Ben Gurion Airport showcases the normalization of apartheid in Israel/Palestine

on 17 Comments

This post originally appeared on +972. Reider adds that he’s not sure how long the process described below has been in place.

Israel responded to the “flytilla” with a wildly disproportionate deployment of police and extraordinary security checks. But Palestinian citizens of Israel are discriminated at the Ben Gurion Airport on an hourly basis – and are now able to racially profile themselves, using a specially provided form to warn the airport authorities of their arrival.

Tourists being watched by security forces at Ben Gurion airport, June 8 2011 (photo: Oren Ziv / activestills)

In the see-saw of travel-craving and homesickness preceding any trip abroad, there’s one moment when you can feel the balance finally shifting and you becoming glad to be leaving Israel: When you arrive in your car or taxi to the airport gates and a burly, submachine gun-wielding security guard asks you to roll down the window to wish you a good evening. This isn’t about courtesy, of course; he wants to get a good look at your face, and, most importantly, to hear your accent. If your accent sounds even remotely Arab, you will be asked to disembark, answer a flurry of intrusive questions, and asked to open your trunk (just in case it holds  a big wooden crate labeled “Acme TNT”). If your accent is “normal”, you’re swiftly waved through.

The undisguised racism of Israeli airport security profiling is a fact of life here as much as summer weather and the impossibility to park in Tel Aviv; only recently did civil rights organisations begin to challenge the practice. Arab passengers get different stickers on their passports at the end of the “did you pack a bomb by mistake” questioning in the queue to the check-in; their baggage is often searched manually (raising interesting questions about the effectiveness of the carwash-sized suitcase screening machines that everybody else go through); and in general, Palestinian Israelis can expect their check-in process to take about twice as longer, both in Israel, and, if they have the misfortune of flying with an Israeli airline, on their way home from abroad.

Recently, however, we’ve moved up a notch and are now asking the Palestinian Israelis to discriminate themselves. The Hebrew version of the Israel Airports Authority has this curious page, reachable through Ben Gurion Airport > Passenger Information > Security Information > [Official] in charge of minority treatment. The general information page of the section explains, in stumbling Brechtian:

“The security treatment of the passengers forms a centrally important link in the chain of service provided to passengers in the process of their departure from the country and return to the country via the Ben Gurion International Airport.

The Israel Airports Administration has set itself a goal of improving the efficiency of the level of service provided for the population of members of minorities in these processes, and decided to set up for this purpose a unit entrusted with liaising with the population of members of minorities in Israel.

The unit includes four delegates: Mr Abu Matir Mohammed, Mr Abu Ghanem Salame, Mr Yossi Makleda and Mr Salah Dubaa, employed on shifts at the airport. Their role is to coordinate, mediate and assist in the processes of security clearance, without infringing upon the necessary security processes.”

Members of minorities is, of course, a euphemism for “Arabs” about as embarrassingly transparent as “persons of colour,” and is used most often by the media to report an Arab is held on suspicion of rape or other offenses (they never specify the nationality when the suspect is a Jew). Incidentally, it’s forever “members of minorities”, not “minorities,” because, as observed in recent years by academic like Yehouda Shenhav, Yoav Peled and Yossi Yona, the Jewish and democratic state can (grudgingly) abide only with recognising individual rights of individual Arabs on a case by case basis, never with describing them as a minority with a claim to collective rights.

But the real treat is the following form, which groups of Arabs (say, extended families or groups of friends)  are advised to complete and send to the airport ten days ahead of their arrival (presumably so that the airport authorities doesn’t deploy tanks across the tarmac if they espy more than two Arabs moving together, talking in Arabic and being all Arab). The PDF is a touch more honestly titled “EthnicMinoritiesForm.” It reads:

To: The official in charge of the members of minorities population

Ben Gurion International Airpot

By fax no. 03-9752358

Regarding: Information on flight abroad

1. On date ______ a group/family is planned [sic] to travel to ______ on flight _____ at ______.

2. The group/family includes _____ passengers, as follows:

1. Mr / Ms ________________ Passport no. ____________

2. Mr / Ms ________________ Passport no. ____________

3. Mr / Ms ________________ Passport no. ____________

4. Mr / Ms ________________ Passport no. ____________

5. Mr / Ms ________________ Passport no. ____________

6. Mr / Ms ________________ Passport no. ____________

3. The group is traveling on the behest of the ______ office[/ministry], physicians/academics/public figures/sports delegation/organised tour/other _______ [Arabs don’t take holidays or go on business trips -DR]

4. I would be thankful for any assistance you can extend at the airport.

5. Mr/Ms _______ will serve as contact person for the group, phone no. _______

Most respectfully,

Mr/Ms ___________

Phone no. _______________

Fax no.___________

It’s cute that they bothered including pt.4, ensuring that the Arabs are not only discriminated at their own request, but are duly thankful. More than anything else, this is a clear and stark example of normalisation of apartheid: When both parties accept an ethnically discriminative practice as a given and just seek to make it a little more palatable; and when the discriminated party is expected to pro-actively cooperate, “in their own best interest.”

