Israeli Arab Actress Tells of Humiliating Security Check at Ben-Gurion Airport

Samar Qupty thanks airport security on Facebook for 'making sure to remind me every time anew how unwanted I am here.'

A scene from Udi Aloni's "Junction 48" shows Samar Qupty as Manar, left, and Tamer Nafar as Kareem.
Amnon Zalaita, AP

An Israeli Arab actress has written on Facebook about being delayed for two hours by security inspectors at Ben-Gurion Airport and forced to board her flight without her carry-on baggage.

Samar Qupty, star of the Israeli film “Junction 48,” arrived at the airport for a flight to Colombia, where the film was being screened at a local film festival. In a Facebook post last night, she said the security inspectors refused to let her bring her carry-ons aboard.

“I don’t know how I dared to think I had a right to fly to Colombia,” she wrote. “After all, it’s not clear what an Arab woman is going to do there by herself.”

She said she told the inspectors she was going to present her film at the festival and showed them the invitation and the program to prove it, but it didn’t help.

First, Qupty said, the inspectors pulled her aside and made her wait for half-an-hour under their supervision. They then searched all her bags and did a body search. Finally, after about two hours, a security officer told her she would have to leave her knapsack at the airport and board without it. After some negotiation, he allowed her to take only three items on the plane: a jacket, a book and the SIM card for her cellphone.

“So, dear Ben-Gurion Airport, I wanted to say thank you,” she wrote. “First, for protecting us from frightening people and situations. For making sure to remind me every time anew how unwanted I am here and how frightening I can be. For the attitude, the looks and the winks you always give when you see my name. For the way you tear me apart inside each time anew — not by your idiotic searches, but by the fact that I see you humiliating a woman the age of my mother, or my grandmother, before my very eyes ... each time anew!

“But above all, thanks for the strength you give me through these humiliations and experiences — the strength of a strong, powerful desire to exist and to continue clinging to the hope that I drew from ‘Junction 48’ outside to our real junction, with enormous faith and pride,” she concluded.

Qupty, 26, was born in Nazareth but has lived for years in Tel Aviv. Her starring role in “Junction 48,” directed by Udi Aloni, is her first movie role. Her co-star is the hip-hop artist Tamer Nafar.

The film had its first screening in February at the Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the audience favorite award. Two months later, it won best international film at the Tribeca Festival in New York, and recently, it was picked up for distribution in North America.

The script was written by Nafer, together with New York screenwriter Oren Moverman (“The Messenger,” “I’m Not There”,) and was inspired by his own life. It tells the story of two young lovers — a singer (Qupty) and a hip-hop artist (Nafer) — who are trying to make their way in Lod’s Palestinian ghetto. Through their love and their music, they try to fight both the external oppression by Jewish Israeli society and the internal pressures of Lod’s conservative Arab society, which suffers from poverty and crime.

The Israel Airports Authority said, “Security checks are performed on every passenger, and when there’s an alert, items are checked using technological methods to detect explosives. The security check procedure and its nature aren’t related at all to the passenger’s [ethnic] origins, but to a large number of parameters.”

It added that these procedures are dictated by the government and are legal under both Israeli law and international aviation law.

“We’re sorry about your feelings, but your security and the security of the passengers are in the forefront of our minds,” the statement continued. “The check was conducted in accordance with security regulations to ensure the security of the flight and the passengers.”