Machsom Watch women want to watch over Ben Gurion Airport: In a new initiative, the Machsom Watch organization, along with the New Israel Fund, want to place monitors at the Ben Gurion airport, to prevent any bad treatment of Arab passengers.
The organizations recently sent a letter to Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz and CEO of the Airport Authority Gabi Ofir, asking to set up airport monitors, as well as provide long-term training for airport security personnel.
According to the request, the monitoring will be undertaken by volunteers from the organization "responsible for protecting human rights". The letter stated that the organizations emphasized that they aren't trying to delegitimize the need for security checks.
However "the organization does not accept generalized suspicion against various populations, primarily minority populations, and certainly does not accept cruelty or humiliation towards any human being under the guise of a security check."
The organizations claim that the situation in Ben Gurion Airport is getting worse, since they recently received a higher number of complaints from Arab citizens regarding prejudiced security checks, although the passengers said that they did not appear to be security risks.
The complainants claimed that security personnel treated them in a humiliating manner once it was obvious – based on physical appearance, accent, place of residence, etc – that they were dealing with Arab passengers.
Dr. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, a member of the New Israel Fund and a professor of criminology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem claims that she experienced harsh discrimination, on her way to lecture at a conference in Tunis on womens' rights.
She was kept for a prolonged check, during which her suitcase was opened in public and her items mocked by the security personnel. She was not allowed to take her laptop computer with her. In the end, she decided not to fly.
Offering to supply a solutionThe organizations claim that, based on recently compiled reports, Arab passengers receive different treatment in the airport than Jewish passengers, a phenomenon derived from a longstanding philosophy that Arabs constitute a security threat.
"We're not struggling against security checks. We're struggling to try and find a solution for anyone who felt humiliated during this process," said New Israel Fund's Director General Eliezer Yaari.
"We are offering a solution – another eye to make sure there's no cruelty and we're willing to supply a training system funded by us, in order to ensure that people won't be treated with cruelty."
The Airport Authority responded: "We received the request yesterday (Tuesday) and will assess it. The Airport Authority makes great efforts to improve service to its passengers in general and its Arab passengers in particular."
"The Airport Authority has recently established a website in Arabic, and the authority's security branch recently opened a unit whose responsibility is it to liaise with minorities," they added.