Such harassment is a price one pays for activism and if one wants to serve fellow human beings.


Why are you in the US?

By Mazin Qumsiyeh


 Officer doing the extra special security inspection upon my arrival in
Washington DC: so what is the purpose of your trip to the US?
Me: Doing lectures but the reason you are troubling me as a US citizen is
that you are obeying orders that come down to you from Tel Aviv
Officer (puzzled): What are you talking about
Me: I have gone through this many times and wrote to homeland security and
will likely sue them for continued harassment on behest of Israel. Here is
the letter I received from them with a redress number. Basically,
Washington is being forced by a Zionist lobby to do things on behest of
Israel and that is not good for the US or its taxpayers like you and I
Officer: So what do you lecture about?
Me: various topics from environmental conservation to environmental justice
to human rights and how the colonial apartheid state of Israel uses our US
tax money to ethically cleanse fellow Palestinians…..you can check my
website for details. By the way why do you have Fox news on TV monitors at
the airport (do you know it is Zionist to the core and thus

And so this conversation went on for almost 40 minutes as two officers
ruffled through all my belongings and even took personal some papers to
copy. I was tired after a hard 40 hours on the road and in airplanes with
extra time for extra inspection in Frankfort before boarding flight to DC.
We Palestinians have to go through Jordan as the Zionist regime prevents us
from using our own Airport (Lod airport was built by Palestinians but then
stolen like most of the country and became an airport for Israel). But
second is my being subjected to extra special “security” checks both in
airport in Frankfurt (almost causing me to miss the flight) and upon
arrival in Washington DC. As usual I take it as an opportunity to educate
fellow human beings on how they ended up doing the bid of the Israeli
government to harass people like me. We talk about the lobbies, about the
attack on the USS Liberty, and about our taxes being used to support
genocide and ethnic cleansing.

But anyway, such harassment is a price one pays for activism and if one
wants to serve fellow human beings.


 The El Al security checkers abroad are apparently trained to treat anyone who doesn’t come under the category of Jewish ‏(or Christian Zionist‏) tourist with extreme suspicion. This is the conclusion to be drawn from the treatment meted out to 32-year-old Rebecca and her partner Rafiq, 34, who flew from New York to Tel Aviv on December 23.

U.S. couple with Jewish roots didn’t expect El Al’s inquisition

While flying to Israel recently, Rebecca and Rafiq were treated with intrusive suspicion and lost a computer and iPad.

By Amira Hass
Rafiq and Rebecca. Subjected to humiliating body searches by El Al airport security.
Rafiq and Rebecca. Subjected to humiliating body searches by El Al airport security. Photo by Amira Hass

The El Al security checkers abroad are apparently trained to treat anyone who doesn’t come under the category of Jewish ‏(or Christian Zionist‏) tourist with extreme suspicion. This is the conclusion to be drawn from the treatment meted out to 32-year-old Rebecca and her partner Rafiq, 34, who flew from New York to Tel Aviv on December 23.

Rafiq ‏(a pseudonym, at his request‏) is the grandson of a Jewish woman from Germany – a refugee who came to Palestine in the 1930s and married a Lebanese Muslim man ‏(a leading figure in the Lebanese Communist Party‏). His mother, a native of Lebanon, met his father in East Germany when she was studying medicine there. At an early age, Rafiq moved with his parents to the United States.

He had visited Israel a number of times in the past, so was accustomed to the long questioning to which he is subjected because of his Arab name and his job: director of a peace education institute and workshop instructor on coexistence, tolerance and dialogue inspired by the Koran ‏(though he does not define himself as an observer of any of the three religions in his family background‏).

In addition to the projects he runs in the United States, he frequently conducts education workshops in Muslim countries in Asia and Africa. This time, he was invited by Seeds of Peace for a series of workshops in the West Bank and Israel, including one for Education Ministry inspectors about dealing with violence in schools. The latter workshop, held in Petah Tikva, was financed by USAID, the United States Agency for International Development.

For Rebecca ‏(also not her real name‏), this was her first visit to Israel. She teaches art at a junior high school in the Boston area. “What church do you attend?” the security checker at the airport in New York asked her.

“I went to a synagogue for my bat mitzvah,” she replied, astonishing her inquisitor. Her biological father is African-American; her biological mother is Jewish and gave her to a Jewish adoption agency. She has never met her biological parents, but her adoptive family is Jewish in every respect and on Passover Rebecca asked the Four Questions, like all the other children.

However, when answering the security checker’s many questions about Jewish holidays, Rebecca did not know that the matza grown-ups hide on Passover is called the afikoman. She says this – and not only her facial features – made him suspicious.

The two hadn’t intended to fly El Al. The Ukrainian airline from which they had purchased their tickets went bankrupt and they were transferred to the El Al flight. In the check-in line, they were separated for questioning: Rafiq for a brief questioning about, among other things, his life story; Rebecca was questioned for about 20 minutes, among other things about Jewish holidays.

