There is an ominous “Important Notice” on the website of the United States Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel.
The Notice informs anyone seeking to obtain a visa in order to travel to the United States that “due to the current security situation in Tel Aviv,” the Embassy is “operating at reduced staffing” and that it “has canceled routine visa application processing and American Citizen services.”
Emergencies involving American citizens and visa applicants, the Important Notice explains, will be reviewed on a case by case basis, but non-emergencies will not be handled until further notice.
(Maybe this will teach them that the Embassy should be in Jerusalem, which has received fewer tzeva adom alerts than has Tel Aviv.)
A quick check reveals that there is no such “security situation” Important Notice for the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine. There isn’t one in Baghdad, Iraq or in Cairo, Egypt, either. No visa problems at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, either. And Yemen is a go, as is Tunisia.
The only other U.S. Embassy in the entire Middle East, other than Israel, where visa services has been suspended is in Damascus, Syria. But that gives cold comfort, given the U.S. Embassy in Syria closed for all purposes on February 6, 2012. Oh, and Iran – no visas being given out there, either. There hasn’t been a U.S. Embassy in Iran since 1979.
But wait, there is a special message on the U.S. Embassy to Kabul, Afghanistan‘s website. Never mind. This message simply states that the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs is “currently experiencing technical problems with our visa system. We are operating at a significantly reduced capacity” because of the backlog. However, this problem “is not specific to any particular country, citizenship document or visa category.” And with that, the general information about obtaining a visa through the U.S. Embassy in Kabul is provided.
In Africa, visa services seem to be available everywhere except for the nation Central African Republic, which has been convulsed in violence and coups since it was declared independent from France in 1960. In Nigeria, home base of Boko Haram, visa services are open and welcoming. Services have not been limited in Sudan or in Rwanda.
So, as was the case with the Federal Aviation Authority recently, the U.S. government has singled out Israel for an almost laughable overreaction to the current conflict in the southwest of Israel and Gaza.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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