Israeli Court Once Again Puts Off Ruling on Discriminatory Airport Security Checks

Petition by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, first filed in 2007, maintains that current checks are discriminatory and humiliate Arab citizens.

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Israel’s Supreme Court decided on Wednesday to once again put off making a ruling on security inspection methods employed in Israeli airports. The petition to make changes to airport security in Israel was filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel in 2007.

The next hearing on the issue will be postponed until April 2014.

“It is not appropriate to make a ruling on this petition, in light of the expected changes that will soon be made in the security procedures at Ben Gurion Airport, and as those changes have been delayed even further, it seems to us that this is not the right time to make a decision,” wrote Supreme Court President Asher Grunis, with Justices Miriam Naor and Edna Arbel.

The statement was released on Wednesday, after government officials submitted a confidential affidavit containing details of the airport security changes currently in the process of being implemented. The state representatives unsuccessfully sought to have the petition thrown out, arguing that the many changes to security procedures since 2007 made it irrelevant.

In response, Attorney Auni Banna from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said that the same procedures that prompted the original petition were still in use. “We’re in the same situation we were in when we filed the petition. Since then, and until this day, Arab citizens have suffered great humiliation at airports,” said Banna. The petition takes issue with the use of Arab nationality as a criterion for escalated security checks at Israeli airports. ACRI seeks instead to implement a single, equal set of criteria for all nationalities during the security checks.

The petition states that, in general, Arab citizens of Israel are subject to much more thorough security checks than Jewish citizens. According to ACRI, the use of nationality as a factor to determine the potential danger a passenger represents is invalid and causes discrimination against, and humiliation of, Arab citizens. In addition, the petition states that using nationality as a measure of potential danger creates a label of negativity and ostracizes an entire sector of the population.

In the numerous hearings that have been held since the petition was originally filed six years ago, the government has promised to implement changes to security procedures that would “reduce the feelings of discrimination.” In March 2008, the government stated that a new policy for checking luggage - which was meant to “increase feelings of equality” - would be implemented at Ben Gurion Airport some time in 2010.

In September 2009, however, the government announced that the policy only would go into effect in 2012. In 2012, it was postponed until 2013. Before this week's hearing, the government announced that the policy would be delayed yet again, with implementation scheduled for March 2014.

In 2011, the High Court of Justice ordered the state to disclose the reasons behind the ethnic discrimination. The government's position was that the security checks at Ben Gurion Airport are conducted based on damage assessments which, among other factors, are based on ethnicity. The state also requested that the court refrain from making fundamental decisions regarding the security check process.

Security at Ben-Gurion airport.Credit: Nir Keidar

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