ACRI: Stop Racist, Humiliating Airport Checks against Arab Citizens

ACRI Petitions the High Court of Justice against the Humiliating and Discriminatory Airport Security Checks of Arab Citizens

On 31 May, 2007, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice to demand that the Israel Airports Authority, General Security Service, and Ministry of Transportation no longer use Arab nationality as a criterion when performing security checks at Israeli airports. The scope and level of the security checks must apply to all Israeli citizens, Jewish or Arab, and be determined according to equal and relevant criteria, ACRI demands. The petition was filed by ACRI attorney Auni Banna.

The petition describes the differential and humiliating treatment encountered by Arab passengers at airports. They are subject to especially rigorous security checks, well beyond those normally performed on Jewish passengers. The reason is based entirely on the fact that these passengers are Arabs, even in the absence of any concrete suspicion against them. As ACRI stresses in its petition, the especially stringent checks of Arab citizens are a consequence of an overall view of Arab nationality, in and of itself, as an indication of a person’‘s potential danger.

Atty. Banna notes in the petition that the suspicion of Arab passengers as a rule, even when there is no concrete evidence to justify it, makes passage through Israeli airports a highly offensive and humiliating experience for Arab citizens. Young Arabs or Arab families traveling abroad for vacations, as well as university students, journalists, and businesspeople traveling for professional or educational purposes are subject to stringent, invasive, annoying, and lengthy security checks. At times, the checks are so time-consuming that the passengers miss their flights. The petition also describes specific instances in which the agonizing procedures at the airport caused Arab citizens to suffer deep humiliation.

The petition notes that the meticulous checks of Arab citizens are particularly degrading at the airport, where Jewish passengers and anyone else passing by can clearly watch as security personnel remove and pick through intimate articles contained in the baggage of Arab travelers. The usual attitude of the workers while performing these checks is harsh and offensive, and it is sometimes accompanied by racist epithets or verbal threats.

The humiliation and personal injury experienced by Arab citizens is compounded by the fact that the only basis for the strict airport checks is ethnic origin and national affiliation – highly meaningful components of a person’‘s identity. In his petition, Atty. Banna refers to the following statement contained in the Or Commission report: "Humiliation at the time of security checks that have absolutely no connection with real needs, as well as offensive attitudes toward Arabs arriving along with other Israelis, can leave a residue of insult that is not easily removed."

ACRI contends that the stringent security checks reserved especially for Arab citizens reflect the inferior status of these citizens in Israeli society, which views them more as enemies than as citizens with equal rights. Reliance on Arab nationality as a basis for the checks is prejudicial and racist in nature since it supports the notion that Arabs, as such, have traits that make them potentially dangerous. These checks are yet another layer of discrimination and injustice that Arab citizens have been suffering for decades. ACRI cautions that these checks, which magnify stereotypical attitudes toward Arab citizens, contribute to their social exclusion and inflame hostility and racism against them

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Categories: Arab Citizens of Israel, Democracy and Civil Liberties, The Right to Equality


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