Airport security in Israel - David Bachar
Security staff questioning Israeli Arab passengers at Ben-Gurion Airport. Photo by David Bachar
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Foreign Ministry officials told Haaretz on Monday that over the past year, there were dozens of complaints on the part of Turkish citizens who claimed they were humiliated by Israeli security personnel at Ben-Gurion airport.

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The officials also said that almost every Turkish citizen who arrives at Ben-Gurion airport undergoes a routine procedure of extensive, humiliating examinations that also include undressing to one's underwear.

"Turkish citizens are always separated from the rest of the passengers at the airport," said a Foreign Ministry official.

"When their luggage is thoroughly examined and they undergo extensive questioning they understand it comes from security needs, but when they get to the strip search part it breaks them and they are humiliated. Many Turkish businesspeople and tourists have complained about this in the past. This humiliation ceremony of Turkish citizens is a routine matter."

Earlier Monday, dozens of Israelis were questioned at length at Istanbul's airport and forced to undergo a strip search. Officials in Ankara said in response that Israel was first to humiliate passengers, saying that Turkish tourists were harassed in Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport on Sunday evening, hours before the incident at Istanbul's airport the next morning.

The issue of security checks at Ben-Gurion has turned into a regular source of tension which causes embarrassing diplomatic incidents every several weeks. Foreign citizens routinely complain regarding their examinations, and some, who are official guests of the Foreign Ministry or other government offices also say they are humiliated often. Most of the incidents take place upon departure from Israel as opposed to landing.

"The Ben-Gurion issue is known and as much as we try to fix it, it does not help," said a Foreign Ministry official. "One time the Turks decide to treat us the same way and everyone gets all worked up."

The recent flare-up took place against the backdrop of a deepening diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey, after the UN-commissioned report on the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid was leaked to the New York Times, foiling a last-ditch effort to patch up relations between the two countries. Turkey then announced a series of measures against Israel, beginning with the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and the downgrading of bilateral relations to the level of second secretary.