Equal Protection Requires Equal Attention

A campaign launched before the arrival of the American president in the region by American citizens of Palestinian origin on July 13, 2022 during a press conference at the Carter Center.

In advance of President Biden’s arrival in the region, we take this opportunity to remind the US Government, especially the State Department, that Palestinian-Americans expect their rights as U.S. citizens to be given equal protection and attention to those of other U.S. citizens of dual nationality.

The continued denial of the right to self-determination for the Palestinian people by the Israeli occupation under its apartheid regime also impacts American citizens and their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those of us who have experienced life under occupation first-hand appreciate the rights that may be taken for granted in the US, but as history has taught us none of us are truly free until the values of freedom and equality are enjoyed by all.

We did not expect as U.S citizens that the US State Department would contribute to the denial of these rights by applying its discretionary policy of engagement in a discriminatory manner that leaves Palestinian-Americans questioning the significance of the words held in such high regard, whether they be written in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, subsequent amendments or on the passport of every U.S citizen.

The freedom of some people should not come at the expense and oppression of others.  Likewise, the conviction to principles and values should not be diluted crossing from one shore to another.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what we have experienced when it comes to the life, liberty and property interests of Palestinian-Americans whose calls for action by the US State Department have repeatedly fallen on deaf ears. All the while American citizens serving in the Israeli occupying forces and/or residing in their illegal settlements are playing a direct role in the denial of those rights to their fellow Americans.

The recent killings of Shireen Abu Akleh and Omar Assad have served to highlight the lack of political will in genuinely addressing the grievances of U.S citizens from Palestinian descent and their families’ calls for accountability. Many Palestinian-Americans receive their sustained doses of discrimination; whether it be through the denial of access to their property in Palestinian territory, the denial of family unity, the denial of travel or even administrative detention and the torture endured therein.

Meanwhile American businesses and tax-deductible entities are allowed, and even encouraged, to support the settlement enterprise eating away at the interests of Palestinian-Americans despite the political rhetoric of condemnation.  However, the contortionist policies underlying the discriminatory nature of U.S Government engagement not only have a negative impact on Palestinian-Americans in Palestinian territory, they also deny much needed tax revenues and private investment opportunities within the US at the expense of all of its citizens.

The US administration and its state department have proven more than capable of bringing attention and pressure when U.S citizens face human rights violations, whether it was the cases of Andrew Brunson and Serkan Golge in Turkey, who have been wrongfully imprisoned and charged with terrorism, or the Journalists Danny Fenster in Myanmar and Brent Renaud in Ukraine, and Baquer and Siamak Namazi in Iran. These cases among many others show the double standard the U.S state department treats its citizens when they are of Palestinian descent.

We are not naïve in our request, ignoring the political reality of American foreign policy.

We do, however, genuinely believe that silence in the face of injustice not only makes one complicit, over time the effects of injustice in one part of the system will eventually spread throughout the system as whole. Especially when much of the U.S Government support to Israel whether military or financial is used to violate not only the rights of Palestinians, but also the rights of U.S citizens of Palestinian descent. In the same way nature seeks equilibrium, it is only natural that we, Palestinian-Americans, seek equal protection and attention from the US State Department, not only for our own interests but for the collective interests of all American citizens, home and abroad.

Thus, we call on our Government to do the following:

  1. Offer the same level of protection and intervention by the U.S Government for violations Israel commits against U.S citizens of Palestinian descent.
  2. Call upon the office of the Inspector General to open an investigation into the conduct of the State department, especially the U.S embassy in Israel and its consular services. This includes the discriminatory treatment of U.S citizens of Palestinian descent, and a consistent failure to adequately respond when confronted with Israeli violations against U.S. citizens, including but not limited to cases of torture, mistreatment, assault, land confiscations, denial of entry, family separation, child abuse and killings.
  3. Call upon the U.S. Government to investigate Israel’s potential violations of existing U.S. laws, including the Foreign Assistance Act and the Arms Export Control Act, and to end U.S. weapons funding to Israel due to Israel’s consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, including gross violations against U.S. citizens.
  4. Call upon the U.S Treasury Department to investigate U.S. 501(c)(3) charities that fund Israeli settler organizations that are directly involved in dispossessing Palestinians (including some U.S. citizens) of their land and housing rights.