Shin Bet Apologizes for Grounding Israeli Arab, but Refuses to Explain Why

Israeli security guards at Copenhagen Airport stopped Wissam Saadi, an Israeli Arab from Acre, from boarding an Arkia flight to Israel, even though Saadi has no criminal record and has never taken part in radical political activities.

Israeli security guards at Copenhagen Airport stopped an Israeli Arab from Acre, Wissam Saadi, from boarding an Arkia flight for Israel, even though the man has no criminal record and has never taken part in radical political activities.

Wissam Saadi September 6, 2010 Hagai Frid
Hagai Frid

Saadi, 37, a composer and graphic designer, arrived at the airport early, knowing that security checks might take longer than normal. Nevertheless, security personnel refused to allow him on board; they gave no explanation and suggested that he take a flight on a foreign airline a few hours later.

Saadi has filed a complaint with Arkia, describing the incident as racial discrimination and infringement of human rights. He said he is considering filing a civil lawsuit against the company.

Saadi insisted on taking the flight he had a ticket for, but when he realized the security staff was serious, he left the airport and flew home with the airline SAS a day later. Saadi was not compensated for missing his flight and had to buy a new ticket at his own expense.

Arkia said this week the decision not to allow Saadi on board was not taken by the company but by the Shin Bet security service. The Shin Bet has apologized for the distress caused to Saadi but declined to discuss what the security guards found suspicious.

Saadi told Haaretz he was on his way to Israel after staying with a relative in Finland and visiting Stockholm. From there he took a train to Copenhagen and spent the night at the airport, planning to begin the security check as early as possible. He said the security staff asked him many intrusive questions.

"The questioning went from one officer to another, and the most senior of them decided not to let me board the plane for security considerations," Saadi said. "I tried to understand what I was suspected of and what was the reason for their refusal, but I never got an answer. I got the same message from the duty manager at Arkia. I asked them to get a written copy of the decision but neither the security staff nor the company obliged."

Saadi said that on landing at Ben-Gurion International Airport, he easily went through passport control, which he says shows that the suspicions of the security guards in Copenhagen were unfounded.

The Shin Bet said in a statement: "We regret any distress caused to Mr. Saadi. However, because of limitations existing at the airport in Copenhagen, it was impossible to complete the security checks as required by the security regulations. An alternative arrangement was offered to Mr. Saadi, but he declined."