Moves by the Biden administration to include Israel in the US Visa Waiver Program validate Israel’s racist policies.
In 2021, President Joe Biden hosted Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the White House amidst a public protest outside organized by American Muslims for Palestine and others. One of the most alarming items on the agenda discussed in a side meeting between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Bennett was the proposition to include Israel in America’s Visa Waiver Program. This would mean that US and Israeli citizens traveling between the US and Israel wouldn’t need visas to enter either country. Now, outgoing Israeli Ambassador to the US Gilad Erdan claims that Israel will join the US Visa Waiver Program by mid-2022.
While this move might seem benign or inconsequential, it would actually solidify Israel’s discriminatory and racist entry policies toward US citizens.
It is worth noting that the concept of “citizenship” in the US, Israel, and globally is weaponized and access to it is used to exclude and demonize groups of people usually from the Global South. We must scrutinize the notion of citizenship and reflect on what defines an immigrant, refugee, or citizen, as well as how all these categories are themselves highly politicized categories.