Israel has mistreated U.S. citizens for decades, killing and severely injuring human rights defenders and Palestinian Americans, young and old, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. In addition, Israel has systematically discriminated against U.S. citizens based on ethnicity, religion, and political viewpoint by denying them entry to Occupied Palestinian Territory—a fact the State Department openly acknowledges on its website.
Last year, two Palestinian Americans (Shireen Abu Akleh and Omar Assad) were murdered by Israeli Occupation Forces. Others have been detained and/or faced extreme difficulty entering or moving freely within Palestine. One of the most recent cases was 22-year-old Hala Salameh, a Palestinian-American and resident of St. Louis, Missouri. Hala was detained and held by Israeli authorities for 3 days after attempting to enter Jerusalem alongside the rest of her family before she was denied entry on that Friday afternoon, December 16, 2022.
For decades, Israel has mistreated U.S. citizens, killing and severely injuring both human rights defenders and young Palestinian Americans in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. In addition, Israel has systematically discriminated against U.S. citizens on the basis of ethnicity, religion, and political viewpoint by denying them entry to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory it controls—a fact that is openly acknowledged by the State Department on its website. This discrimination impacts Palestinian Americans most severely; denying them opportunities to visit, work, and live in their homeland, and interfering in their family life.
Instead of robustly defending the rights of U.S. citizens when their rights are abused by the largest recipient of U.S. military aid—the Department of State and Congress have fallen woefully short, often deferring to flawed Israeli investigations and failing to hold Israel accountable for its violations of U.S. laws designed to promote human rights.
Since 2003, Israeli forces have killed at least five U.S. citizens. In March 2003, an Israeli soldier drove a Caterpillar D9 bulldozer repeatedly running over Rachel Corrie, crushing her to death as she stood to protect a Palestinian home from being demolished. In May 2010, Israeli naval commandos executed Furkan Doğan, shooting him at point-blank range, aboard a ship in international waters whose passengers were attempting to deliver humanitarian aid to the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip. In October 2017, teenager Mahmoud Shaalan was shot and killed as he was walking away from an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank after trying unsuccessfully to visit his aunt’s house. In January of this year, Israeli soldiers pulled Omar Asaad over and dragged him to a nearby construction site where they proceeded to blindfold, gag, handcuff him and leave him to suffocate to death. Finally, in May 2022, Israeli soldiers assassinated Al-Jazeera news reporter Shireen Abu Akleh in broad daylight while she was reporting on an Israeli ride in the West Bank city of Jenin.
Since 2003, Israeli forces have also gravely injured at least four U.S. citizens. Brian Avery, Tristan Anderson, and Emily Henochowicz were all shot in the face—the former with a bullet, the latter two with high-velocity tear gas canisters—and suffered life-altering injuries. In July 2014, Israeli police brutally beat teenager Tariq Abukhdeir after arresting and handcuffing him.
No member of Israel’s security forces served jail time for killing or injuring U.S. citizens and there were only two known cases of victims receiving compensation. Despite Israel’s unwillingness to hold itself accountable, the United States did not conduct its own investigation into any of these incidents, much less hold Israel accountable for killing and injuring U.S. citizens.
U.S. citizens who are denied entry by Israel fare no better. Palestinian Americans who are denied entry by Israel are often told by the U.S. Embassy that there is nothing that can be done on their behalf despite Israeli treaty obligations guaranteeing U.S. citizens the freedom to travel.
This policy paper concludes by offering policy recommendations to the administration and Congress to ensure that the United States defends and advocates for the human rights of its citizens when they are abused by Israel.