When the investigation was complete they received their tickets and were told they could board the plane, but only with their mobile phones. They were required to put their laptops and tablets into their suitcases. When they protested, the security checkers told them: “This is the policy. Fly with a different company if you want.” At the exit gate they realized how uniform the policy was as they watched with jealousy the other passengers, busy with their computers and tablets.

Checking every hair

Even before boarding the plane they were given to understand that they had been marked as dangerous: Under guard, they were accompanied to the departure gate. Near the gate, they were escorted into a separate room for a second round of body searches, rummaging in their things and into the email accounts on their phones. In a side room, without any explanation Rafiq was told to remove his shoes, take off his pants and show the soles of his feet. They prodded him, scanned him with a magnetometer and passed an explosives sensor over the elastic of his underpants. He came out and two women took Rebecca into that same room.

After the rummaging in her hand luggage came the pawing of her body. Rebecca was told to remove her bra, which was passed through the scanner. She says the security checkers “poked their hands in a very intimate way, without saying anything. And then I was told to take off my jeans because something wasn’t right with the button.”

She said she was uncomfortable and relates that “the security checker continued to touch me in a very unpleasant way. I started to cry and said I didn’t want to fly. She said to me, ‘Calm down. I know this isn’t pleasant but there isn’t any alternative, otherwise you won’t be able to fly.’ She checked my hair – each hair. I told her I wanted Rafiq to come into the room. She said he was already on the plane. But that couldn’t be, because his boarding card was with me. And then she again told me to take off my pants, and started checking me in very intimate places.”

After all this, Rebecca was told to change her shoes, bra and pants as a condition for boarding the plane. They subsequently let Rafiq into the room and someone brought her a change of clothing from her suitcase. Even before she started getting dressed, a male security checker also entered the room. Rebecca says she shouted: “’I don’t want men in here!’ and I’m standing in my underpants and crying.” Finally, they relented on the issue of the bra.

When they landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport, and after passport control, Rebecca was questioned again, for about an hour and a half. They repeated most of the questions she had been asked in New York. She was also asked to supply names, telephone numbers and email addresses of friends in Israel. She replied that she did not remember them by heart.

“As a woman I have never been stripped like that,” she said two days after they landed, still upset. “As a woman, as an African-American, I am very aware of the layers of discrimination and snubbing, but I thought that at least here, as a Jew, I was safe.”

Still waiting

When they collected their suitcases, the two found that their clothes and belongings had been mixed up and there was no trace of Rafiq’s computer or his iPad. It was evident that Rebecca’s iPad had been opened and read. The jeans and shoes she had been made to change were lost. Upon their return to the United States on January 1, they did not get their belongings back.

During his time in Israel, Rafiq was supposed to have instructed workshop counselors in two African countries online. This turned out to be very difficult without his computer. For want of the computer, he also missed a deadline for submitting project funding applications. Three weeks after their harsh landing, their belongings have yet to be returned to them.

El Al spokesman Ran Rahav responded that the company “is sorry if the passengers were caused distress. Civil aviation security at the airports, in Israel and abroad, is carried out under the instructions of the official security authorities, and the airline can only act according to instructions. Every decision about the security check process, its extent and nature, is taken solely according to professional parameters and not, heaven forfend, with the aim of infringing on any passenger’s dignity.”

As for the lost belongings, he promised they would be compensated “in accordance with the procedures.”



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I always refuse to go through the scanners and am then subjected to the “feel up”. We have heard that toddlers, elderly people and those with medical problems have been violated by the TSA voyeurs. Each fresh incident produces a brief flash of outrage, but many people do not even know about the scanner/feel up.

Surrendering our civil liberties

Complacency over airport scanners is further proof Americans are allowing their rights to be taken from them.
Cindy Sheehan

The TSA: taking away our freedoms to ‘protect’ us from ‘threats’ [GALLO/GETTY]

As a very frequent flyer, I have wanted to write about the abuses of the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) for years now. To tell the truth, since I am such a frequent flyer and often recognised by individual TSA employees, I was a little timid about this because I did not want flying to become an even bigger hassle and more invasive than it already is. But the recent brouhaha over the Chertoff-O-Scanners has given me the courage in numbers to be able to write about my experiences.

The first thing that bugs me is how complacent my fellow travellers are about the civil rights abuses we endure to be able to take the airplane seats we pay hundreds of dollars for. The second we click ‘purchase’ on the airline’s website, we are treated as though we are guilty just for wanting to go from point A to B by plane. This goes against our constitutional right of being presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Every time a TSA operative asks me if he or she can “take a look in my bag,” I say: “Sure, if you can show me a warrant.” I cannot say how many times a fellow traveller has proclaimed: “It’s for your own safety!”

Speaking of “it’s for your own safety”, who can forget Richard Reid, the “shoe bomber” who allegedly tried to detonate explosives on a flight from Paris to Miami in 2002? That incident is the reason why in the US we have to take our shoes off and put them through the x-ray machine. But did you know that the US is the only country that forces flyers to do this? Reid is a citizen of the UK and was flying from France, but if one flies in either of these countries, or anywhere else for that matter, it is not common practice to remove your shoes. So why are planes not dropping from the skies all over the world? Well, because this has nothing to do with our “safety”. Shoe removal and shoe throwing are the same act of disrespect and intimidation unless one is entering a Japanese home or walking on holy ground.