The sad thing is that I can imagine official delegations and tour organisers probably do make use of the form, and both them and the airport authorities actually do prefer this Very Inferior Person treatment to the crude yanking of Arab passengers out of the waiting line. Have you made holiday plans for Israel this summer?

17 Responses

  1. Citizen
    July 10, 2011, 2:58 am

    The Germans use to be pretty cute with their forms too. Here in the USA they are not so cute, e.g., they made a 94 yr old white wheelchaired women take off her adult diaper. She had no spare. Her daughter, who had been pushing her wheel chair was separated from her for security reasons. The AP security agency came out with a press statement that the process had been kosher, SOP. Move on. The old lady had complained she didn’t like going through the airport without any diaper or underwear.

  2. mig
    July 10, 2011, 3:11 am

    Yup, Israel has legalized racism and discrimination.

    • chet
      July 10, 2011, 2:50 pm

      STOP THE PRESSES!! This important scoop has to be reported on!

  3. Philip Munger
    July 10, 2011, 3:29 am

    Have you made holiday plans for Israel this summer?

    Not yet. But I did quote you, Dimi, in my firedoglake post on Sunday’s conclusion of the Rachel Corrie civil suit in Haifa.

    I hope to meet you some day.

  4. braciole
    July 10, 2011, 6:14 am

    “their baggage is often searched manually (raising interesting questions about the effectiveness of the carwash-sized suitcase screening machines that everybody else go through); ”

    Another small act of oppression – does anyone enjoy other people going through their, often intimate, things?

  5. Egbert
    July 10, 2011, 6:38 am

    Interestingly, there is no obvious link to ‘ethninc minorities’ on the English version of the website for the original link.

    link to

    Fortunately, I can find out how my personal weapon will be handled on the Security Information page.

  6. seafoid
    July 10, 2011, 6:40 am

    Apartheid is the only way to maintain the Jewish state.
    A Jewish state run on moral principles is no longer possible.

    • Chaos4700
      July 10, 2011, 9:42 am

      Some of us wonder if it were ever possible. The sort of violence and theft necessary to make an ethnically “pure” state in the modern era requires ethnic cleansing, if not genocide. I don’t think Israel was ever possible without crimes against humanity and that’s something that’s going to be part of Jewish history for a long time.

  7. RobertB
    July 10, 2011, 9:10 am

    One should see/witness how Palestinians/Arabs are treated at/via Ben Gurion airport. The harassment/racism starts at the entrance checkpoints to the airport. If the traveller(s) is/are Americans/Western & the taxi driver is an Arab he must pull to the side of the entrance. All travellers and their suitcases must come out for inspections. Passports & questioning starts with……Where are you coming from? Where did you stay? How did you find your taxi driver? What places did you visit? Are you carrying anything that belongs to other people???…etc…This process may take 20-30 minutes or more. If the taxi driver is Jewish Israeli, its drive-through and no hassles.

    If the taxi driver & the travellers are Arabs, its much worse for them. .

    Its much worse for the Palestinians/Arab inside the terminal. They are treated like 3rd & 4th class citizens. They are strip searched & their exit process could take up to several hours. Its a humiliating process for them.

    If the travellers are Jewish, American/Western, their exit process is ussually quick & their suitcases are just x-rayed and rarely opened. No long waiting periods.

    The Israeli racist system is so transparent!

  8. casaananda
    July 10, 2011, 9:36 am

    This stuff has been intact for years. In 1975 I got the full treatment at Ben Gurion, and the goons even took my cell phone and computer. Four hours of interrogation. (I had been in the West Bank, in Tubas, for several weeks, helping with a privately financed American school there.) Yeah, for sure, it was so stupidly unpleasant I felt I did not want to go back to Israel ever, but did again a year later, though not to the West Bank.

  9. VR
    July 10, 2011, 11:59 am

    Racism takes a massive effort to maintain by a colonial settler state, it has to be introduced into every crevice of society in order to last. It is imperative that they disenfranchise the indigenous population as much as possible, demonize and set them on edge so much by the artificially enhanced status (which is no status, just like there can be no “second” or whatever class citizens, just the privileged and the disenfranchised) that the victims are kept in a constant state of paranoia (not groundless) that they appear to be different – but it is all manufactured.

    It is a dumbing down process from cradle to grave for the so-called privileged, they are given material wealth through murder and theft while the state steals their minds. That is why the Israelis seem so gross and ignorant when it comes to the Palestinians, the conscience is seared by a never ending process while the Israelis live in a bubble world reinforced by their elite owners (but they think they are free, advanced, and liberal). The ignorance cannot be isolated to one segment of an individuals mind or to an enclave of society (“it is all the settlers”), it works toward the destruction of the whole like a fatal disease and must be addressed by the world community. In the meantime the atrocities increase by degree against the Palestinians and spread to all of their supporters both foreign and domestic.

