High Court: Explain Why Israeli Arabs Discriminated Against by Airport Security

Court responds to petition filed by civil rights group against Shin Bet and Airports Authority, complaining that entire sector is tagged as generalized 'security risk'.

The High Court of Justice on Monday ordered the Airports Authority and the Shin Bet security services to explain why security checks at Israel's airports were being conducted in a discriminatory fashion.

The court was responding to a petition filed by a human rights group in 2007 that claimed Israeli Arab citizens were being subjected to racial profiling at Israel's airports, tagged in a generalized was a "security risk".

David Bachar

According to the petition, Israeli Arab passengers – even those who did not exhibit any suspicious behavior - are forced to undergo unusually thorough security checks.

In its third debate on the matter last week, the High Court lashed out at the generalized tagging. On Monday, the justices issued an injunction forcing the state to explain why the security procedures were being carried out with unequal considerations.

Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch said there was no doubt that the humiliation experienced by Israeli Arab citizens during airport security checks was unacceptable.

Attorney Auni Bana, representing petitioner Union for Civil Rights, hailed the court's criticism of the matter.

"After the prosecution's repeated attempts to create a smoke screen and draw the debate into irrelevant corners, finally, in this third session on the petition, we have reached the most significant issue: is it permissible to declare, in such a sweeping fashion, that a minority group of Israeli citizens is a security risk?" said Bana.

Co-defense attorney Dan Yakir concurred, adding that Israeli authorities have within their means multiple methods for conducting security checks. "A democratic state cannot accept the degradation of 20% of its citizens," said Yakir, who serves as the legal consultant for the Union for Civil Rights.