition for Human Rights (VCHR) is a broadly based, growing coalition of 19 organizations—with over 10,000 Virginians from diverse backgrounds—who advocate for Palestinian human rights. We support and defend universal human rights, free speech (including the right to boycott) and academic freedom. We believe it is our responsibility to protest oppression, discrimination, and violations of international law wherever they occur. The Palestinian people’s rights are inalienable – whether they live in Virginia, in Palestine or elsewhere as immigrants or refugees. https://vchr.org/
New Generation for Palestine (NGP) aims to create a network of Palestinian Americans to bond with and empower each other, to promote and celebrate Palestinian Arab culture, to preserve and disseminate Palestinian narratives, to educate the public about Palestinian history and heritage, and to articulate and advocate for a peaceful and just future in our homeland Palestine. https://www.ngpalestine.org/
Beit Sahour USA is a membership organization with 5,000 Palestinian American members who seek to have justice for all people including the Palestinian people. https://www.beitsahourusa.org/
The Palestinian American Organization’s Network is a coalition of 31 American Palestinian advocating for human rights and justice to the Palestinian people and all marginilized communities.
Eyewitness Palestine is a transformational education program that inspires and trains participants to be accountable lifelong social justice advocates in the Palestine solidarity movement and within their own communities.
Nablus Association USA is a membership organization whose mission is to strengthen ties between members.
Palestinian American Community Center (PACC) is a registered 501c3 nonprofit and tax-exempt organization. PACC is strictly a non-political and non-religious organization whose mission is to sustain and strengthen ties to Palestinian heritage while empowering the success and well-being of the entire community.