Machsom Watch wants airport watch

Group claims Arabs suffer demeaning experiences at Ben Gurion.

idf checkpoint 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
idf checkpoint 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Machsom Watch is seeking to extend its activities to the airports due to the growing number of complaints of discrimination by Arabs and non-Jews during security checks, the organization said Tuesday. The main activities of the all female volunteer organization, founded in 2001, have been to monitor the behavior of IDF soldiers and police at checkpoints in the West Bank. The organization has between 350 and 400 volunteers around the country. Together with the New Israel Fund, the group sent a joint letter Monday to Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz and the head of the Israel Airport Authority, Gaby Ofir, in which they declared their desire to supervise security checks and offered to coach airport staff as to appropriate behavior. On December 4, 2006, the Arab Association for Human Rights and the Center Against Racism, both affiliated with the NIF, published a report on security checks at the airport. The report came after many complaints were sent to the office by Arab citizens about demeaning experiences during the checks. They were a victim of discriminatory behavior by security officials based solely on their outer appearance, accent, or place of residence, they said. The report concluded that Arabs are treated differently than Jewish passengers. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post Tuesday, project procurer and Machsom Watch activist Maya Bailey emphasized the importance of meeting with those responsible as soon as possible. "We want to know who these people are, who trains them, and why there isn't any supervision over them." Bailey added that "we are not opposing the principle of security checks, but the way in which they are done. I personally know people who have sworn that they will never enter Israel again because of the way they were treated." The IAA and the Transportation Ministry have not yet responded officially to Machsom Watch's letter. When asked to comment on the rising number of complaints received by passengers, an airport authority spokesperson said to the Post "the security instructions come from the state, which has nothing to do with the airport authorities directly. Moreover, we have to comply with each country's individual line of security procedures." The spokesperson, who preferred to remain anonymous, reassured that the airport authorities "work closely with a section in the security department dealing exclusively with passengers from minority groups, coach the security checking officials on their behavior and provide a large amount of material about this delicate matter." Machsom Watch is expecting to meet with airport authorities and come to an arrangement in which they will be able to send volunteers to supervise the check themselves.