update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

Israelis seeking green cards face hostile questions about IDF service

"The feeling is as if questions were copied from the Office of the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague," said one applicant.

An Israeli passport with visa and entry stamps. Credit: Israel.Travel.
An Israeli passport with visa and entry stamps. Credit: Israel.Travel.

Israelis applying for U.S. green cards (permanent resident cards) are reporting the introduction of a new line of questioning regarding their military service.

While visitors to the United States have been asked basic questions about their military service before, it appears the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has singled out Israelis with a new policy.

Attorney Liam Schwartz, head of the relocation department at Tel Aviv-based law firm Goldfarb, Gross, Seligman & Co., told Ynet the new policy is “intended to ‘catch’ military personnel and police officers who participated in arrests in Judea and Samaria.”

The hunt for information may also be used “by the authorities for the purpose of formulating their position in relation to acts defined as genocide,” he told Ynet.

Yuval, identified as a senior manager at a Silicon Valley high-tech firm, received a letter from U.S. immigration services demanding more information about his military service before it could reach a final decision in his case.

“You must submit an affidavit under oath, describing your military service,” the letter stated. “As part of this affidavit, the following questions must be addressed: Did you participate as a combatant in battles during your military service? If so, please describe your activity/role in these battles.”

It also asked for details about his command, whether he ever guarded detainees and the types of weapons and explosives he used.

“For me, the feeling is as if questions were copied from the Office of the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague,” he said.

Yuval was given 87 days to submit the affidavit or face deportation.

Those applying for visas at a U.S. embassy outside Israel also may face a grilling, Ynet reported, offering the example of Roital, who decided to continue a European trip to America.

She applied for a tourist visa at an American consulate in Western Europe.

“I was in an interview that lasted more than half an hour, and all the questions referred to my combat service. The interviewer was very curious about my training and skills in weapons and explosives, and wanted to know details about the reserves in Gaza,” she said.

“In the end, the guy left the window for about 10 minutes, I could see he was talking passionately with someone else. He returned, handed me the passport, said, ‘You are not eligible for a visa today’ and closed the window blinds.”

Ofer, vice president of North American marketing for a real estate company, told Ynet about his experience two weeks ago with customs officials upon entering the United States.

Arriving at Los Angeles International Airport, he was ushered into a room for further interrogation after presenting his Israeli passport.

“They opened my laptop. Looked up a Google Chrome account with the name of my [IDF] unit and called a translator. There was nothing classified there. Just correspondence about the unit’s treatment of evacuees from several localities. It’s just that there was a lot of such correspondence. I sat for four hours until they decided I could collect my things and leave,” he told Ynet.

“In the meantime, I missed the connecting flight and I waited another six hours until the next flight. I travel so much to the United States, I have never been bullied like this as an Israeli,” he said.

When viewed in the context of other moves against Israeli citizens by the Biden administration towards Israel, it is a reasonable assumption that the inhospitable stance towards Israeli visitors comes directly from the White House.

The State Department has sanctioned Israeli individuals and groups, most recently Tzav 9, an Israeli organization protesting against aid trucks to Gaza, arguing that the supplies end up in the hands of Hamas.

In a June 14 press statement announcing the sanctions, the U.S. State Department described Tzav 9 as “a violent, extremist Israeli group that has been blocking, harassing and damaging convoys carrying lifesaving humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians in Gaza.”

Mark Zell, chairman of Republicans Overseas Israel, who announced that he would take the U.S. government to court for sanctioning four Israelis in February, told JNS that the executive order was an “overreach” by the Biden administration.

“None of this falls under U.S. jurisdiction,” he said. “The Biden administration is trying to shut down organizations such as Tzav 9 and Regavim using an executive order, which is improper, illegal and unconstitutional.”

Regavim monitors and pursues legal action against illegal Arab construction in Judea and Samaria.

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