February 3, 2017
News Press Release

ZOA Condemns 16 Muslim Countries’ Ban on Israelis/Jews

ZOA Praises British PM’s Protest to 16 Muslim Majority Countries’ Bans on Israelis/Jews; Reciprocal Travel Bans on U.S. Citizens by "Countries of Concern” Can Save U.S. Lives

Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein released the following statement:

ZOA praises British Prime Minister Theresa May for denouncing the discriminatory ban on Israelis/Jews by Muslim-majority nations. (“British PM slams Muslim Countries for Banning Entry by Israelis,” by Yoel Domb, Israel Nat’l News, Feb. 2, 2017.)

Sixteen Muslim-majority nations ban Israelis and have a de facto ban on Jews and pro-Israel travelers:  These Muslim majority nations deny visas to holders of Israeli passports, and persons from foreign countries (including the U.S.) whose passports or other travel documents reveal that they have visited Israel.  Since 2013, Israel has had to issue visas to foreign citizens on separate slips of paper, instead of by stamping passports, to protect the ability of U.S. and other nations’ citizens to travel to restrictive Muslim-majority states.  The sixteen countries that have been banning Israelis/Jews for decades include six out of the seven “countries of concern” designated by the Obama administration and which are now subject to the Trump administration executive order’s temporary ban (Libya, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria and Yemen).  The ten additional Muslim majority nations involved in these anti-Israel, anti-Jewish discriminatory practices are: Algeria, Bangladesh, Brunei, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

In the seven countries of concern, radical Islamist terrorist groups and/or governments target U.S. citizens traveling there for kidnapping, unlawful arrest and detention, terror attacks, and murder.

ZOA also urges others to join with Prime Minister May in condemning the anti-Israel ban.  It is hypocritical to protest the temporary ban of a few months on travel from the seven “countries of concern” that are hotbeds of radical Islamist terrorism targeting Americans and the West – while ignoring the decades-long anti-Jewish bans by 16 Muslim-majority nations.  (“Outrage At Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’ Yet Silence Over The Middle Eastern ‘Ban On Jews’: Every Frequent Flyer To The Middle East Knows About A De Facto ‘Ban On Jews’ Yet Few Protest About It,” by Gaurav Sharma, Int’l Business Times, Jan. 30, 2017.)

ZOA notes however, that many of the countries that ban Jews/Israelis are countries that are not advisable to travel to.  Indeed, Iran’s announcement that it is adopting a “reciprocal measure” to the temporary travel ban authorized by President Trump’s executive order, could end up doing U.S. citizens a favor and saving U.S. citizens’ lives.  The same is true if any similar retaliatory measures are adopted by the other six “countries of concern” designated by the Obama administration and now subject to President Trump’s temporary U.S. travel ban.  The U.S. State Department has serious standing travel warnings (described below) to U.S. citizens to avoid all seven countries of concern.  In the seven countries of concern, radical Islamist terrorist groups and/or governments target U.S. citizens traveling there for kidnapping, unlawful arrest and detention, terror attacks, and murder.   There is no U.S. Embassy available to help U.S. travelers in Iran (since 1979); Libya (since 2014); Somalia (since 1991); Syria (since 2012); and Yemen (since Feb. 2015).  The U.S. Embassies in the two other “countries of concern” are limited in what they can do.  Moreover, three of the “countries of concern” (Iran, Syria and Sudan) are designated by the U.S. State Department as “State Sponsors of Terrorism.”   Thus, reciprocal travel bans adopted by countries of concern can save the lives of those U.S. citizens who would otherwise ignore the U.S. warnings against traveling to those countries.

The fact that the U.S. does not even have a sufficient presence in the countries of concern to protect our own citizens also demonstrates the extraordinary difficulties – or inability – of U.S. officials to properly vet persons from those countries who seek to enter the U.S.

Here are the warnings against travel to the “countries of concern” and anti-Israel visa policies of those countries:

Libya

  • The U.S. State Department “warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Libya, and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Libya depart immediately.”  U.S. citizens are threatened with murder; kidnapping; arbitrary detention by terrorists without legal process or notification of status; vehicle-borne IEDs exploding; bombing of vessels; and hijacking.  On Dec. 23, 2016, terrorists hijacked a plane en route from Sabha, Libya to Tripoli, Libya.   Terrorist groups including ISIS and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) are active in Libya.  (U.S. State Dept.: Libya Travel Warning, Jan. 17, 2017.)
  • The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya has been closed since July 2014 due to violence. (Id.)
  • “Admission and transit refused to nationals of Israel.”  (KLM visa information for Libya, from IATA (International Air Transportation Association).)

