Abusive behavior by Israeli airport security

I have been writing regularly about the abusive behavior of TSA agents at US airports. But other countries are not exempt from this kind of behavior. This account is by a young woman who was subjected to humiliating and degrading treatment by the Israeli equivalent of the TSA at Ben Gurion airport, to the extent of having her breast and genital areas swabbed and having to give them her underwear because her bra was a ‘security threat’, all in the vicinity of a male security guard who smirked at her whenever he came into her direct presence.

The security people seemed to be unable to wrap their minds around the fact that she had a Jewish mother and Palestinian father and had family in both Tel Aviv and Jaffa, as if those facts alone made her suspicious and worthy of being humiliated. She was asked security questions even by the candy vendor. Here are excerpts of her story that are emblematic of the racism that pervades Israeli society towards Palestinians and that seeks to delegitimize their very existence.

All morning I had been mistreated, combed out of the crowd and profiled, my time wasted and my dignity subsequently stepped all over without a second thought. I had been treated like a criminal for having an identity that I was born into, told explicitly in each of these actions that I did not belong here and had no place here at all as a person with Palestinian heritage. Harassed and picked out from the rest because of my name, my history, the assumptions that go with them, and my very intention to visit my family, many of who cannot visit me in the USA.

Here I was being told by a girl in uniform, very close to my age, that my town had no existence in the present, even as I had just left from it hours before arriving at the airport. The whole morning’s exchange culminated at this moment as a burning ember in my stomach. It was emblematic of the constant reminder that we Palestinians are being systematically forgotten and erased from public consciousness in every sphere of life, delegitimizing every root that we are attached to inside and outside of the Israeli state.

Tel Aviv, some of it built on two prominent neighborhoods of my town, much of the rest built upon the orange groves that sustained it, was swallowing up my very presence, right there in the middle of the airport. I realized that, to this girl I was already a disappeared part of “history”, excluded from her general consciousness, not even present in her own imagination of the past.

For oppressed peoples, there are three reactions: rage at the injustice that expresses itself in acts of revenge at whoever happens to be a convenient target, resignation that dulls the senses and makes life a drudgery to be simply endured, and hope that maybe some day things will be better and that the racism that divides us becomes a thing of the past. This young woman chose the third.

I hope that one day this story becomes a fairy tale of what was once the Occupation, in all of its arbitrary character and continual perpetuation of inequality, injustice, and illusion. For now, this experience as described above is just a minor example of the humiliation and daily challenges that Palestinians face on a regular basis when trying to cross checkpoints inside and outside of the West Bank and Gaza. It is just a minor example of the racial profiling that Palestinians with Israeli passports or Jerusalem ID cards go through on a regular basis when walking down the street or applying for a job. It is just a minor example of how the Occupation divides the Palestinian population into all of our different “statuses” and privileges while combining us all together into one essentializing package. It is an example of a situation where the oppression of certain groups of people has been completely normalized by the international community.

If we can start anywhere in deconstructing this Occupation, literally taking it apart, we can start by educating ourselves and our communities. I implore those who read this to learn about the history of Palestine, to learn about recent events on the ground, to talk to as many people as they can, to be curious and ask questions, to look at displays of military power and question the motives of those governments who support them.

Throughout all of this, please remember, that this is not a historical issue, it is a human one.

Peace, Justice and Dignity.

You cannot read such stories without feeling a great sense of anger at the awful way that people with power treat others and how the notion that one’s own race or ethnicity or religion gives one power others poisons everything. And the people who perpetrate these abuses feel safe from retaliation because they wrap themselves in the mantle of ‘protecting the country’.


  1. colnago80 says

    In other news, here’s an article from the Huffington Post, not noted as a pro-Israel source of information, about a tunnel that was recently discovered leading from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Now Prof. Singham and other Israel bashers who regularly comment here have complained about restrictions that Israel places on imports into the Gaza Strip. Well, guess what, 2 years ago, under pressure from the US Administration, the Government of Israel loosened some of the restrictions, particularly on the importation of cement for construction.

    Did Hamas Government use the cement for constructing housing, hospitals, schools? Not a bit of it, they used it to construct the aforementioned tunnel which was, apparently, for the purpose of facilitating infiltration for carrying out terrorist acts. So it is quite understandable that some folks in Israel respond in kind to the Palestinians.

