Report: Arab citizens viewed as 'security threats' at airports
Human rights, anti-racism groups report Arab citizens subjected to discrimination by Israeli security staff, airlines.
Arab citizens experience institutionalized discrimination in Israeli airports and from Israeli airports abroad, according to a special report released Monday by the Arab Association for Human Rights and the Center for the Struggle Against Racism.
The report includes several testimonies from Arab citizens who underwent what they called degrading treatment, and who, the report claims, "do not represent a security threat whatsoever to other passengers, and who were never suspected of security violations."
Bachar Ouda, chairman of the Center for the Struggle Against Racism, said that in one instance a young Arab woman was forced to undress for a security check in a room in which male security guards were present.
The report also includes the testimony of Fairouz Nasrallah, a resident of a village in the north, who said that her last name - also that of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah - prevented her from passing the security check with the other passengers.
"The female security guard led me behind a curtain and told me to remove my clothing," she said.
"I refused, and finally she passed a scanning device over my body without my consent. During the search, one of the security guards took a musical toy from my luggage, turned it on, spoke to me disparagingly, and made sarcastic comments to his friends. He also asked me what is inside of the toy. Later, at home, I realized it was broken," she said.
She added that her hearing device had also been damaged during the search.
According to the report, security personnel behaved in a discriminating manner as soon as it became apparent that they were dealing with Arab citizens, whether by the latter's appearance, accent, residence or name.
Several people claimed they received consistently discriminatory treatment at Ben-Gurion Airport from the moment they arrived until they boarded their flight.
"We are not against the security check, but against discriminatory principles," said Mohammed Zidan, chairman of the Arab Association for Human Rights.
"We are against security checks with two parameters - one for Jews and another for Arabs," he said.
Zidan said the report was passed to State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss and to all relevant government offices, including the Prime Minister's Office and the Airports Authority.
Zidan added that his organization has no intention of removing the issue from its agenda, as a reminder "that Arab citizens also have economic power and it is not unthinkable that we will consider a campaign for a boycott against Israeli airlines if there is no change in this discrimination."
Shuweiki Hatib, chairman of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, called on all relevant officials - including Airports Authority Director-General Gabi Ofir - to work towards a change in policy.
"We know that we're not talking about specific decisions of this or that security guard, but about a rather clear policy," Hatib said.
"I expect Ofir and others to take steps that would bring about change. The Jewish public establishment see Arabs as a problem which needs to be addressed, and not as citizens with equal rights, and this is the root of the problem," he said.