Iran

  •  Iran is officially designated by the U.S. State Department as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism.”
  • The U.S. State Department has also named Iran “the foremost state sponsor of terrorism”; says “Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism worldwide remained undiminished through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), its Ministry of Intelligence and Security, and Tehran’s ally Hizballah”; and says that Iran provides “a range of support, including financial, training, and equipment, to groups around the world” and to “violent militias.” (“U.S. State Dept. Countries Report on Terrorism”).
  •  The U.S. State Department warns of and highlights that the risks of traveling to Iran include that Iran unjustly arrests and imprisons American travelers: “Iranian authorities continue to unjustly detain and imprison U.S. citizens, particularly Iranian-Americans, including students, journalists, business travelers, and academics, on charges including espionage and posing a threat to national security. Iranian authorities have also prevented the departure, in some cases for months, of a number of Iranian-American citizens who traveled to Iran for personal or professional reasons. . . . The U.S. government does not have diplomatic or consular relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and therefore cannot provide protection or routine consular services to U.S. citizens in Iran.”  (U.S. State Dept.: Iran Travel Warning, 8/22/16)   There are also U.S. FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) prohibitions on civil aviation in Iranian airspace.
  • Iran tested yet another ballistic missile on Sunday January 29, 2017, in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 (the Iran deal resolution).  (See Iran Tests Ballistic Missile In Defiance Of UN Resolution, US Officials Say,” by Lucas Tomlinson, Jennifer Griffin, Fox News, Jan. 30, 2017.)
  • Iran discriminates against Jewish/Israeli/pro-Israel travelers:  Refuses admission and transit to travelers with Israeli passports and to anyone with a passport containing a visa or stamp from Israel.  (KLM visa information for Iran, from IATA; and Iran travel blog.) 
  • The U.S. has had no embassy in Iran since our embassy in Teheran was taken over by Iranian student terrorists in 1999.

Iraq

  • The U.S. State Department “warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Iraq.”  U.S. citizens are threatened by ISIS, terrorist attacks, kidnappings, IEDs, injury, death, arrest, fines, expulsion, violent injury-causing demonstrations, and strict Iraqi government checkpoints and Iraqi government detention without warning, U.S. FAA prohibitions on civil aviation in Iraqi airspace, and no medical assistance from the U.S. if injured.  (U.S. State Dept.: Iraq Travel Warning, Jan. 31, 2017.)
  • “Admission and transit is refused to nationals of Israel.”  (KLM visa information for Iraq, from IATA.)

Somalia

  • The U.S. State Department “warns U.S. citizens to avoid travel to Somalia because of continuous activity by the al-Qaida affiliated terrorist group, al-Shabaab.  U.S. citizens should be aware of the threat of kidnapping in all parts of Somalia, . . . There is no U.S. embassy presence in Somalia.  There is a particular terrorist threat to foreigners in places where large crowds gather and Westerners frequent, including airports, government buildings, hotels, and shopping areas. In 2016, there were 14 documented attacks directed at hotels, restaurants, and the international airport in Mogadishu. In addition, . . . in 2016, [al-Shabaab] targeted . . . foreign delegations’ facilities and convoys, and commercial establishments frequented by . . . foreign nationals. . . . Al-Shabaab has repeatedly attacked the Mogadishu Aden Adde International Airport (MGQ) with mortars and other weapons. The group has conducted attacks from within the airport’s secure perimeter, and they detonated an explosive device hidden in a laptop on an airplane shortly after it took off from the airport on February 2, 2016.”  The FAA prohibits “U.S. civil aviation operations in airspace over Somalia.”  (U.S. State Dept.: Somalia Travel Warning, Jan. 11, 2017.)

