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‘Why do you have Arabic in this notebook?’: 17-year-old American student strip searched and interrogated in Ben Gurion airport

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I am a 17-year-old American girl. I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts.  My mother is from the U.S. and my father is a U.S. citizen born in Morocco. In the summer of 2016, I went through Ben Gurion Airport.  Going into the country I had no issues. Leaving, however, was a different story.

Getting through the initial security check was relatively quick, but the number they put on the back of my passport was a 5 out of 6. The man at security told me I had to bring my bag to oversized luggage, so I made my way there and tried to give the man my bag. The man at oversized luggage asked to see my passport, checked the number on the back, then made me put my bag on a special table. He told me I was all set to go.

I then went to the security check on the way to the terminal. The officer there told me to go through the shortest line, which I later found out was extra security. When it was my turn to get checked, I was sent to the end of a long metal table and was told to dump out all my belongings so another security officer could check them.

After only about 10 minutes of checking and questioning me, the officer said I could pack all my stuff and I was ready to go. He picked up my notebook to hand it to me and it happened to open to the one page of writing in the whole book, a childhood Arabic lesson, which was dated 2012 at the top. He told me he would be back and came back with another man who grabbed the notebook, stared at it, then stared at me. He started by asking, “Why do you have Arabic in this notebook?” then asked, “What connection do you have to Arabs?”  When I told him my father is from Morocco, he took my passport and walked away. I stood there for about five minutes watching as the man showed multiple security officers my passport.

He came back with a woman who right away started asking questions like, “What holidays do you celebrate?” “Are you sure you are not Palestinian?” At the end she asked, “What are your parents’ names?” When I answered, “Susan and Ahmed” she said, “and what?” so I repeated “Ahmed.” She grabbed my passport and told me she would be back.

She came back with another woman who told me I would have to go with her. She asked me if I had any weapons on me or anything that could hurt her and did not seem convinced when I answered no. She took me to a security scanner where she made me stand with my hands above my head for a prolonged period of time, even after the scanner was done scanning. She told me I needed to take off my sandals and to sit down. She checked in between my toes and then called someone as she was staring at me. She took me into a little closet room with a curtain and began feeling me to check me, then told me I needed to take off my bra. I gave her a confused look and she said the scanner found something and she needed to check. I took off my bra, handed it to her and she took it and left me standing there with another woman watching me for ten minutes. She came back and felt me and scanned me again and then left me there again. After about 20 minutes, she gave me my bra back and let me get dressed again and brought me back out to the main security area.

At this point I started to shake and cry.  It had been about two hours and I was very nervous but also very, very angry. They sat me down and took my things for a final check. Finally, they let me pack up all my things for the second time and leave. They handed me my passport and as I looked on the back they had put a 6 sticker over the 5. I took my stuff and made my way to my gate.

I was thirsty so I went to the little shop near my gate and bought a juice. The woman at the counter asked to see my passport.  When she saw the 6, she told me I couldn’t take the juice on the plane with me. I saw that others were allowed to take their liquids on the plane.  I was too tired to care so I went and waited at the gate.

At the gate, I thought it was all over, was starting to relax and could finally take a deep breath. My plane was ready for boarding and I was looking forward to resting on the plane and getting home. I got to the gate and gave the woman my passport and boarding pass.  She stared at my passport for a second and then said, “You need to come with me.” My heart dropped.  I had thought it was all over, but apparently they were not done with me. The lady informed me that they had lost my bag and had located it because of name tags I had left on it. She blamed me for losing the luggage and told me I had to wait there. Everyone else had boarded the plane and I was over at the side waiting. They brought me my bag and told me I had to wait for security to come to check my already checked bag. My plane was scheduled to leave in ten minutes and when I asked if I would still make my flight they ignored me. A security officer came over and asked me some questions about my bag and checked it at the gate of the flight.

Finally, after over two hours of being questioned and strip searched, I was able to board the plane and go home.  The bag, which had been searched in front of me at the gate, did not make the flight and was delivered two days later.  Rather than scare me off, this experience has made me more determined to help those who suffer much worse every day.

Editor’s Note: The author of this article is only using her first name to protect her anonymity. 

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16 Responses

  1. echinococcus on August 26, 2016, 1:13 pm

    Let it be a lesson. Boycott means boycott.
    No one needs to go there except on definite missions.
    Spread the word. Boycott all tourism.
    Don’t go there. Not worth the humiliation and the danger.
    If you have any Meistervolk relatives living there, cut them off.

  2. justicewillprevail on August 26, 2016, 4:05 pm

    Disgusting. This has nothing whatsoever to do with security, and everything to do with deliberate , sadistic humiliation and harassment. Absolutely par for the course in Israel. Their pathetic ignorance and prejudice about Arabs and Palestinians, or indeed anybody outside of the sect, is proof enough of their insular, narrow education and outlook. What is worst is their assumption that they have the right to behave so prejudicially and and with such spiteful, calculated cruelty. That picture is so Orwellian and forbidding – no ‘welcome’ could be so threatening – it fits perfectly their attitude.

  3. Marnie on August 27, 2016, 2:50 am

    What the US State Dept. should be saying wrt ‘israel’
    ‘CONCERNING ‘israel’: Credible information indicates terrorist groups also seek to continue attacks against U.S.The U.S. government remains highly concerned about possible attacks against U.S. citizens, facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests. Private U.S. citizens are strongly discouraged from traveling to ‘israel’. U.S. citizens are reminded that fighting on behalf of or providing other forms of support to designated terrorist organizations, such as JSIL and all of its entities, i.e., AIPAC, ADL, StandWithUs, CUFI, etc., does constitute the provision of material support for terrorism, which is a serious crime that can result in penalties including prison time and large fines.

