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Thursday, March 1, 2007

No more 'degrading' checks for Arabs (at Ben Gurion Airport)

No more 'degrading' checks for Arabs
sheera claire frenkel and yaakov katz,

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) will set up a pilot security system at Ben-Gurion Airport within 15 months that will eliminate the need for separate checks of Arab passengers, agency head Yuval Diskin said on Wednesday.
Diskin announced the pilot pilot at a meeting with MK Nadia Hilu (Labor), who represents the party's Arab sector. Hilu had met with Ben-Gurion Airport and security officials in the past, following a personal experience she called "degrading."
"I was pleased to hear of the new plan, but I will not be satisfied until these degrading security checks are complete gone," she said. "We cannot call ourselves a democratic state and have a situation where an Arab comes to the airport and immediately they think, 'Oh, he is a terrorist' instead of, 'He is a citizen.'"
Hilu said she was travelling with her family on vacation less than a year ago, when they were pulled out of line and subjected to a series of humiliating checks.
"After they pulled us out of line, they made us stand in the middle of everyone else and asked us personal questions. People around stared as if we were terrorists and my young daughters were frightened and confused by the questions. It was traumatizing for my whole family," she said.
"I understand the need for security at airports. However I insist that if you put Arabs through these tests, put Jews through the same ones. When I suggested this to Diskin, he told me it was impossible. He said that no one would travel anymore. This says something about the humiliation of these tests," she continued.
Diskin said that while the Shin Bet's top concern was the security of passengers, they were working to do more to avoid unnecessarily humiliating checks. Diskin added that the agency had set aside a great deal of money to develop and purchase the system, without mentioning a precise figure.
Hilu and Diskin agreed to remain in touch on the issue.
Last month, Diskin told reporters that "aviation terror" was one of the greatest threats to the Western world. "This is one of the Shin Bet's top priorities," he said. "We cannot underestimate this growing threat."

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