Sudan

  • Designated by the U.S. State Department as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism.”
  • The U.S. State Department “warns U.S. citizens of the continued risks of travel to Sudan. U.S. citizens should avoid all travel to the Darfur region, Blue Nile, and Southern Kordofan states, and consider carefully the risks of travel in other areas of Sudan, due to the continued threat of terrorism, armed conflict, violent crime and kidnapping. The U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide services outside of Khartoum is very limited. . . . Terrorist groups remain present in Sudan and are intent on harming Westerners and Western interests. Terrorist actions may include suicide operations, bombings, shootings, or kidnappings. The threat of violent crime targeting Westerners, including kidnappings, armed robberies, home invasions, and carjackings is particularly high in the Darfur region. . . . Do not rely solely on U.S. government assistance.”  Other dangers include violent flare-ups, tribal violence, armed banditry, landmines, and detention of U.S. citizens who are in certain areas without Sudanese government permission, injury and death.  U.S. government personnel are required to travel in armored vehicles at all times; are not authorized to travel outside of Khartoum without advanced permission or to certain areas of Darfur without appropriate security precautions; and family members of U.S. personnel under age 21 are not allowed to reside in Sudan.  Sudan Travel Warning, Jan. 21, 2016.
  • “Admission and transit refused to nationals of Israel.”  (KLM visa information for Sudan, from IATA.)

Syria

  • Designated by the U.S. State Department as a “State Sponsor of Terrorism.”
  • The U.S. State Department “continues to warn U.S. citizens against all travel to Syria and strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately. . . . There is a serious risk for kidnappings, bombings, murder, and terrorism. . . . Terrorist and other violent extremist groups including ISIL, al-Nusrah Front (al-Qa’ida’s Syrian affiliate now calling itself Jabhat Fatah al-Sham), and others operate in Syria. Tactics for these groups include the use of suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, and improvised explosive devices. They have targeted major city centers, road checkpoints, border crossings, government buildings, shopping areas, and open spaces, including in Damascus, Aleppo, Hamah, Dara, Homs, Idlib, and Dayr al-Zawr provinces. These groups have murdered and kidnapped U.S. citizens, both for ransom and political purposes. U.S. citizens have disappeared within Syria. Public places, such as road checkpoints, border crossings, government buildings, shopping areas, and open spaces, have been targeted.  Because of the security situation in Syria, the U.S. government’s ability to help U.S. citizens kidnapped or taken hostage is very limited. . . . Road checkpoints have been controlled by armed terrorist and violent extremist groups and have been utilized to conduct kidnappings, including of U.S. citizens.  The [FAA] prohibits U.S. civil aviation from flying in . . .  all the airspace over Syria and . . . into adjacent international airspace. In addition, U.S. government personnel in Lebanon are prohibited from taking flights that pass through the Damascus FIR. A number of armed extremist groups are known to be equipped with a variety of antiaircraft weapons that have the capability to threaten civil aircraft. . . . The U.S. Embassy in Damascus suspended its operations in February 2012 and cannot provide protection or routine consular services to U.S. citizens in Syria.”  (Syria Travel Warning, Oct. 11, 2016.)
  • The U.S. State Department also warns U.S. citizens that the risk death, injury and prosecution if they travel to Syria to join ISIS.  (Id.)
  • “Admission and transit refused to nationals of Israel.”  (KLM visa information for Syria, from IATA.)

Yemen

  • The U.S. State Department “urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Yemen and for those U.S. citizens currently living in or visiting Yemen to depart.”   U.S. citizens (even those working for humanitarian groups) are being systematically detained by rebel groups in Sanaa.  “During their detentions, which in some cases have lasted well over a year, U.S. citizens have not been able to contact their families or to be visited by U.S. consular personnel or international humanitarian organizations.  The U.S. government is severely limited in what assistance it can directly provide to U.S. citizens in detention. There is no U.S. government presence on the ground following the rebel takeover of Sanaa.”   (The U.S. embassy suspended operations and staff left the country in February 2015.)  (U.S. State Dept.: Yemen Travel Warning, Oct. 6, 2016.)
  • Other risks to U.S. citizens include kidnappings for ransom; land mines; artillery shelling; air strikes; travel dangers; terrorist attacks by ISIS and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP); piracy in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait and Indian Ocean; and FAA prohibition of U.S. civil aviation in specific areas.  (Id.)
  •   Discriminates against Israelis and other nationals with documents indicating that they have visited Israel: “Admission and transit refused to nationals of Israel; Warning: Visitors holding Israeli visas (or other Israeli entry documents) could be refused entry.”  (KLM visa information for Yemen, from IATA.)