(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In response to a petition condemning the racial profiling of Arab citizens in
airport security inspections, the High Court of Justice on Monday ordered the
state to explain why there are no uniform inspection criteria for all Israeli
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The petition, which was submitted in May 2007 by the
Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) against the Israel Airports
Authority, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the Transportation
Ministry, says that Arab Israelis receive more thorough security inspections
than Jewish ones before they board a flight at Israeli airports and when flying
to Israel on Israeli airlines.
The petition said that this was the result
of racial profiling practiced by the security authorities that designates Arabs
as more dangerous, even if there is no indication that the individual Arab
passenger poses a risk.
ACRI stated that the longer and more thorough
security checks that the Arab passengers undergo create and encourage stigmas
and negative attitudes towards Arabs and humiliate the Arabs whenever they
The petitioners claimed that the practice was a violation of the
Basic Law:Human Dignity and Freedom and laws ensuring free movement, protection
from discrimination and protection of privacy.
The petition outlined
numerous examples of cases where Arabs were forced to undergo rigorous
questioning and luggage inspections, as well as instances where Arabs were
barred from boarding their flights. It also told of instances when Arabs where
singled out of the group they were traveling with and forced to undergo
The petition stressed that racial profiling took
place on a daily basis and that Arabs were constantly under suspicion for no
other reason than that they were Arabs.
“Racial profiling is based on the
stereotypical assumption that treats Arab citizens as dangerous by virtue of
being Arabs. It expresses the inferior status of Arab Israelis, who are treated
like enemies and not as citizens with equal rights,” the petition
“Racial profiling is an additional aspect of discrimination and
exclusion Israeli Arabs have suffered over the years, and has itself become a
source of racist and discriminatory practices and beliefs,” the petition
In its response to the petition, which the state submitted in 2008,
it wrote that based on security requirements, which are determined by the Shin
Bet, every passenger, without exception, undergoes some form of security
inspection before boarding an aircraft.
“However, the level of inspection
passengers undergo is derived from a variety of details and characteristics,
according to their potential risk evaluation,” the state said.
evaluation, according to the state, “is based upon experience and risk
assessment, which considers various details and characteristics that experience
indicates have probable correlation to involvement in terrorist
The state’s attorneys stressed that the precise nature of
the regulations and the reasoning that supports them is highly classified and
volunteered to inform the court of them behind closed doors.
added that the Israel Airports Authority had taken steps to reduce the friction
between the passengers and the security inspectors, including the installation
of new technological methods of inspection that are less intrusive, and have
written a code of ethics and trained their employees to be more sensitive and
polite in their treatment of passengers.
They also promised that
additional changes that would improve the situation would be introduced in the
future, citing an investment of more than NIS 300 million.
that have been taken and the actions that are planned in this respect, will
assure reasonable application of the security inspection process, in a way that
balances the obvious security needs of this sensitive field with the need to
reduce as much as possible the harm to different populations as a result of the
inspection,” read the response.
In a more recent response, the state said
that there was no common inspection approach for all Arab Israelis and that most
Arab passengers did not have to go through invasive inspections of their luggage
In the most recent hearing, which took place last week, High
Court President Dorit Beinisch questioned the legitimacy of including a person’s
Arab ethnicity as a factor in his or her risk assessment.
question the state’s attorney asked to explain the matter behind closed
Whatever was said there apparently failed to convince Beinisch,
since the result was the order that the court issued on Monday.