The Shabak demanded that three female journalists from Al Jazeera TV remove their bras before allowing them to enter an annual toast hosted by Bibi Netanyahu for foreign journalists. When they refused they were ejected from the event. Turkish journalists also claimed they were humiliated during their security check. After complaining to the government press office about their treatment, the Turkish contingent decided to attend but the Al Jazeera reporters did not.
The Israeli press flak who organized the event apologized for the treatment, but the matter was solely in the Shabak’s hands and not his own. That’s what happens in a state in which major decisions are made by the secret police and removed from the hands of political leaders.
The Shabak typically and cavalierly dismissed the complaints with a sniff of the nose saying that these are its standard security procedures for events of this kind; and that those who don’t wish to undergo the check are at liberty not to attend. I’m now trying to check whether all female journalists were forced to remove their bras before entering this event. I’d be willing to bet a large sum of shekels that this is a lie and that Arab journalists were the only ones strip searched in this fashion. Oh and I wonder whether the Shabak agents stuck their hands down the pants of male Arab reporters. You never know what you’ll find down there. Perhaps something explosive?
[UPDATE: A female foreign journalist who attended the toast said that not only wasn’t she asked to remove her bra, none of the other female reporters who she was with were asked either. Which makes the Shabak claim a lie. Further, this new Ynet story recounts the story directy from the Al Jazeera journalist:
They told me to take off my blouse. The girl [Shabak agent] groped every part of my body you can imagine for an entire fifteen minutes. She fingered my bra under my slip. Then she told me to take the bra off. I told her I was pregnant. The bra I refused to remove.
When the Israeli press officer saw I was in a slip he came over to see what was going on. I explained to him. He replied: “Don’t be a drama queen.”
Our photographer called me before the event began, terribly angry. They’d asked him to come two hours before the event began. They allowed everyone else to enter but him. They tore apart all his equipment and then made him take off his pants.
She also notes that when she arrived she was shunted to a line and waited 30 minutes before anyone spoke to her. All other Arab journalists were sent to this line:
In actuality, they had a line of Arab reporters and a line for everyone else. It burned me up.
I found laughable another rejoinder the press officer made to her. To justify her treatment, he noted they did the same to the Turkish journalists and that even in the U.S. they make him take his pants off (!). I’d like to know where in the U.S. he suffered this treatment. I guess lies come easy when you’re in his job.]
You’ll recall that U.S. academic researcher Heather Bradshaw was treated the same way during a security check at which a numbskull Shabak agent looked up her name on Google and confused her with another Heather Bradshaw who was born in an Arab village and professed an interest in third world relief projects. Prof. Bradshaw was forced by the Shabak to remove her bra and had to endure a male agent entering the room while she was disrobed to hector her for causing her flight to be delayed and inconveniencing all the other passengers.
The Shabak seems to be confusing the country they work for with North Korea or Iran. They seem also to be confusing the purpose of their job with harassing Arabs rather than providing security to their country. You’d think too that the Shabak would think about the fact that Al Jazeera is the only Arab news service broadcasting within Israel and that this will no doubt make a very juicy story for them to cover. But, hell, they don’t care.
The Al Jazeera journalists who were barred from the program didn’t miss much. Ynet reports that Bibi’s pearl of wisdom for the assembled journalistic multitude was:
Our first biggest problem is Iran. Our second biggest is Iran. And our third is Iran.
Not a word about making peace with Palestinians or easing the deep divide between rich and poor in Israel. There must be no domestic problems in Israel with which Bibi has to deal for him to have the luxury of declaring his sole political agenda to deter Iran.