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Apr 21 2013

Because Israel is special, that’s why

It is no secret that the US exempts Israel from the strictures it applies to other countries and carves out special exemptions from the rules. For example, violations of UN resolutions that are given as the reason to justify invading other countries are ignored or supported when the violations are done by Israel, which holds the lead for the most violations. You can see a list of the resolutions here.

Members of the US Congress have now gone to the extent of proposing legislation allowing Israel to discriminate against Americans.

It arises out of the question of prior entry visas that are not required for travelers from some countries. They get a permit to enter on arrival at a US port of entry. Such port-of-entry visas are granted on the basis of reciprocity, in that the US and that other country agree to allow it for their citizens to go in either direction. But up until now, the US and Israel did not have such an agreement because the Israeli government wanted to have the freedom to scrutinize in advance all Americans and deny visas to those it did not want to enter. So the US applied the same rules to Israelis, requiring them to get a US visa before they left their country.

But Israel chafed at that restriction and so, aided by their lobby AIPAC in the US, they have managed to get members of Congress, bipartisan of course, to propose a special exemption for Israel that enables them to discriminate against Americans while not allowing the US to do so for Israelis. (See section 9 of the full text of the resolution of the bill S.462which has the innocuous title of United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013.) So we have the spectacle of members of the US Congress going out of its way to enable another country to discriminate against American citizens. As Glenn Greenwald says:

In other words, the bill sponsored by these American senators would exempt Israel from a requirement that applies to every other nation on the planet, for no reason other than to allow the Israeli government to engage in racial, ethnic and religious discrimination against US citizens. As Lara Friedman explained when the Senate bill was first introduced, it “takes the extraordinary step of seeking to change the current US law to create a special and unique exception for Israel in US immigration law.” In sum, it is as pure and blatant an example of prioritizing the interests of the Israeli government over the rights of US citizens as one can imagine, and it’s being pushed by Aipac and a cast of bipartisan senators.

This is the crucial, central principle [of reciprocity] which Barbara Boxer, Aipac and friends are discarding in order to benefit Israel. And what’s most amazing is that they are discarding it not to the benefit of their own country and its citizens, but rather to their disadvantage, in order to benefit a foreign country. What they are saying, in effect, is that they want to waive reciprocity so that Israeli citizens can be treated better than US citizens in relations between the two countries. It is hard to overstate just how extraordinary that is.

This bill may have been an over-reach for even a Congress that is subservient to Israel and some are leery of signing on. It may have to be passed by quietly tacking it on as one of the amendments that are anonymously attached to a major bill that will get passed, like defense spending. That is how unpopular legislation, that no one wants their fingerprints on because of possible backlash, gets through Congress. We’ll see if that happens.

9 comments

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  1. 1
    Dan Allosso

    Amazing. Not that I would go there, anyway. Under any circumstances. Ever.

  2. 2
    busterggi

    I’ve long been sickened by the theopolitics which favor Israel over everything else – this isn’t making those feelings any better.

  3. 3
    left0ver1under

    How long before slc displays his stupidity by saying, “Where’s the problem?”

  4. 4
    markdowd

    Why in the hell is Israel this powerful? What dynamic is going on here that makes these people GROVEL for the privilege of licking a foreign government’s feet? Why do they ask “How high?” when Israel commands “Jump”?

    The other kinds of exceptionalism I can understand as preferential treatment taken to an extreme. This crosses a line. If Israel can get us to do this, it proves that we aren’t the greatest country on Earth, we’re all just Israel’s bitches, waiting to roll over and bark on command.

    Geopolitics is something I’m very naive about, so I’m serious about my question: Why the hell is Israel this powerful?

  5. 5
    Mano Singham

    It is quite simple, really. They have one of the best lobbying efforts in the US, second only to the gun lobby. This, coupled with support from evangelical Christians who see the expansionist policies of Israel and turmoil in the middle east as necessary for the second coming of Jesus, results in strong pressure on elected officials.

    As to how the lobby operates and why it is so successful, the best analysis I have found is in the book The Israel Lobby and U. S. Foreign Policy by University of Chicago professor of political science John J. Mearsheimer and Harvard University professor of international affairs Stephen M. Walt that I reviewed in three parts here and here and here.

  6. 6
    markdowd

    I think it’s rather tautological to answer that question with “they have a good lobby”. Why is the lobby so successful? Is the way they do things strategically? Or is there a more fundamental reason?

    The reason that the gun lobby seems so successful is that it’s able to play the emotional heartstrings of a great many people with their racist dog whistles and anti-government paranoia. A lot of their stuff gives you reflexive rather than reflective reactions. Is something similar at play with Israel? I’ve heard about Israel being related to some “second coming” prophecies, which would definitely be something that could be played with a lot of power.

  7. 7
    Mano Singham

    The lobby is very strategic. Just like the NRA, they keep close tabs on how people vote and have the resources to try and defeat them the next time recalcitrant congresspeople come up for re-election. See this 2005 article by Jeffrey Goldberg about how the lobby recruits friends and punishes enemies.

  8. 8
    Jeff Alexander

    From Mano Singham:

    So we have the spectacle of members of the US Congress going out of its way to enable another country to discriminate against American citizens.

    From Glen Greenwald:

    for no reason other than to allow the Israeli government to engage in racial, ethnic and religious discrimination against US citizens

    Neither statement seems justified by the text of the bill. For the first, any discrimination taking place is currently taking place, the bill won’t make it worse and could make it better via the requirements outlined in section 9.2.G.ii. For the second, there are clearly other reasons (some of which are in the bill) that Glen Greenwald has chosen to ignore.

  9. 9
    markdowd

    Currently, the US is allowed to discriminate back.

    This bill would force the US to play by rules, while leaving Israel to keep doing whatever it wants.

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