Prof. Heather Bradshaw is a distinguished neuroscientist with the Kinsey Institute at Indiania University. She studies female reproduction and the ways in which brain function impacts such processes. She was on her way to deliver a keynote address at an academic conference at the Hebrew University honoring the research of Prof. Rafi Meshulam, when a strange thing happened.
Before flying to Israel she had stopped off at Cambridge University to deliver a series of lectures. Then she traveled to Luton for an El Al flight to Israel. I’ll let Bradshaw continue the story as portrayed in Haaretz’s Hebrew edition (and in English):
To her astonishment, at the beginning of the security check, she found that security personnel dealt with her harshly and suspected her of acts of terrorism”, said Professor Arik Rimmerman of Haifa University yesterday, who filed the complaint with El Al CEO, Eliezer Shkedi, on her behalf.
“She showed them many documents indicating the purpose of her visit, and of course her passport, which indicated that she had visited Israel several times,” said Rimmerman. “Security personnel referred to her documents with ostentatious contempt.”
“No one told me of what I was suspected,” Bradshaw told Haaretz, “They did not explain anything to me. I felt they suspected me and I felt strange. They took me to a separate room and confiscated all my belongings. I sat and waited – each time a different security guard entered the room and asked me about this or that object in the suitcase. I did not understand why, it mostly contained books. ”
Later, a female officer conducted a physical examination which lasted about 50 minutes, reprimanding her because it delayed the flight about to leave for Israel. ” They moved me to another room and the officer asked me to remove my bra. Thereupon, a man barged in and scolded me further saying I was the last passenger to board and was at fault for causing the flight delay. God, I’m imprisoned in this room against my will and yet he still has the gall to complaint as if it was my fault.” Bradshaw was required to board the plane without her personal baggage, carrying only a passport and three credit cards.
El Al’s response? They essentially blamed the Shin Bet:
The airline acts in accordance with the directives of the security authorities.
In other words, the Shabak told us she was a terrorist. We acted accordingly. The point is that once you are so labelled it’s almost impossible to get them to believe you are innocent. Bradshaw is lucky they even allowed her to fly. Had she been an Israeli Palestinian, even a professor or daughter of a Supreme Court justice, she would never have made the flight nor addressed the conference (a circumstance I’ve documented here more than once).
OK, let’s be charitable and assume that perhaps they confused her with one of the many other Heather Bradshaws in the world who perhaps are Hamas spies or ISM activists or God knows what that would turn her into a terror suspect. For example (and I’m not claiming this is specifically what happened as I don’t know for sure), the very first “Heather Bradshaw” that comes up in a Google search on the name is this bio of someone whose first paragraph says this about her background:
Heather Bradshaw is an IEET Affiliate Scholar. Ms. Bradshaw spent her early childhood in the remote hills and dusty towns and villages of Iran, Pakistan, and Libya where her father often worked to use technology to bring clean drinking water, refrigeration, employment, skills, and more sustainable livelihoods to people who had not yet experienced these benefits.
This is precisely the sort of childhood background that would raise a red flag in the eyes of a jihad-obsessed Shin Bet security operative.
But you’d think even if it was a case of mistaken identity, they’d have understood that they had the wrong Heather Bradshaw when they examined the conference papers, event invitation, academic textbooks in her luggage, and record of her four previous visits to Israel to address academic conferences. At the least, this is an example of a security apparatus that is so inert that it cannot adapt flexibly to various circumstances under which it finds itself. At worst, this is yet another example of a state apparatus whose obsession with security drives away those very international dignitaries who might bestow legitimacy on Israel through delivering talks on their academic research there.
To turn an old TV ad on its head: Is this any way to run an airline (or security regime)? You bet it ain’t.
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.