I think the next opportunity for abuse that came from on high to us already weary and grouchy flyers, was when some nebulous plot was discovered in the UK to blow up planes by carrying explosive liquids on board. We were never shown any hardcore proof that our shampoo would blow up an airplane if it was in a four ounce bottle, but that the offending liquid in a 3.5 ounce bottle, safely ensconced in a Ziploc bag, would be okay. I was actually on my way to the airport with a backpack full of naughty liquids when I heard about this one on the radio. I had to throw away about $80 worth of toiletries and make-up and wait in excessively long lines since the glorified minimum wage workers of the TSA were not too sure how to handle this latest threat to our “freedom and safety” – except, of course, to do what they always do and take away more of our freedoms to “protect” us from “threats”.

Shortly after the liquids scare, we could not even take liquids on airplanes that we had purchased after passing through security. There were huge bins at every gate to take away our coffee, water, lotions. I was sitting at the gate in one airport (I do not remember which one) drinking a cup of coffee when a TSA supervisor told me that I would have to finish the coffee before I boarded.

I responded: “Why? Can you show me the store where I can purchase bomb-making material past security?” He replied: “You never know ma’am.” And, me being me, I said: “Really? What kind of airport do you run where anyone can purchase explosives past security?” At which point, the big-TSA-man gave me a look that said: “Lady, you better shut up if you don’t want a body-cavity search.” The other passengers were giving me surreptitious thumbs’ up, but I do not think many people would go as far as I did in my conversation with the TSA-man, who looked very confused that someone was challenging him.

Over a barrel

Even before the dreaded “underwear bomber” made all of this additional screening possible, I used to kid with the audiences that I spoke to that it was a good thing that the “shoe bomber” was not a “bra bomber,” as we ladies who wear those undergarments would then have to disrobe at the security line and put our brassieres through the x-ray machine. But my “joke” has now come into being in an even more horrid way than even I could have predicted. We do not have to take our underwear off to go through airport checkpoints, but, in many airports, we are forced to go through the Chertoff-O-Scanners which show a fully nude image to the TSA operatives and have been proven not to thwart the chemical agents that the “underwear bomber” hid in his Fruit-of-the-Looms.

Today I saw a CNN poll that said 58 per cent of Americans do not like the new procedure. However, in all of the corporate media discussions about the scanners, no one talks about how Michael Chertoff, the former national security advisor, represents a company called Rapiscan that is profiting from every machine that is installed in airports. There is even talk about Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, putting them in malls, schools, subways, train stations – and I am waiting to be told that we have to put a home version at our front doors.

I always refuse to go through the scanners and am then subjected to the “feel up”. We have heard that toddlers, elderly people and those with medical problems have been violated by the TSA voyeurs. Each fresh incident produces a brief flash of outrage, but many people do not even know about the scanner/feel up.

A couple of weeks ago, I was running very late for a flight that was leaving out of SFO, my home airport. I was literally running for my gate and dreading the dance that I do every time with the TSA there:

Me: “I refuse to go through that machine.”
TSA: “Why?”
Me: “It is my right to opt-out.”
TSA: “It is also our right to ask you why you are opting-out.”
Me: “Because it is a violation of my human dignity and civil rights and I don’t want you all to see me naked.”
TSA: “Female screening!” (As they yell for someone to come and grope me with gusto, and “someone” always happily obliges).

I do not like the groping any more than I like the molestation of the scanners – one feels dirty and violated and super-wary of future travel. However, the police state knows it has us over a barrel, so the least we can do is to protest loudly while it is happening.

Anyway, on this day, I noticed that the TSA was waving some passengers though the lane with the scanner and sending some through the normal metal detector. I was relieved to be waved through the lane without the scanner, but the woman behind me, upon noticing that her boyfriend was sent to the lane with the scanner, asked: “Why didn’t I have to go through that?” I told her: “You’re lucky, they can see you naked when you go through it.” Unbelievably, she responded: “Why didn’t they want to see me naked?” She was not kidding, but I just shook my head, gathered my stuff and ran to my gate.

The point to these stories is that we can only have our rights taken away from us with our consent. There is a famous Benjamin Franklin saying that was often quoted when Bush was president that rings ever truer during the Obama regime: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” We are becoming a nation of lemmings running to the sea with the abandon of those that would rather plunge to our deaths than think for ourselves.

While I was writing this, the FBI “uncovered” another “terrorist” plot where a Somali-American allegedly tried to detonate a bomb at a “Christmas event” in Portland, Oregon. Mark my words, the monstrous state will either ban “Christmas events” or institute mandatory travelling Chertoff-O-Scanners to be able to put us into an even deeper state of fear. Where would a “terrorist plot” have the most devastating affect? I cannot think of a more fitting one than a “Christmas event” in very progressive Portland, Oregon.

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