An Arab journalist says she was so profoundly insulted by El Al security staff at a Milan airport that she changed her itinerary and may sue the Israeli national carrier.
Yara Mashour is the editor of the Nazareth-based women's magazine Lilac and the daughter of the late Lutfi Mashour, the editor and publisher of the Arabic weekly Al-Sinara. Yesterday she related what she said happened to her, her brother-in-law and another relative when they arrived at Milan's Malpensa Airport on Monday for their return flight to Israel, and reached the El Al security checkpoint.
"As soon as they realized we were Arabs they immediately separated us from the other passengers. Three security people started asking us questions. At first we considered it to be routine, but it went on and on," Mashour said.
She said that at some point security agents separated each member of her party "like criminals," adding, "I began arguing and asking them why they were asking so many questions. One of the guards, apparently the one in charge, got mad and began yelling, 'You won't board the plane until I have asked you all the questions and you have passed the strictest security check,'" Mashour said. She was then asked to follow a number of security agents to another part of the airport, for a body search.
"I said I refused to undergo this humiliation and that I had no intention of cooperating. I said I was even willing to give up my flight," Mashour said.
"I felt like they were raping me in many senses, and I am not prepared to let this go. The issue has already been given to a lawyer to handle, to check whether a suit can be filed for damages, for the insult and humiliation we suffered," Mashour said.
According to Mashour the man in charge of security said it would be better if she did not fly, and that her money would be refunded.
"I went to the airline ticket counter to check and they told us they wouldn't refund our tickets because it was our decision not to board the plane," Mashour said.
According to Mashour, her two traveling companions were also subjected to humiliating security checks, in which they were forced to remove the contents of their bags for examination.
"It looked like they were doing this on purpose, because we asked why we were being humiliated," she said.
On Tuesday the group flew to Israel, via Istanbul, on a Turkish airline.
"In Turkey we went through the usual check and amazingly, the plane reached Israel safely and did not blow up," Mashour commented.
In a response, El Al said it operates "in accordance with the instructions of Israeli security agencies," adding, "We regret that the passengers were offended and chose not to fly with us."
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