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News Opinion

Visa program doesn't discriminate against Arabs, Muslims

Commentators Zainab Choudry and Saqib Ali complain that Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin co-sponsored legislation to extend a visa waiver program to Israel ("Don't let Israel discriminate," April 30).

The waiver program currently allows citizens of 37 European and other countries — including Japan, Australia and South Korea — to travel in the United States for up to 90 days without a visa.

The writers claim the legislation would let Israel dispense with a "reciprocity" provision so it could "discriminate against Americans based on their ethnicity or religion" — particularly against Arab Americans and Muslim Americans.

In fact, the proposal requires Israel to meet all visa waiver program provisions except the one requiring the non-immigrant refusal rate to be 3 percent or less. Israel's currently is 5.4 percent and has been declining.

That means approximately 95 percent of Americans who apply, including Arab- and Muslim Americans, already receive Israeli visas. South Korea, Hungary, the Czech Republic and other countries initially entered the visa waiver program with higher refusal rates than Israel's.

The proposed law notes that America can refuse a visa to anyone on a variety of grounds, one of which is that an individual may threaten "the welfare, health, safety or security of the United States." That provision covers, among others, radical Israelis, Jews or Arabs, whom this country might not wish to admit. Reciprocity recognizes, among other things, that Israel possesses a similar right of refusal regarding American citizens.

While alleging Israeli discrimination against Arab or Muslim Americans, the writers never mention the actual discrimination practiced against all non-Muslim Americans by Saudi Arabia, which does not allow them to visit the Islamic holy city of Mecca, or against any U.S. citizen with an Israeli visa stamp on his or her passport.

The Sun identifies the commentators as representatives of the Maryland chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. But it does not tell readers that CAIR is a Muslim Brotherhood spin-off, was an unindicted co-conspirator in this country's largest terrorism funding trial to date, or that at least five former CAIR staffers or lay leaders have been indicted, jailed or deported on terrorism or weapons charges.

The commentary invokes the language of civil rights on behalf of a different agenda — bashing Israel.

Eric Rozenman, Washington

The writer is Washington director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

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