Barcelona gay leaders say humiliated at Israeli airport
Foreign Ministry slams airport security personnel for 'abusing' the pair of leaders, who were officially invited to participate in Tel Aviv's gay pride parade.
Two leaders of Barcelona's gay community claim that they were subjected to a humiliating security check at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport, while trying to leave the country after participating in last week's Tel Aviv gay pride parade.
The conduct of security at the airport has set off a firestorm with the Foreign Ministry, which had extended an official invitation to the pair to participate in Israel's gay pride activities.
David Marti, the general manager for gay pride events in Barcelona, told Haaretz that airport security had stripped his boyfriend whom he was traveling with. The pair were asked a series of personal questions, which Marti said exceeded reasonable limits. The men's personal items were also thoroughly searched.
Marti said the pair was questioned for a long time, with their security check ending just minutes before their plane took off. Marti and his partner managed to make it to their flight at the last minute.
The positive impression that the pair had of Israel after their visit was erased by the security check, Marti said. He indicated that he understands Israel's need to carry out strict security checks, but he says that the person checking him his partner went overboard.
The gay community leaders came to Tel Aviv in a show of support after their counterparts in Madrid cancelled last year's visit because of the events surrounding Israel's raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla.
The pair informed the Israeli Embassy in Madrid about the incident. The embassy told the Foreign Ministry about the complaint, saying that the security check had damaged Israeli public relations efforts.
"Security personnel at the airport need to understand that they are the face of the State of Israel," a foreign ministry authority said about the incident. "They are the first and last thing that people who come to Israel see."
Speaking about Marti and his partner, the official called them "guests of the state" adding that "all of their details had been passed from the foreign ministry to the airport in advance."
"The security inspector severely harmed Israel's image," the official said.
The official explained that the ministry had invested thousands of dollars to bring these community leaders to Israel, who were "impressed by the country."
"The last thing that we do to them is abuse them and they say that they don't want to come back again," the official said.
The Israel Airports Authority said in response that they had not received any knowledge, as of the morning in question, of the incident occurring.
"Security personnel at Ben Gurion International Airport work day and night for the security of the passengers," the Airport Authority statement said, adding that the security personnel treat all passengers the same, regardless of their sexual orientation or beliefs.