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A pregnant Al-Jazeera producer who was asked by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's security detail to remove her bra during a security screening Tuesday night said she would continue to attend such events in the future, the day after the Government Press Office issued an apology for the incident.
Opnion: Whither Israel’s al-Jazeera
Najwan Simri Diab said she didn't personally receive the letter sent out by GPO Director Oren Hellman on Thursday, but that she had heard about it in the media. She added "I think it's nice to hear that they apologized, but they aren't the ones responsible for it", adding that the screening was the responsibility of the Shin Bet officers who work in Netanyahu's security detail.
"I'm not waiting around for apologies. What I'm hoping for is that me and the rest of the media won't have to go through these things again, or that a year later at the same event it won't happen again."
Al-Jazeera filed a complaint with the GPO and the Foreign Press Association (FPA) following the incident, which took place before an annual banquet the GPO holds for the foreign press in Israel. For their part, the FPA issued a statement expressing their "outrage" at what happened Tuesday night, and vowed not to take part in future PMO events without assurances that such incidents don’t happen in the future.
GPO Director Oren Helman's letter to the foreign press said "respected members of the foreign press, "first of all, I would like to express my regret that journalists left the GPO Annual Cocktail Reception feeling that they were treated in an unbecoming manner by security. Obviously, we do not invite journalists to an event in order to offend them."
Helman told foreign journalists in Israel "you are not only our clients, but you are our preferred clients. We will be receptive to your professional needs, and we will try to assist you as much as possible. My door is always open to you."
The new GPO head also vowed to file an inquiry with the Shin Bet, who was responsible for the security screenings at Tuesday's event.
Helman, who has been in the position for two months following the departure of former GPO Director Danny Seaman, told The Jerusalem Post
Thursday that maintaining and strengthening positive relations with the foreign press in Israel is a priority of his office.
"I am very interested in cooperating with the foreign press to forge strong, positive relations."
Helman added that he sees foreign journalists in Israel as "an asset to the Israel's system of hasbarah."
When asked about his predecessor's at times reportedly combative relationship with much of the foreign press, Helman said "I very much respect Danny's work, there were objections against him during his time just like there is against everyone and like there probably will be against me too."
Simri Diab told the Post
on Wednesday that she was taken aside for a private security exam where a female security guard asked to remove her bra or she would not be able to enter the event.
“I was left in only a tank top and pants and they told me that if I didn’t remove my bra I wouldn’t be able to enter so I left,” Simri Diab said Wednesday.
The 31-year-old news producer is a native of the Arab village of Judeida in the Western Galilee, a few kilometers outside of Akko. She has worked for Al-Jazeera for the past 8 years, mainly as a producer, but has also written some articles.
As the holder of a GPO press card, Simri Diab has already undergone extensive background checks, and was attending the PMO event for the sixth year in a row.
Simri Diab said that he and her colleagues from the Qatari news channel “have no problem with security checks, we always go through them. But when it crosses the line and it becomes based on the fact that you’re an Arab and not a journalist like everyone else we refuse.”
The Foreign Press Association, which represents all foreign journalists in Israel, put out a response on Wednesday that read "the Foreign Press Association is outraged over the treatment members received at the hands of Israeli security personnel during Tuesday night’s invitation-only gathering with the prime minister. While we appreciate the need for security, it is not remotely acceptable to invite people for cocktails at a five-star hotel and then make them undress at the door."
The statement continued: “It is incomprehensible that anyone would think
such humiliating treatment is necessary at such an event. All GPO card
holders are known to authorities and have already undergone extensive
background checks. All participants emptied their pockets, submitted
their equipment to inspection and went through metal detectors to
The Shin Bet General Security Services issued a statement on Wednesday
saying “all those invited to the event were checked in keeping with the
accepted security procedures for such an event. Three journalists
refused to be checked under these procedures and chose not to take part
in the event.