Monday, May 30, 2016

Profiling Palestinians and Arabs at Ben Gurion Airport

The following is from journalist Richard Silverstein (October 26, 2015) commenting on profiling at Ben Gurion Airport while discussing a report from Mako (Hebrew).
At Ben Gurion, travelers are divided into three categories.  The first is most preferred: Jews, both Israeli and non-Israeli; the second is considered “normal” and includes non-Jews; the third is “suspect” and is comprised of Arabs. A veteran security official tells the reporter that when he monitors travelers he’s not looking for someone who will try to hijack a plane.  Rather, he’s seeking someone who looks like he’s trying to hide something; something that even he may not know he’s hiding because it’s been planted on him.  The official continues that they’re taught to identify Arabs by certain unconventional measures including the shoes they wear.  Because Arab villages have few paved roads their shoes tend to be dusty.  The palms of a man’s hand can tell him that he’s a day laborer, meaning he’s more likely to be Arab.  Wearing black stone-wash jeans, which are popular among Arab youth is another dead giveaway.  He notes that one inspector was fired because she couldn’t successfully identify Arab Christians, who sometimes have Jewish-sounding names. ...

A Mizrahi Jew tells the reporter that since he’s taken to wearing glasses, growing his hair longer and more curly and added a moustache, he’s not taken for “Arab.”  On his many trips abroad he’s experimented with Israeli security and if he doesn’t wear glasses he’s invariably detained.  When he was clean-shaven, he found that he was viewed as more of a threat.  In New York, it’s sexy and in Israel it’s threatening.  The solution is to make yourself appear European, but in a sophisticated way.  Adidas sneakers don’t go well with eyeglasses, so don’t get mixed up.  But the best manner to avoid being profiled is to have a woman accompany, preferably a white woman.  Another is to be in a group of individuals darker than you, because they’ll stop them and let you go.

Arab travelers note that colored stickers affixed to their passport picture and airline tickets identify their ethnicity.  Jews get a yellow sticker and Arabs a different color.

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