(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In North America, escalated security precautions have generated a near-nightmare for most air passengers but haven’t improved safety much. Despite the post-9/11 upgrading of inspections, terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab boarded a Detroit-bound flight in December 2009 and came close to blowing it up via explosives concealed in his undergarments.
More than anything, this incident highlighted the fact that alerts about his ties with terror groups were ignored and that the explosives hidden on his person went undetected.
The odds are that Abdulmuttalab would not have slipped through the tight net of Israeli airline and airport security. Our system, the envy of many worldwide, employs a blend of hi-tech detection, direct personal interface with travelers and the pinpointing of potential risks.
The latter component of the mix is often disparaged as “racial profiling,” but it is what allows the great majority of passengers to be waved through after a quick conversation, and with considerably less inconvenience, humiliation and intrusion than frequently encountered in American airports. It also allows security personnel to focus on those who most arouse suspicion.
Terror-prevention efforts are thereby rendered both more efficient and effective.
Yet this system, which makes our travel facilities perhaps the safest anywhere, is now being challenged by our own High Court of Justice.
Earlier this week, in the context of an ongoing hearing on a discrimination suit against alleged profiling, the court issued a show-cause order requiring the Airports Authority to explain within 45 days why its security criteria aren’t applied with impartial stringency to everyone, but instead imply that Arab passengers are perceived as posing heightened risks.
Indeed, there’s little doubt that Jewish citizens of Israel are less carefully scrutinized by our airport security personnel than are Israeli Arabs or, for that matter, foreigners. Jewish Israelis are likely to be cleared after few routine questions, whereas others may be taken aside for more thorough questioning, as well as luggage and body searches.
The very wording of the show-cause order suggests displeasure with what’s ostensibly regarded as a prejudiced approach. This is further accentuated by Court President Dorit Beinisch’s harsh comments at a previous hearing last week against the legitimacy of even considering any passenger’s Arab ethnicity in assessing risk potential.
In-chambers explanations and entreaties by the state attorney – who warned against publicly airing and discussing security procedures – apparently did not sway Beinisch. She subsequently wondered aloud why “all passengers cannot be inspected using equal, objective and uniform criteria.” Arab passengers, she opined, “shouldn’t automatically be tagged security risks.”
IN AN ideal world, nobody would be singled out on the basis of their ethnicity. But we do not live in an ideal world. In the real world, political correctness and common sense do not always mesh.
While of course most Arabs are not terrorists, the unfortunate reality is that ever since terrorists first began hijacking planes in the late 1960s, the preponderance of terrorism has been Arab/Muslim-linked. Ignoring this would not only be folly; it would put us – all of us – in grave physical jeopardy.
Were sentiments such as those expressed by Beinisch imposed on our security services, these services would be as crippled as America’s Transportation Security Administration, and the ramifications would be decidedly undesirable.
Equally rigorous inspection of everyone could entirely gum up the works at Ben-Gurion Airport. Conversely, across-the-board laxity would egregiously imperil Jews and Arabs alike.
It’s unconscionable to overlook the fact that Israel is the preferred target for terrorists and that they would do their worst if they only could – if we only let them. TSA-like absurdities – whereby elderly nuns are invasively patted down while more suspicious types, people like Abdulmuttalab, can evade detection – must be avoided in our dangerous neighborhood.
We firmly hope that Beinisch’s remarks do not betray her likely ruling,
and that they merely constituted pro forma motions for evaluating and
examining all arguments.
Undercutting Israel’s outstanding air-safety record could conceivably
cost more lives and wreak greater havoc than any previous instance of