El Al fined for humiliating Arabs during security check

2 brothers claim carry-on luggage confiscated and that they were forced to have security agent escort them around airport.

April 8, 2010 04:04
1 minute read.
el al biz 88 298

el al biz 88 298. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

El Al Israel Airlines was ordered on Wednesday to pay NIS 30,000 in damages to two brothers from the Arab village of Iksal, after the Haifa Magistrate’s Court determined the company had humiliated them during the security process before they boarded an IsraAir flight from New York to Tel Aviv in February 2007.

The brothers, Abed el-Whahab and Abed el-Aziz Shalbi, from an Arab village near Nazareth, complained of discriminatory and humiliating treatment at the hands of El Al security personnel. The two claimed that after they had checked in for the flight, their carry-on luggage had been confiscated and they had been forced to have a security agent escort them around the airport before boarding.

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The brothers said they felt singled out and that they had been treated like terrorists or dangerous criminals. In the petition, the brothers said the most humiliating part of the ordeal had occurred at the gate, when, after an argument broke out between one of the brothers and their escort, the station’s security chief forced him to apologize, saying that unless he did so, he would not be allowed to board the flight.

In its defense, El Al claimed that the measures were necessary to ensure the security of the flight and that the escort had saved the passengers the trouble of being checked again upon arriving at the gate.

The defense claimed that the security chief had demanded that the man apologize to his employee because he had threatened to hit her, and that at no time had he conditioned the passenger’s boarding on his apology.

The judge determined that El Al had exceeded its authority and needlessly humiliated the passengers. He said that according to the law, El Al personnel were authorized to examine the passengers’ bodies, clothes and luggage and determine their identities, but did not have the authority to escort a passenger or follow them upon completing the security process.

“With full appreciation of the security precautions, there is no justification to ignore the dignity, rights and liberty of a citizen under the auspices of sacred security concerns,” wrote Justice Amir Toubi in his decision.

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