There is a certain unfortunate myth among pro-Israel activists that Israel is one big happy democracy in which the Arab minority partakes of all the benefits equally with the majority Jewish population. The apologists will argue speciously about the higher standard of living Israeli Arabs enjoy compared to inhabitants of neighboring Arab countries. I say specious because the comparison should be to other Israelis and not to citizens of foreign countries. And if you compare the Israeli Arab standard of living to the general Israeli standard, the former is at the very bottom rung of society. Another argument is that Israeli Arabs vote and participate fully in Israeli democracy. While this is true, it ignores the fact that there is such a stigma among the Jewish-dominated political parties against cooperating with Israeli Arab parties that none will probably ever be brought into a coalition government. Which in turn weakens the political voice of the Arab minority.
But the issue at hand today is Israel’s outrageous airport security program at Ben Gurion which automatically labels ANY Israeli Arab traveler as a security risk. I’ve written here about the distinguished Hebrew University law professor who was ignominiously detained at the airport and prevented from attending an academic conference due to the humiliating security procedures. Hardline Israel bloggers pooh-poohed my charges of bias. I wonder how they’ll argue away this latest outrage reported by Ynetnews:
A Foreign Ministry cadet and the daughter of Supreme Court Justice Salem Jubran, Rania, was recently subjected to humiliating security inspections at the Ben Gurion and Barcelona Airports.
Jubran, 26, the first Israeli Arab ever to complete a Foreign Ministry cadet training course, was asked by security personnel at the airports to prove that her Ministry employee documents were authentic and that her father was indeed a Supreme Court justice.
Several days ago, Jubran sent an angry letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and on Wednesday Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin announced that the inspection procedures at airports will soon change.
The only silver lining in this story is that Israel apparently actually has some shame and feels compelled to reexamine its security procedures regarding Israeli Arabs. That being said, the Israeli security apparatus has a long history of appearing to respond to public outcry over incidents like this only to relapse into the same old bad treatment as soon as the furor dies down. So we’ll have to see whether anything really changes at Ben Gurion.
Here is what happened to Jubran at the airport:
Two weeks ago, Jubran arrived at Ben Gurion on her way to a vacation in Barcelona. The security guard at the airport ordered her to open her suitcase and tagged it with a yellow label indicating it was considered a high security risk.
“At this point,” Jubran described in her letter to the prime minister, “I asked to sort the matter out with the shift manager. Following my request, two shift managers appeared. I presented to them my Foreign Ministry employee certificate, but they ignored it and began repeating the questions I had already been asked before.”
“The inspection was carried out in a rude and disrespectful manner towards me personally, as an Israeli citizen, and more so as a Foreign Ministry employee,” she added.
Only after Jubran contacted the Foreign Ministry’s representative at the airport was she allowed to board her flight.
And lest you think the affair ended there, the same thing reoccurred on her return:
On her way back to Israel from Barcelona, Jubran was forced to undergo a similar experience. Her luggage was again labeled with a special “security risk” tag, a procedure reserved for most Israeli Arabs.
Jubran tried presenting the documents attesting that she was a Foreign Ministry cadet and the daughter of Justice Jubran, but this raised even more suspicion.
“The security guard started questioning me about the Foreign Ministry employee card and the Foreign Ministry’s location, as if I was a fraud,” she described.
When she was about to board the flight, Jubran was again told that she would not be allowed to get on the plane, and the matter was resolved only after she was found to be telling the truth.
I should make clear that I am all in favor of high level security procedures to maintain the security of Israeli citizens both within Israel and abroad. But I am absolutely opposed to racial profiling of all Israeli Arabs as security risks. This is just a lazy person’s way of doing security. You place all the onus on the particular Israeli Arab victim to prove them ARE NOT a risk, rather than putting the onus on the security apparatus to maintain profiles of those specific Israeli Arabs who may pose a real security risk. And I should add here that Israeli Arabs in general have proven just as loyal to the State of Israel as its Jewish citizens. So the idea that as a class they should be suspected of disloyalty or allegiance to a terror group is simply preposterous. All this does is fuel mistrust and suspicion among Israeli Jews of their fellow Arab citizens.
Let the Shin Bet actually do its job and find any Israeli Arab suspects out to harm Israel, rather than putting all Arabs into the box of being a potential terrorist.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.