  10. American
    July 10, 2011, 3:02 pm

    Meanwhile….Isr’merica extends more USA privilages to Israeli foreigns.

    link to

    Text of S. 921: A bill to allow otherwise eligible Israeli nationals to receive E-2 nonimmigrant visas if…

    May 9, 2011: Introduced in Senate Download PDF
    Full Text on THOMAS
    May 9, 2011 – Introduced in Senate. This is the original text of the bill as it was written by its sponsor and submitted to the Senate for consideration. This is the latest version of the bill currently available on GovTrack.

    S 921 IS

    112th CONGRESS

    1st Session

    S. 921

    To allow otherwise eligible Israeli nationals to receive E-2 nonimmigrant visas if similarly situated United States nationals are eligible for similar nonimmigrant status in Israel.


    May 9, 2011

    Mr. SCHUMER (for himself, Mr. KYL, and Mr. KIRK) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


    A BILL

    To allow otherwise eligible Israeli nationals to receive E-2 nonimmigrant visas if similarly situated United States nationals are eligible for similar nonimmigrant status in Israel.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


    Israel shall be deemed to be a foreign state described in section 101(a)(15)(E) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(15)(E)) for purposes of clauses (i) and (ii) of such section if the Government of Israel provides similar nonimmigrant status to nationals of the United States.

    This bill is very large, and loading it may cause your web browser to perform sluggishly, or even freeze. This is especially true for old and/or bad browsers. As an alternative you can download the PDF of the bill or read the text on THOMAS.

    Now why did head congressional zio Schumer do this? Because the US does not have an E-2 investment treaty with the US , Israel only has an E-1 investment treaty with the US and Israelis aren’t qualified for an E-2 visa. So for the good of the tribe Chuckie just passes a bill that gives Israelis the benefit of an E-2 without Israel having to make the obligation of an actual E-2 treaty.

    But really!… it’s the least America can do right?…the chosen people and the holocaust and that Jew that stubbed his toe 3000 years ago and etc.. We must all give them special treament for their exceptional victimhood forever and ever amen. And ….their political campaign contributions of course.

    • annie
      July 10, 2011, 3:58 pm

      it’s racist. only jewish israelis are ‘iaraeli nationals’, non jews are just citizens. furthermore lots of americans and israelis already have dual citizenship.

      • American
        July 10, 2011, 11:32 pm

        Yep, an exception upon an exception.

    • Kathleen
      July 11, 2011, 3:23 pm

      thanks American. Checking to see if this has passed?

      Seems as if Schumer is trying to make it even easier for potential Israeli spies to get in and roam around US Defense bases etc?

      Who is Schumer working for anyway? Bet he had a part in getting these Israeli folks released

      Drug Enforcement Administration Office of Security
      June, 2001


      In January, 2001, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Office of Security Programs (IS), began to receive reports of Israeli art students attempting to penetrate several DEA Field Offices in the continental United States. Additionally, there have been reports of Israeli art students visiting the homes of numerous DEA employees. These incidents have occurred since at least the beginning of 2000, and have continued to the present. The number of reported incidents increased in November/December 2000, and has continued to date. These incidents have involved several other law enforcement and Department of Defense agencies, with contacts made at other agencies’ facilities and the residences of their employees. Geographically, these incidents are very widespread, ranging from California to Florida. The majority of the incidents have occurred in the southern half of the continental U.S. with the most activity reported in the state of Florida. Since April 2001, the number of reported incidents has declined, however, the geographic spread of the incidents has increased to Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Los Angeles.

      The activities of these Israeli art students raised the suspicion of IS and other field offices when attempts were made to circumvent the access control systems at DEA offices, and when these individuals began to solicit their paintings at the homes of DEA employees. The nature of the individuals’ conduct, combined with intelligence information and historical information regarding past incidents involving Israeli Organized Crime, leads IS to believe the incidents may well be an organized intelligence gathering activity. It is believed by IS that these incidents should not be the basis for any immediate concern for the safety and security of DEA personnel, however, employees should continue to exercise due caution in safeguarding information relating to DEA investigations, or activities.

      DEA Orlando has developed the first drug nexus to this group. Telephone numbers obtained from an Israel Art Student encountered at the Orlando D.O. have been linked to several ongoing DEA MDMA (Ecstasy) investigations in Florida, California, Texas, and New York. The Orlando D.O. has opened an investigation that is being coordinated with DEA HQs.

      In general, these individuals appear to be organized in teams of 8 to 10 people, with one person described as the “Team Leader”. They are usually encountered in pairs or individually carrying a makeshift art portfolio. Several times, they have, been seen or admitted to being dropped off in an area by the Team Leader, who returns later to pick them up. The females are usually described as very attractive, and all are generally in their early to mid-20s. Most admit to having served in the Israeli Military. This is not surprising given the mandatory military service require in Israel, however, a majority of those questioned has stated they served in military intelligence, electronic signal intercept, or explosive ordinance units. Some have been linked to high-ranking officials in the Israeli military. One was the son of a two-star general, one served as the bodyguard to the head of the Israeli Army, one served in a Patriot missile unit. That these people are now traveling in the U.S. selling art seems not to fit their background.
      link to

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