    This in no way excuses the behavior of the officials at the airport and they should be severely reprimanded for it and told not to do it again.

    However, since we are relating individual experiences, here’s what a former colleague of mine who is originally from Jordan but who has US citizenship and who used to regularly travel to Israel to visit his aunts. Admittedly, this was before the 2nd intifada. At all times, he found the personnel at the airport to be courteous and helpful, even when he informed them that his family was originally from Acre.


  2. mnb0 says

    “they should …..”
    As soon as they will Israel will have my sympathy again. Plus of course all similar incidents, which amount to so many that they aren’t incidents anymore, but structural policy.
    Your stories about Gaza and Jordania are irrelevant. Israel pretends to be a democratic rechtsstaat. Gaza and Jordania don’t.

  3. colnago80 says

    Of course, anything negative that Israel does to the Palestinians is monstrous, anything monstrous that the Palestinians do to the Israelis is AOK.

  4. sailor1031 says

    Time was when the palestinians were the best-educated most secular population in the ME. Turned out being civilised, educated arabs didn’t do them a damn bit of good. Israel and the USA did everything in their power to undermine palestinian government, palestinian education, palestinian economy and palestinian culture. After the israelis totally undermined Arafat Hamas took over in Gaza. Giving israel the opportunity to label them as terrorists so as not to have to negotiate with the palestinians, many of whom don’t live in Gaza anyway.. But israel and the usa forced this situation. So boo-fucking-hoo if somebody (and you can’t prove it was hamas or anybody else) was building a tunnel. So what? people fight back the best, or only, way they can.

  5. sailor1031 says

    Seems to me that if the UN wanted to create an israeli homeland after WW2 they could have just given them West Texas. Why did they have to give them a place that was already occupied just because, supposedly, the jewish ancestors had lived there 2000 years ago. Shit – if we all had to move back to where our ancestors came from 2000 years ago it would be one fantastic mess..

  6. lanir says

    That article was eye-poppingly disturbing. There are few places in the world where I can experience something like this personally but that doesn’t make it any harder to figure out there’s something terribly wrong with the security theatre that air travel has become.

    Also… Slightly off-topic but let me introduce you to a debate tactic. It may seem familiar.

    First, you make sure to briefly agree with whatever the other guy said somewhere in your reply. The more briefly you can do it the better because why actually address a common issue when the whole point is to avoid their point entirely?

    Second, you wax poetic on your view by way of accusations against whoever or whatever the other guy said. You can provide evidence and make a legitimate point but it mostly doesn’t matter if you do or not because the whole goal is to derail the case against your view by forcing the other side to either address your accusations in which case you win by derailing the conversation, or they must ignore them in which case you score a cheap point. It’s usually a weak one but if it plays to your audience it can be enough.

    When you see this, the person doing it is lying. Possibly to themselves but I admit to a personal bias where I assume they’re deliberately lying to me by default. If you catch yourself doing it, I’d recommend taking a good hard look at your views on the topic at your earliest convenience, it’s quite possible you have some inner conflict going on or are trying to ignore something you know to be true.

  7. colnago80 says

    Seems to me that if European settlers wanted to leave Europe and settle elsewhere, they could have found someplace better then the Western Hemisphere where they displaced millions of Native Americans who had occupied the area for hundreds of years.

  8. colnago80 says

    So what? people fight back the best, or only, way they can.

    By homicide bombers blowing up pizza parlors.

    The fact is that the Palestinians don’t want a settlement and never did. They want all of Palestine.

    By the way, the notion that Arafat wanted a settlement is pure bullpucky. He had a chance at the Taba Conference in 2000 to walk away with 100% of the Gaza Strip and and effectively 95% of the West Bank. He turned it down and didn’t even make a counter offer. The reason for that is the same as all the other opportunities that the Palestinians have missed. They demand that Palestinians living in refugee camps be resettled in Israel. This is a demand that no Israeli Government can accept. Not going to happen. Until such time as the Palestinians drop this demand, there will be no peach settlement.

  9. says

    Colnago80 reminds me of a mosquito that gets into your room at night. You can hear the high pitched whine droning around the room, it’s annoying and perhaps a little bit aggravating, but you’re really too lazy to get rid of the damned thing. You know that you’re probably going to wake up tomorrow with a few bites and itches, but it’s a small price to pay for getting a good nights sleep instead of chasing the damn mosquito around all night just to silence such a small and fairly useless creature.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *