Abir Kopty مدوّنة عبير قبطي

You will never be free until you respect the freedom of others

My story: racial profiling in Israeli airport

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Sunday morning, July 10th 2011, Eilat, the southern Israeli city on the red sea:

I arrived to Eilat airport, one hour before the flight, which is reasonable time for local flights. My flight was scheduled at 9:30 in the morning, I waited on the line until my turn for security person to call me, so she calls, I give her my ID. Here comes the look! “oh she is an Arab, this is a real threat and I need to make sure she won’t hit the airport and the flight”

My Arabic name was enough to be a suspect. She left me, and went to her boss, man of course, showed him the ID. “Hey, she is an Arab, ARAB, what should we do with her?”

Meanwhile, other passengers were winning graceful regular questions, “who packed for you? “Do you have anything that looks like weapon?” “Did anyone give you anything to give to someone?”…That’s all. Then, their bags were subject to a regular baggage check and they are free.

OK, she comes back to me with several personal questions, beyond “graceful” normal question like “who packed your bag?” I was asked “Where have you been?” “What did you do? “With whom you met?” “Where did you know them from?” “Do you have receipts of hotel and taxis’ bill?” “What do you DO? “Where you going and what are are you planning to do today? Etc.

I felt of shouting and screaming to show my rejection against this racial profiling, but based on my experience, this won’t get you anywhere inside “the only democratic state in the Middle East”. The only way is either you collaborate, or you won’t get to your flight, and you will miss the things you have scheduled for and desperately want to attend them. So I did collaborate, I answered all the questions, always with a cold smile after each silly question I was asked, and there were a lot of them.

After passing the first 40mins “exam”, I went to on higher-level, “the boss” approached, but with the same silly questions. At that point, my bags were already confiscated. You know, now I won to be a suspect. In case I had a bomb, so I won’t activate it. Scary, right?

It was already 9:20am, and 10 minutes for my flight to go, “the boss” escorted me for restrict search for me and my bags. I guess it was level three. I tried to explain that my flight is 10 minutes away to fly and I don’t want to miss it. “You will not go on this flight, and besides it is already closed” that was the reply. But he was “kind” enough to reschedule my flight to 2pm. Imagine. Some human being can play with your faith.

At that stage, I couldn’t hold it anymore I started to scream and threat I would sue them. “I will sue you, I will sue you,” I kept yelling, “I have deadlines to meet. I can’t take the flight of 2pm” but it all went down to deaf ears. Who cares, I’m an Arab, my schedule has no importance.

Anyways, I was taken to a special room for suspects, like me, I saw another ‘Arab-looking’ guy and a Russian. Thank god it wasn’t only me.

“The boss” came back and said “you will be on the next flight, which is in 30 minutes”. ‘my threat must have been worked’ I said to myself.

In level three, I was asked to enter the body search and my two handbags were taken to another room. Inside there was a security women, she putted her hand on every part of my body. I was so annoyed; there isn’t any other word to call it but a sexual harassment. She asks me to take off the bra. Wow. My bra is a threat to Israel national security! I didn’t know that Arab’s bra is that dangerous!

She took it for a special check. By then, I already convinced myself that Israel fears me. My bra and all my stuff are a threat to Israel National Security. That means I’m strong and they are weak!

She comes back holding “the suspected bomb-timer” my bra, my small purse and my cellphone. I asked about my other stuff, she went and came back with two ugly cardboard boxes with all my stuff inside “all your stuff are here but you can’t take them with you, we will put them on your flight.” She uttered.

She accompanied me to the departures hall and said, “I wish you a pleasant flight”. And what was I supposed to answer? “Thank you”

By then, I thought it was over, but of course not. I got rewarded with a special seat at the last raw next to security guy. This way they will be “protected”. I was too tired and nervous to enjoy the rest of the levels. I don’t know if there was only one inspector or more who are also interested to watch me! I slept most of the time. Why not, I don’t fear, they fear!

My story is not unique. Racial profiling and humiliation in the name of security, is something that, almost, every Palestinian citizen in Israel experience at least once in his life, if not every time he\she travels.

Recently, many international activists experienced the racial profiling we experience. They have been denied entry; we are denied dignity in airports, just for being Palestinians!

We always make compromises because we want really to get to our flight, we have waited this travel for long, we have family we want to visit abroad, or conference we want to attend, we simply do not want to miss the flight. We know that if we resist, we will miss our flight and maybe humiliated further.

It is about time we stop making this compromise and accommodate with humiliation. Many actions have been taken, many reports written many files submitted to court, yet Israel do not care, and nothing changes. It is also about time that the world says NO to Israel continuous violation of human rights and dignity in the name of ‘security’.

Author: abirkopty

Palestinian social, feminist and political activist.

6 thoughts on “My story: racial profiling in Israeli airport

  1. The worst is that the Israelis have managed to convince many other countries that their racist profiling system is the best. The only opposition I know of comes from the Danish authorities, and we should encourage them. It seems to me there are many forces who give Israel the role of training in reduction of basic civil rights, so they can adopt the same behavior later. It is very depressing, especially since the opportunities for boycott of air companies is very restricted.

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  2. Abir, keep on writing and expose their fascism and racism to the world.These pathetic practicies won’t stop you anyway. Way to go my friend🙂
    Rana Zaher

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  3. Abirchik, but that’s right: you are strong, and they are weak. Hugs and kisses, and lot aof success in fighting racists and idiots! – Vera

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  4. I hope that racist system based on discrimation, supremacy and hatred gets brought to its knees, the sooner the better…All the best in yours and others’ fight against the fascist state of israel….

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  5. Dear Abir,

    I read your story and I feel sympathetic to your ordeal and I do understand your frustration but you have to understand yourself that Israël is not a country like any other. We’ve been threatened, we’ve been targeting by terrorism, palestinian terrorism for so long, that now we have to be extremetly careful, not to mention arab wars we have to deal with since Israël is born.
    Of course, every Palestinian is not a terrorist, but in 60 years (Israël is that young), we had not a single year of peace or at least a feeling of peace. NOT a single one.
    Even so, I regret what’s happeing in terms of security but if I was in charge, I would do exactly whats happens to you (except humiliation if any), but you would probably have missed your flight anyway)
    We are a democracy but not without imperfection but we are also a country surrendered by ennemies. ALL our neighbours are the ennemy of Israël … what would you say about that.
    Anyway, hope we soon find peace and time to forgive each other for all the sufferings we are bond to, altogether.

    Ariel (An israeli citizen)

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  6. I’m an American Jew with excellent Zionist credentials and I got stopped in Eilat and at Ben Gurion where I was taken to the room with the Arabs and Russians where I got questioned and body searched.
    Obviously the experience was unpleasant but OBVIOUSLY A NECESSARY SECURITY PRECAUTION.

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