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July 11, 2007



it can be that someone is 'clean' and later becomes 'dirty'.


You're right about many things. Israel has legitimate security concerns, but their 'security checks' leave much to be desired and are often used to harass.

It's especially insulting when a young, Russian Israeli, who has obviously only immigrated to Israel recently, harasses elderly Palestinians whose family has lived there for generations. I've seen this myself.

I was put through the ringer back in 1987 in Paris going into Tel Aviv simply because I carried a letter home from a classmate of mine to his mother in Gaza City. It was in Arabic, therefore, cause for an intense search of all items and a plane seat between two air marshalls (I swear).

Only one question: What the heck does your goatee have to do with whether security stops you or not?

Dion Nissenbaum

Hi Edie. The taxi driver was suggesting that having facial hair is one of the things that makes security suspicious, so it would make things easier if I simply shaved it off.


In most cases, incompetence, ignorance, and stupidity are the underlying reasons for a lot of things that government organizations do that don't make sense or are counter-productive -- and not "conspiracy theories," broadly defined, or even "intelligence gathering" fishing expeditions. Having been through the arduous security procedures at Ben Gurion myself as a student and then as a journalist, I think I can safely say that incompetence, ignorance, and stupidity are the simplest and most logical "reasons" for some of the idiotic procedures and practices. Why should the people in charge of security at Ben Gurion Airport be any different from the typical bureaucrats at any other Israeli government organization? However, I would add and emphasize that the inspection people need to be trained to treat Arab passengers with greater respect and dignity. There is no excuse for any of the behavior that routinely goes on -- and the stupidity, incompetence, and ignorance that allows this to go on (with all its counterproductive impacts) starts at the top.


If you are supposedly "clean" because you are an aid worker, the terror trolls will expoit that and sign up and dress up to take advantage of that. The same can be said for many supposedly trustworthy groups, although diplomats should get some "pre-screening and pre-clearance same as the police and politicians do. Journalists know their position can be used for cover and there are instances of this being used as a way to move laptop stored code or to get out of a country where they are being hunted. The questioning tries to ferret out the liars. Most other contries say "Whay can't we have airports as secure as Israel", ...until they go thorugh Ben Gurion and see how much hassle it can be. The tradeoff is worth the hassle politically, if you don't think so you can always make your connections through the Baghdad airport. BTW, why aren't they starting to do Israeili type security checks? Probably because they are being far more strict and nobody wants to go to the airport.

Mark H. Schwartz

I hold both Israeli and American citizenship and I live in Tel Aviv. I have many maddening stories to tell about the security measures which have affected visitors and friends of mine.

The latest one is that the young, inept security people do not know enough about its country and ethnic groups.

Case in point, a Druze friend of mine, who is a member of an ethnic group which is fiercely loyal to Israel. They serve in the army along with Jewish Israelis, and do reserve duty. The Druze I know love Israel more than most Jews I know, and are not dying to get out of here like most young people.

The one time and only time he flew El Al, he was subject to many indiginities, too many to mention here. I think in this case it was more El Al security than Ben Gurion Airport security, but I am not sure.

I also have a Cuban American friend from Miami who was so horrible treated, that he after he got home to Miami, he started a smear campaign. He has encouraged travel agencies, not just individuals, not to travel to Israel because of what happened to him. I think that this already has cost Israel millions of tourist dollars.

Israel needs to fine tune its security measures and know whom they are questioning and humiliating and who is an enemy of the state or not.


I am an Arab living in israel (Palestine) and everytime i travel, I get really really humiliated in Ben gorion, and I'm treated like an enemy. It doesn't matter who you are, what you do, if you're an Arab, then you will be treated in the most humiliating way, and trust me, they do a very good job in that!


The security searches and questionnings at ben Gurion are pure harassment. The USA have never resorted in such techniques in their own aiports, even though they are threatened as well. I read in the American press some years ago that the Israeli methods were seen as too humiliating and not efficient enough by American security services.

I am an aid worker with a valid work visa for Israel and a Gaza permit which was delivered by the Israeli army, meaning I've been checked many times by the Israeli authorities. So why treat me as a potential terrorist any time I exit Israel through Ben Gurion? When I began working here I was rather pro-Israeli, feeling sympathy for Israel as my own country is also being targeted by Islamists. Now I've changed my mind and began to think that if the Israeli authorities are that paranoiad in Ben Gurion, maybe they are equally paranoid in Occupied Palestinian territories.

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Checkpoint Jerusalem was written by Dion Nissenbaum, who covered the Middle East as Jerusalem bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers from 2005 to 2009.

Nissenbaum is now McClatchy's bureau chief in Kabul, covering south Asia with an emphasis on Afghanistan. See his new blog at Checkpoint Kabul.

Feel free to send a story suggestion. Read his stories at news.mcclatchy.com.


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