Director Claude Lanzmann Denies Sexual Harassment Charges

In a letter to Haaretz, renowned Jewish director, most well-known for his 1985 documentary film 'Shoah,' responds to charges he allegedly hugged and kissed a Ben Gurion Airport security worker against her will.

Claude Lanzmann
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Claude Lanzmann

I am 86 years old, I dont count the number of trips I made to Israel since 1952, the year of my discovery of your country, and I know perfectly well and through and through the rules of security at Ben Gurion Airport.

Generally, I approve them and consent with all my heart and my best mood. But there are also – and I am sure that you are aware of it - some exaggerations and even sadistic behavior of some young security girls who stick like robots to the litany of their inquisitorial questions, without taking in account the tiredness or the age of the people searched endlessly. It is exactly what happened at Ben Gurion Airport. The (security) girl in charge of my group- my producer and my female assistant wearing a heavy and big backpack- obliged her to open 3 times this heavy bag. She also forbade her to help me in the opening of my heavy baggage, full with books and DVD necessary for my work. In order to stop this inhuman treatment, I wanted to show her the DVD of Shoah and my last book, The Patagonian Hare. But she dismissed all this. She was all in all extremely unpleasant and the security regulations have nothing to do with this kind of behavior.

Claude Lanzmann.Credit: Emil Salman

After this long and tiring episode, we finally reached the desk of the luggage check in, and of the boarding card. The (security) girl did not leave us, but stood behind us, watching. Happy to have overcome this hardship, I smiled to her, hoping hopelessly her own smile in return, and gave her what we call in French one accolade around her shoulders – in English, a hug – saying ironically to my friends : look how charming she is. Thats all, nothing more, nothing less, there was not the slightest sexual connotation. And 200 meters later, walking with my producer towards the passport control, I heard behind me an horrible scream and a virago to whom she had complained rushed at me, grabbed my passport, which I had in hand, refused to listen at me, to talk, called security men, who forbade me to say a word. Finally the police came, refused to talk to me, to listen at me, pushed me in a car (which took me to) a police station, five kilometers away (I could not take my scarf, my gloves, my coat with Rimbaud in the pocket). I was interrogated by a nice policeman. Afterwards I had to pass the torture of the digital prints: each finger of each hand, all in all ten fingers, and twice the palms of my two hands completely dark with ink, without the possibility of washing them. They rushed me to the El Al plane which had waited for me for an hour and a half, probably on the instructions of the big chief of the airport security, who understood that this so-called harassment was a non-event.

I was and I am still rather sad: I devoted to Israel many years of my life and I made six films which will remain forever in the history of cinema, of Israel, and of the Shoah. I also wrote books which became bestsellers. The last one, "The Patagonian Hare," was translated to Hebrew and published in Israel last year.



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