JERUSALEM (AP) — Jack Angelides was about to board a flight out of Israel’s international airport when he was given a curious choice that baffles him to this day. Traveling with a laptop and a stack of printed reading material, he was told to part with one or the other, due to unspecified security concerns.
The Israel-based British-Cypriot businessman says he negotiated a compromise in which he kept the computer and several pages, checking in the rest of the documents.
“It was a very unpleasant, very uncomfortable” experience, said Angelides, the general manager of the Israeli soccer team Maccabi Tel Aviv.
While standing in long lines, walking through scanners and removing belts and shoes are a fact of post-Sept. 11 travel worldwide, Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport seems to stand alone in the developed world with its security techniques, often leaving travelers dumbfounded. Though Israel denies profiling travelers, business executives, journalists and especially Arabs and visitors to Palestinian areas seem prone to being targeted with aggressive questioning, long luggage examinations and even strip searches.
The tough security is not new, but it is stirring debate. On one side stand those concerned about Israel’s good name, tourism potential and moral standing. On the other are those for whom security arguments can seem close to sacrosanct in a country hit with decades of attacks by Palestinian militants, a series of hijackings in the 1960s and ‘70s, and whose travelers abroad are targeted in terrorist attacks.
The issue recently burst onto the national agenda after an Arab schoolteacher who teaches at a Jewish high school was strip-searched at Israel’s airport in the southern resort town of Eilat during a class trip with her students. Israeli Arab citizens, including lawmakers and other community leaders, complain of frequent discrimination when traveling.