Israeli Airport Guards Pepper-spray Druze Family, Draw Gun on Them

Airports Authority says the guard behaved 'unprofessionally' toward the family from a village near Haifa, many of whose citizens serve in the Israeli army ■ Official says guard will be fired

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Members of the Aboud family on August 26, 2018.
Members of the Aboud family on August 26, 2018. Credit: Rami Shlush
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

A Druze family was pepper-sprayed by a guard at the entrance to a road leading to Ben-Gurion Airport where they were headed to a flight overseas, as they were stopped for a routine security check a week ago, a member of the family told Haaretz on Monday.

Roni Aboud, a family member and owner of a construction firm, described the incident: "We arrived at the entrance to the airport. A guard asked the driver for identity papers. He replied that we were Druze from Daliyat al Carmel. She said to pull over to the side and stop. The guard came over to us. My nephew, who's in professional IDF service, showed him his army ID. The guard told him, 'I don't care about your army ID, I don't care that you're Druze, bring me your passports."

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Aboud said his brother collected all their passports and handed them to the guard. "Without even counting them he said there was one passport missing," he recounted "I replied that he should lower his tone and speak to us politely, and that the driver's ID card had already been handed to the other guard."

Despite their attempts to calm him down, the guard continued to argue in a threatening way, after which two other guards came over, one with a can of pepper spray in his hand who asked whether we wanted get sprayed.

>> The right's security service at Ben-Gurion Airport | Editorial ■ Admired for their army service, Druze remain second-class Israelis

"This surprised me. I didn't think he'd do it and I said, yes, go ahead and spray us," Aboud recalled. "I didn't raise a hand, I didn't do anything illegal. We know the law, know the regulations. Suddenly, he sprayed us. He didn't just spray us once. He emptied out the container on me. I was one meter or a meter and a half from the car's door, everything went into the minibus. I fell and hit my head on the minibus door, everyone got out of the minibus. I could barely open my eyes and the children were screaming.

"Then one of the guards pointed his gun at us," Aboud continued. "My brother said, 'shoot me, why even think twice about it?"

Two other guards came over at this point, Aboud said. "They all stood on the side and didn't help They were speaking to us as though we were in the country illegally. Fifteen, twenty minutes, a half-hour went by. None of them called an ambulance. They didn't even give us a bottle of water to wipe the gas out our eyes."

They eventually called an ambulance, which came but couldn't provide any help, Aboud said. The infirmary at the airport also couldn't provide any help, and they all flew to Bulgaria suffering from the effects of the pepper spray.

"For five days, we could barely move," Aboud said. "We all have health problems. We had waited for this vacation to go and have a good time. It was a terrible trip, though. We didn't feel like we were on an excursion, there was no good experience. All week long all we thought about was what was happening to the world. We're Israelis and we were hurt and humiliated in such an extraordinary way. We feel as though we are not even citizens. I can't believe that we served in the army."

After the nation-state law was passed, his nephew decided to get a discharge from the army and was discharged on Wednesday.

"It's so disgusting," Aboud said. "What happened? Little children. They pointed a gun at us, how could they do that? Is that logical? We contribute, we have Jewish friends, we have donated to the air force, to a synagogue in Netanya. We don't look at whether you're Jewish or Druze. We felt like we were all one family. Now I no longer feel that we are citizens. It stinks. The law was enacted quickly. We told them we are Druze, they didn't listen. They were violent. What's that about? Where are we living? Let's say one of them was stupid, or two of them, but 10?"

An apology at this stage wouldn't help. "We received not a single phone call all last week," Pnina Aboud, the officer's mother told Haaretz. She said that "until this moment I am still choking and coughing. I went to the doctor and he said I had a sensitivity to it. My husband and daughter have lost their voices. My brother, his wife and kids have lung infections. What can I say? I was angry. They didn't call all week. How are the guards who did this still working there?"

The Airports Authority said in response: "We regret the incident that occurred during the security check. An investigation into the incident has found that the guard behaved unprofessionally and against regulations. The incident is being investigated and is being shared in briefings with all the guards."

An official at the Airports Authority told Haaretz that the investigation into the incident ended with the conclusion that the airport guard in question cannot continue in his position and will be fired accordingly.

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