Israeli Arab Students Strip-searched in Airport Check Sue El Al and Arkia

Israeli Arab Students Strip-searched in Airport Check Sue El Al and Arkia

Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv.

by Jack KhouryHaaretz

Three Arab* women, all university students from northern Israel, are suing El Al and Arkia Israeli Airlines over what they claim was humiliating treatment during an airport security check.

The three filed a 360,000-shekel ($102,000) lawsuit in Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court as a result of the way they were treated prior to boarding a return flight to Tel Aviv from the Serbian capital of Belgrade last October.  Arkia Israeli Airlines was responsible for the flights and organized tour of Serbia, while El Al Israel Airlines provides airport security overseas for all Israeli airlines.

The lawsuit alleges that at the airport for their return flight to Israel, the women were separated from the other Israelis in the tour group for special scrutiny that lasted more than two hours, during which they were forced to undress and underwent humiliating, intrusive body searches as well as a search of a cellphone. They alleged that they were also under constant guard during the remainder of their time at the airport.

In its response to Haaretz, Arkia Airlines said it was not involved in security arrangements for the flight, which the Israeli government has made El Al’s responsibility. For its part, El Al said it had not yet received the lawsuit and would respond in court after reviewing its contents.

One of the plaintiffs, who asked not to be named, said that one of the three fainted during the security inspection. “We made it clear from the beginning that we weren’t objecting to a security check as any other passenger at the airport [would undergo], but here it was clear that this was a search meant to humiliate – both because we are Arab and also because we are women. I heard the security officer say explicitly that if we don’t undress, we won’t get on flight.”

The women’s lawyer, Auni Banna, said the three were led onto the plane before the other passengers and seated separately. The women’s luggage reportedly remained in Belgrade and was only returned to them 12 days later.

Another student said the decision to sue was driven not only by money. “We were led to this decision by the feeling of helplessness, the humiliation we experienced, and the silencing by the security forces,” she said. “I don’t know the degree to which the system will acknowledge the injury but given such conduct, we decided not to remain silent.”

Arkia commented that by virtue of government resolution, El Al provides security services to all Israeli aviation companies; “Arkia is not involved in these processes.”

El Al commented that the lawsuit has not arrived yet and when it does, it will study it and respond in court.

       *Editor’s note: These were probably Palestinian women; Israel usually refuses to use this designation.

Related articles:

Letting AP in on the Secret: Israeli Strip Searches, by Alison Weir, CounterPunch

Humiliation And Child Abuse At Israeli Borders & Airports: Strip-Searching Children, by Alison Weir, CounterPunch 

Israeli Strip Searches: A Partial List, compiled by Sarah Tiglao, If Americans Knew

Video: The Easiest TargetsIf Americans Knew

‘Vast majority’ of Jewish students are connected to Israel, insists Brandeis prof

‘Vast majority’ of Jewish students are connected to Israel, insists Brandeis prof

Participants in a Taglit Birthright program celebrate at an event held at the International Conference Center.

By Amanda Borschel-DanTimes of Israel

Fifteen years of comprehensive study leads Professor Len Saxe to laugh off “devastating” allegations that millennials are losing support for Jewish state.

The truth is of the utmost importance to Brandeis University Prof. Len Saxe, an American social psychologist whose early work often dealt with the veracity of lie detector tests. Which is why he was “triggered” last week when he saw research that he found unreliable.

Saxe stopped by the offices of The Times of Israel this week during a brief Israel trip to address what he saw as unfounded statements in an article last week about Brand Israel, an initiative of marketing and public relations experts, which alleged a “devastating” loss of Israel support among Jewish college students in the United States. Over the past 15 years of Birthright-Taglit trips to Israel, he has collected data for comprehensive research on the state of mind of young Jewish adults.

To Saxe, the idea that Jewish college students are less connected to the Jewish state just doesn’t compute.

Among other issues, the head of Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Jewish Studies has been tracking “Israel attachment” among college students for the past decade and a half. According to Saxe, the vast majority of Jewish students feel some connection to Israel, and those who participate in Israel trips, such as Birthright Israel, have particularly strong connections.

