Defense Ministry apologizes to 'NY Times'

Pregnant photographer alleged that soldiers at Erez Crossing forced her to pass through x-ray machine 3 times.

November 29, 2011 06:28
3 minute read.
Erez Crossing in northern Gaza

Erez Crossing 311 (R). (photo credit: Mohammed Salem/Reuters)


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The Defense Ministry has apologized to The New York Times following a complaint filed by a pregnant photographer from the paper, alleging that soldiers at the Erez Crossing compelled her to pass through an X-ray machine three times, despite her protests that this endangered her pregnancy.

The Defense Ministry said it has also launched a comprehensive investigation into the incident.

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'Female journalists in Israel face extreme violence'

David Furst, the international picture editor at The New York Times, wrote a letter of complaint on behalf of the photographer, Lynsey Addario. The letter was received by Oren Helman, the director of the Government Press Office.

Addario said she called Shlomo Dror, the spokesman at the Erez Crossing on October 24, to tell him that she was going to cross into Israel from Gaza that afternoon and that her doctor had advised her – since she was 27-weeks pregnant at the time – to ask for a hand security check and to avoid going through the X-ray machine.

Though Addario said Dror assured her this would not be a problem, she said that upon her arrival at Erez, she was given the option of “taking off all my clothes down to my underwear, and being searched through glass.” Addario said that “to avoid the humiliation,” she decided to pass through the Xray machine once.

According to Addario, when she walked through the machine, “a handful of soldiers watched from the glass above the machine smiling triumphantly.”

She said the soldiers then told her there was a problem with the initial scan, and made her pass through two more times “as they watched and laughed from above.”

She said that each time she passed through the machine she expressed her concern about the radiation’s effect on her pregnancy. Afterward, she said, she was then brought into a room where a woman asked her to remove her pants, and lifted up her shirt.

“I asked if that was necessary after the three machine checks, and she told me it was ‘procedure’ – which I am quite sure it is not. They were unprofessional for soldiers from any nation.”

Calling her treatment “gratuitously rude and unprofessional,” Addario – who noted that she had traveled to over 60 countries in her 15-year career as a photojournalist – said she had “never, ever been treated with such blatant cruelty.”

Helman, in a letter to the Defense Ministry’s spokesman Shlomi Am Shalom, asked for the matter to be “investigated urgently” and said that he was “shocked by the incident” as described by Addario.

“The complaint speaks for itself, and is definitely extraordinary in comparison to others received by the Government Press Office, regarding the treatment of foreign journalists,” he wrote.

On Monday, the Defense Ministry finally responded to the complaint and said that it had “sharpened” inspection procedures at the Erez Crossing to prevent similar incidents from recurring. It said that the use of the X-ray machine was not dangerous and that the inspection of the photographer was done in accordance with security procedures.

“In extraordinary circumstances it is possible to conduct a body inspection instead of [using] the X-ray machine but due to problems in coordination and a specific overload at the crossing, the photographer’s request did not reach the inspectors in time,” the Defense Ministry said in its statement.

“The Defense Ministry employs strict security measures in order to prevent attacks by terrorist groups. We expect people to understand this.

Nevertheless, we have apologized to The New York Times and the photographer,” the statement read.

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