Al-Jazeera producer and reporter Najwan Simri Diab on Wednesday recounted the extensive security check she underwent Tuesday before a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and foreign reporters.
"We were invited to the event and I was asked to send the names of the staff members. That's what I did – three days in advance. I, the office head Walid al-'Umri, and reporter Shirin Abu 'Aqla arrived at the event according to the scheduled timetable.
"Before our arrival, I received an angry phone call from our photographer, who was asked to arrive two hours earlier. He said everyone was allowed in apart from him and that all of his equipment was taken apart, including the screws of his camera's battery. He said he and his assistant were asked to undress."
Upon their arrival, Simri Diab and her two co-workers were asked to stand with the other foreign journalists in a queue for a security check.
"This is the sixth time we arrive at such an event and the second time during Netanyahu's term. When it was our turn they saw that we had Israeli identity cards, but still took us aside. We waited for half an hour and saw more Arab journalists joining our queue. In fact, they created a queue for Arabs and a queue for other journalists. I was angry."
After waiting for more than half an hour, the producer-reporter complained that she couldn't stand up much longer because of her pregnancy. The security guards told her to sit down and wait.
"They later took me downstairs to the security check cell. They asked me to take off my coat and then my vest. I did. Then they asked me to take off my shirt. I took a deep breath and did it. I was left with just my undershirt and trousers, without my shoes and the rest of my equipment. The female officer felt me with her hands for 15 minutes in any place possible. I told her I was pregnant and asked her not to use the manual device, but compromised on that later too."
'So you won't go in'
But the extensive security check did not end here, and she was later asked to remove her bra. "After she examined the bra under my undershirt, she asked me to take it off as well. I asked why, but she insisted. Her supervisor came over later and insisted as well. I refused, and she said, 'Everyone removed it and so will you.' I said, 'I'm not taking it off even if I can't go in.' And she said, 'So you won't go in.'"
According to Simri Diab, men saw her too. "A spokesperson from the office saw me in my undershirt and asked what was going on. When I told him what happened, he said, 'Don't create a drama.' The woman at the security check told him, 'She refuses to be checked.'
"They sent me aside for 20 minutes and refused to return my belongings. They checked every single paper and document in my purse. They later returned all my items inside a box, and I had to arrange them for a long time."
The other al-Jazeera reporter, who was waiting for her own security check, said she wanted to leave the event. The bureau head said he was asked to remove his trousers. "I got the feeling that even if I had arrived in a bikini, they would have asked me to remove it."
Meridor acted differently
Simri Diab has been working for the al-Jazeera network for about eight years. She is originally from the north and currently resides in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Safafa.
She said this wasn't the first time she had to undergo such a security check. "When we arrived to interview Minister Dan Meridor at the Prime Minister's Office about half a year ago, they did the same thing and asked me to take off my trousers. They put the manual device in the most sensitive places and, what can you do, it beeped because of the zipper."
Then, she said, the deputy prime minister intervened. "Minister Meridor saw it, was furious and told them, "If you don't let them in I'll take them home with me.' So they agreed to let us in, but only with a personal escort.
"Unfortunately, we are used to having the security teams ask us to remove our trousers. A spokesman from the office told us yesterday, 'We did the same with the Turkish team, and they do the same to me in the United States.' So what? Am I supposed to feel better because others are humiliated?
"I felt I was being humiliated for the sake of humiliation. I went back home and saw the prime minister talking about the Iranian threat. I wanted to be there to inform him of what I had to go through. I'm being treated like an enemy. I will not give up my private space anywhere."
The General Security Service stated in response, "All guests were subjected to a security check in accordance with the customary security procedures in such events. Three female reporters refused to be examined under these procedures and chose not to attend the event."
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