Hanan Ashrawi is a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee.
As a negotiator and advocate for Palestinian rights, I have been a regular visitor to the United States for decades. In my visits to these shores, I have delivered hundreds of lectures, met with friends and colleagues from academia and civil society, and engaged in countless frank conversations with dozens of senior Republican and Democratic officials, regardless of their positions about the conflict.
But last month, my visa application to the United States was rejected by the State Department. No reason was given for the decision — but I suspect it had something to do with my outspoken advocacy on behalf of Palestine and critical assessment of Israeli and recent U.S. violations.
I am one of several Palestinian leaders and activists who can no longer enter the United States after recent visa denials. These decisions appear to be an attempt to limit our ability to engage with the American public and inform decision-makers and civil society actors.
This response is unlike anything we have seen before. In the United States, there has always been room for dissent and constructive debate among those with differing opinions. Then Donald Trump became president. His administration does not have the tolerance or capacity to engage in fact-based dialogue. It combats meaningful discussion because it has no interest in respectful negotiations and sees no value in international engagement.
Nowhere is this more visible than in its farcical plans in the Middle East. For more than two years now, Americans and Palestinians who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of justice have watched in horror as the Trump administration distorted the foundations of a credible and lasting peace beyond recognition. This administration prefers diktats and exhibits an infatuation with messianic-laced rhetoric at the expense of the standing of laws and the universal values of dignity, freedom, justice and human rights.
At the White House and across the administration, officials insist on negating the political, legal and moral dimensions of the conflict and ignoring our core rights to justice and self-determination, considering them old and failed formulas.
Instead of rectifying the failures of previous U.S. administrations, the Trump team has fully embraced the agenda of Israel’s right-wing government. It has unilaterally recognized Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem, supported settlement construction, and attempted to justify Israel’s pervasive and widespread violations of Palestinian human and national rights.
Just last week, White House adviser Jared Kushner visited Israel and reportedly aligned the administration’s timetable and priorities with those of the Israeli government. He delivered a map depicting the illegally annexed Golan Heights as part of Israel to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Next to the map was the word “Nice,” a symbol of the administration’s failed logic and inability to grasp the context of this conflict.
The Trump administration has also launched an ongoing economic and political assault on the Palestinian people, especially refugees. It has stopped funding the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is mandated to provide care and assistance to Palestinian refugees, and called for the agency’s dismantlement, which would threaten to destabilize the whole region. It has withdrawn official and non-official assistance to the Palestinian people, including support for civil society, hospitals in Jerusalem and student scholarships, and closed down the operations of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Its planned “economic workshop” this month in Bahrain to discuss assistance for Palestinians is another glaring example of the administration’s errors in judgment. This diversionary sideshow will discuss investment in Palestine and the region, as well as Israel’s integration in it, divorced from the political context and despite the serious objections of the Palestinian leadership and business community, who refuse to trade their political rights for the false promise of improving conditions under occupation.
Through concrete actions, the Trump administration has made it clear that it will not settle for anything less than the Palestinian people’s surrender and the defeat of their struggle for freedom. However, it is ignoring the fact that, although armies and political regimes can be defeated in battle, peoples are never truly defeated.
Trump and his team do not represent the United States I know. That United States embraces the revolutionary spirit that defeated colonial oppression. It stands for the legacy and continuing work of fearless civil and human rights advocates who challenged segregation, injustice and oppression in the United States and around the world. This is the United States that Palestinians — and anyone else who supports the idea of long-term peace in the region — would like to see once more.
Whether I am allowed to visit the United States again soon is not the issue. My work, and that of countless brave American advocates for peace and justice, will continue. Our voices will not be muted, and our resolve will not be deterred. We will defend our agency and humanity. We will continue our work for peace, justice and freedom for all. We will not surrender to political bullying and extortion, nor abdicate our basic right to defend these principles and the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to enjoy them.