In the past two years alone, the center has performed a half-dozen studies, including two national studies and a set of studies of particular campuses. At these campuses, which include Brandeis, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan, random samples of all students were surveyed and students were given a $10 Amazon gift card to respond to a 15- to 20-minute survey.

“We have a mountain of data,” said Saxe.

With a team of some 30 researchers, Saxe said, his studies confirm that there is no evidence that there has been a major shift away from Israel.

One ongoing project is a longitudinal panel study of applicants to Birthright Israel — those who participated and others who did not. Now almost a rite of passage, Birthright Israel was founded in 1999. The organization takes young Jewish adults aged 18-26 on 10-day trips to Israel, where they tour the country’s highlights and meet young Israelis, including soldiers, who ride with them on their tour buses.

In the 2016-17 school year alone, almost 50,000 young adults will visit the country. At its peak season, this could translate into some 2,000 arrivals a day.

“If they were disaffected, they wouldn’t come,” said Saxe.

A comprehensive 15-year study with the latest findings will be available in a few weeks, said Saxe. They show that the majority of survey participants, even those who did not go on Birthright Israel, feel an emotional connection to Israel. Additionally, Saxe has found that there is a lingering positive effect from Birthright, even 15 years after participating in the program.

In an era of headlines that speak to the rise of anti-Semitism and Israel delegitimization programs on campuses leading to disconnected Jewish youth — who in some cases join pro-Palestinian groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace over those that support Israel — Saxe said the data doesn’t back up this narrative.

“One finding from our national studies of dozens of campuses is that there are only a few that have environments that are perceived as hostile to Jewish students and/or Israel. But, interestingly, even on these campuses, anti-Israel sentiment does not deter students from applying to Birthright Israel, taking Israel studies courses, or participating in Jewish activities on campus,” said Saxe.

Saxe said that while Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) efforts should be taken seriously, they are hardly catastrophic. Relatively few Jewish students support these efforts.

“As much as people are concerned about Jewish students being ‘grabbed by BDS,’ there are so few they can hardly be measured,” he said, showing a graph from the center’s Penn study in which only some 1-3% of students could be considered as anti-Israel.

“If Jewish policy is directed only to those who yell the loudest, we’re going to miss the opportunity to educate the far larger group of young Jews,” he said.

Additionally, “BDS doesn’t necessarily mean a greater disconnect [with Israel]. In some cases, it gets students talking with another,” he said, “and promotes Jewish solidarity.”

According to Saxe, the division among the US Jewish communities, particularly among young adults, “is not between those who support or do not support Israel,” he said. “The division is between those who know something [about Israel] and those who don’t.”

To Saxe, the most effective way to be educated about Israel is simply by visiting it.

“Having traveled here [to Israel] is the strongest predictor of attachment,” he said.

And the numbers are rising: According to a 2013 NJPS national survey, in 1990, only 25% of those aged 25+ had been to Israel, and only some 15% of college students. “Today, nearly 50% of those 25+ have been to Israel. By the time students they graduate college, more than 40% have been to Israel.”

Having been to Israel in far greater numbers, “the millennial generation is more connected than their parents,” he said, who are those who were socialized in the 1970s and 1980s. “One of the interesting ‘side effects’ of Birthright is that participants come home and try to get their parents more involved in Judaism and with Israel,” said Saxe.

Perhaps unlike their parents’ generation, raised on the mythology of an invincible Israel following the Six Day and Yom Kippur wars, young American Jews “are more in sync with the general population views in Israel,” said Saxe. And in Israel, the old adage “two Jews, three opinions” applies in spades.

“Some may be critical, but they do it out of support and what has traditionally been called ‘ahavat Yisrael‘ [love of Israel]. There is a diversity of public opinion in Israel, and American Jews reflect some of those views,” he said.

Amanda Borschel-Dan is The Times of Israel’s Jewish World editor.

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