  4. Elizabeth Block on August 27, 2016, 11:05 am

    There’s a plan to take high school students from Toronto to visit Palestine/Israel. What are they going to do at Ben Gurion when they see all those brown and black kids, some of whom look, and are, Muslim? Well, Toronto will learn a lot about Israel.

    “She asked me if I had any weapons on me” — well, yes, obviously she did. A pen. Mightier than the sword.
    Do the Israelis not know what a black eye they are giving themselves?
    Or, more likely, do they know and not care?

    • jackal on August 28, 2016, 4:27 pm

      One of the items on my bucket list (80 years old) is to go on a tour to Israel/Palestine with the journalist/tour guide from Bethlehem, Jonathan Cook. I hope to visit with Israeli as well as Palestinian families.
      I’m a Canadian who has travelled extensively. Even in the 1980’s, I had little trouble checking into or out of Russia (via Moscow) and travelling extensively within Russia on tours or privately. I went in with an excessive number of jeans, traded those for free taxi rides through border crossings, bought a lot of souviners (sp), even purchased a set of tires for a cousin’s car at a Barioska (sp). Would have enjoyed myself much more if they would have had decent food, but that was hard to come by at that time even for people that lived there.
      I’ve done a lot of reading in preparation for my visit to I/P so I have a good idea of what I want to see. I hope to be taking a lot of pictures and movies (which I did in the Soviet Union without any trouble), buying a lot of Palestinian goods without the apparent hassle that this young lass suffered.

  5. annie on August 28, 2016, 6:08 am

    reminds me of (excellent) “The bra is a security threat”: Harassment and interrogation at Ben Gurion airport:

    • amigo on August 28, 2016, 3:21 pm

      “The bra is a security threat”:”

      The average bra has a pair of IED,s stashed in side and it takes a campaign hardened boob disposal expert to disarm them.

  6. Talkback on August 28, 2016, 2:26 pm

    Why do you have Jiddish in your notes? What connection do you have with ze Joos? Raus? Raus! Schnell!

  7. Qualtrough on August 29, 2016, 2:19 am

    Marnie – Spot on with your State Dept. advice. With senior JSIL officials acknowledging that they would fall back on a Samson Option and take the world down with them with their nukes in the event things don’t go their way, JSIL presents a signal danger to the peace and safety of the entire world.

    • Marnie on August 30, 2016, 6:13 am

      Seriously is there any entity (outside the u.s. of course) that has caused more problems than JSIL? רק בלגן

  8. JLewisDickerson on August 29, 2016, 3:02 am

    RE: ‘Why do you have Arabic in this notebook?’: 17-year-old American student strip searched and interrogated in Ben Gurion airport

    THE PATRONIZING HASBARIST SEZ: Honey, let me try to explain something to you. Israel’s security screening is very, very, very scientific. It is so good it is being adopted by airports all over the world, including Boston’s Logan Airport.* I realize that you do not understand what is going on, but I assure you it is absolutely necessary for your own protection. Trust me.
    Please visit us again soon. Shalom!

    * SEE: “Boston airport security program rife with racial profiling has Israeli links”, by Alex Kane, Mondoweiss, 8/14/12

    [EXCERPTS] Security officers at Boston’s Logan International Airport have come under fire for the widespread racial profiling of Arabs, Muslims, Blacks and Hispanics in their zeal to ferret out terrorists.
    The ‘New York Times’ broke the story over the weekend after officers who requested anonymity came forward;
    some officers have complained internally to the Transportation Security Agency as well. A Massachusetts lawmaker has called for congressional hearings on the racial profiling allegations.
    The ‘Times’ reports that officers estimated that “80 percent” of passengers “searched during certain shifts” were people of color. What’s more, the Boston airport “is the testing ground for an expanded use of behavioral detection methods at airports around the country.”
    But what’s not touched on in the ‘Times’ report is the fact that Logan International’s security procedures are modeled on Israel’s policies at their own airport–policies that are blatantly racist. . .

    . . . The Israel connection is integral to understanding Boston’s racial profiling problems. In 2009, according to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Jerusalem Post reported that “Boston’s Logan Airport has tapped the Israeli company New Age Security Solutions to help secure the facility using Behavior Pattern Recognition.” . . .
    . . . It took until August 2011 for the Israeli-inspired model to be operationalized. That was the date when the “behavioral profiling” became an official model at Boston’s airport–and this was “a direct result” of “Israeli influence” on security procedures at the airport
    , according to the Associated Press.
    Fast-forward to the New York Times story. The ‘Times’ reports that one anonymous TSA officer complained that this “behavior detection program is no longer a behavior-based program, but [rather] a racial profiling program.”
    To observers of how Israeli security works at Ben Gurion Airport, the allegations of racial profiling will come as no surprise. Palestinian and Arab travelers at Ben Gurion are guaranteed to be harassed by Israeli security. . .


    • JLewisDickerson on August 29, 2016, 3:04 am

      P.S. ALSO SEE: “Permanent Temporariness”, by Alastair Crooke, London Review of Books, 03/03/11:

      [EXCERPT] . . . It was [Ariel] Sharon who pioneered the philosophy of ‘maintained uncertainty’ that repeatedly extended and then limited the space in which Palestinians could operate by means of an unpredictable combination of changing and selectively enforced regulations, and the dissection of space by settlements, roads Palestinians were not allowed to use and continually shifting borders. All of this was intended to induce in the Palestinians a sense of permanent temporariness. . .

      SOURCE –

  9. eljay on August 29, 2016, 9:22 am

    Israel is a “moral beacon” and “light unto the nations” state…unless you have Arabic writing in your notebook and your father’s name is “Ahmed”, in which case it’s not quite as bad as Saudi Arabia, Mali and African “hell-holes”.

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