Despite stipulations in the U.S. Constitution that there is to be no
discrimination against Americans based on their country of origin, the
very real double standard in U.S. policy towards Palestinian-Americans
vs. Israeli-Americans has caused some groups to raise concerns about
the constitutionality of the current regime's policies.
Americans of Palestinian origin have long been discriminated against by Israel, whose official policy is: "once a Palestinian, always a Palestinian", refusing to allow Americans who were born in Palestine to use their American passports. Even the children of Palestinian-Americans, born in the U.S., are required to carry a 'Palestinian ID' which prevents entry into Israel proper, and restricts movement throughout the Palestinian territories.
Israeli-Americans, on the other hand, have special privileges allotted to them by the U.S. government. Most recently, the U.S. government agreed to allow Israeli dirver's licenses to be valid in the U.S., a privilege that no other country is allowed. American citizens are allowed to donate money to the Israeli military, and to serve in the Israeli military — illegal under the U.S. constitution, but overlooked in this case due to the 'special relationship' between the U.S. and Israel.
And Israelis living in Israel, even those living in settlements on occupied Palestinian land, deemed illegal under international law, are able to obtain U.S. citizenship quite easily, if one of their grandparents lived in the U.S. for five years or more.
The program, called Expeditious Naturalization, allows children under the age of 18 to obtain citizenship directly, without having to apply for an immigrant visa or a green card and then additionally, having to reside in the U.S. for five years before applying for naturalization. The process includes a mandatory trip to the U.S. to physically pick up a certificate of citizenship, but many Israelis say it's well worth the hassle.
"Once you're there, it's just in and out," said Yaron, who went to America over the summer with her 10-month-old daughter.
According to the law, details of which are available on the U.S. State Department website, children born in Israel can become American citizens if they prove that their U.S. citizen parent or grandparent lived in the U.S. for at least five years, at least two of which were over the age of 14. An exception for single mothers allows them to pass on citizenship to their children after having lived just one year in the U.S.
Israelis who obtain U.S. citizenship through this 'expeditious' process are than able to receive tax credits for their children from the U.S. government, even without contributing a cent to the U.S. economy. "People come to us to find out about the law for several reasons, but when they hear about the tax credit, which could be a lot of money, it provides motivation [to go through the process]," says David London, executive director of Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI). "For a family with four children, for instance, it could be up to $4,000."
All of this is allowed even while the Israeli-American citizen remains in Israel, even if they are living on illegally-occupied Palestinian land.
On the other side of the Wall are Palestinian-Americans, who, if they try to live in Palestine, are refused residency by the occupying Israeli government. Since 2000, no requests for 'family unification' (residency in Palestine for the foreign spouse of a Palestinian) have been processed by the occupying Israeli military force, leading to a backlog of 250,000 requests from families left in the lurch.
Palestinians have a saying that Israel "does everything they can to make us leave, and everything they can to keep us from coming back in." A number of discriminatory Israeli policies and practices have proved that saying true — most recently, a policy of 'entry denial' for foreign nationals that has resulted in an average of 10-15 Americans a day being denied entry into Israel since June. Those denied are predominately Americans of Palestinian origin.
The U.S. government, for its part, has been extremely supportive of the discriminatory Israeli policies, allowing American citizens of Palestinian origin to be refused entry, beaten, abused and even killed (as was the case of Rachel Corrie, killed in 2003 by Israeli forces) without challenging the Israeli government at all.
Instead, the U.S. government has rewarded the Israeli government with an increase in aid money and loan guarantees each year, as well as expediting arms shipments of U.S.-made weaponry to be used against the occupied Palestinian population. Israel is by far the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, despite the fact that the average Israeli per-capita income parallels that of the U.S., making Israel one of the most prosperous states on earth. Palestine, on the other hand, occupied by the Israeli military for the last 39 years, has one of the lowest average incomes on earth.