03 February 2010

This is what Israeli security is like

When terror-related events occur in the United States, one occasionally hears comments that this country should adopt security precautions such as those employed in Israel.  The Harvard Law Record has an article this week that details how that security is obtained.

Hebah Ismail is a third-year Harvard law student of Egyptian descent.  She recently flew to Israel to join colleagues for an academic conference:
As expected, Ismail was pulled aside in border control for more intense screening. Over several hours, security personnel questioned her reasons for traveling to Israel, often returning to whether or not she intended to visit the Occupied Territories. A signed letter from the Human Rights Program attesting to the purpose of her trip and outlining her agenda did nothing to assuage their misgivings.

After almost seven hours, Hebah was directed to claim her luggage and open it for examination...

After going through her computer, including the external hard drive, the line of questions continued... “I don’t remember his exact words,” she says. “But basically he told me, ‘Before we get started, we want you to know that this is a democratic country, and we respect other points of view. But we found things on your external hard drive that are very concerning.’

Hebah tried to assure the security officer that her trip related only to the clinical project and a personal desire to visit Jerusalem. But he remained convinced that an article on her computer describing modern Israeli as being on land previously held by Palestinians pointed to a more insidious motivation and began pressuring Ismail to allow him to read her emails... Having been counselled by Amara prior to the trip that the security forces had no right to demand access to her emails, Ismail denied his request...

“They told me that if I didn’t let them read my emails, not only would I not be allowed into Israel, I would be banned for life.”

Having stood by her initial refusal regarding the personal mail, Ismail cannot ever travel to Israel...

But instead of boarding a plane, Ismail found herself in the “Hedar Mesuravimor”, or “Rejected Room”, a holding pen for those awaiting deportation, a place she describes as akin to “a really bad Egyptian hostel.” This room would become her home over the next day, as she waiting for a flight 23 hours away. Before she could re-inform her family, the phone was taken, along with all of her other belongings...

Arriving in the U.S., three plainclothes Israeli security officials walked her to the Department of Homeland Security and handed over her passport.

“The DHS officer asked if I had been arrested. The Israelis said no. He asked me if I was an American citizen, and I said yes. Then he walked me to the front of the passport line, stamped me and said, ‘Welcome home.’ I turned to my escort and said, ‘Have a happy holiday,’ and walked through to meet my family,” Ismail said.
More at the link.  I'll defer commentary.  Just describing "what it's like" for those who want to implement it here.


  1. ... and yet, there's still attacks. Is it worth it? Not in the slightest.

  2. What a terrible ordeal.
    I truly hope that this is an exception and not the rule.

  3. Liberty is better than this. One wonders whether the Israelis kept her out because of her mission, or because of the way she looked. If for her mission, it's almost more ominous.

  4. I'd been interested to read what happens to an Israeli woman attempting to enter Saudi Arabia. Or Syria. Or Yemen. Or Iran.

  5. "I'd been interested to read what happens to an Israeli woman attempting to enter Saudi Arabia. Or Syria. Or Yemen. Or Iran."

    I'll tell you: that woman will have a hell of a trouble to get the special permit from the Israeli authorities to travel to an "enemy country". Otherwise she will be prosecuted when going back to Israel.

  6. "I'd been interested to read what happens to an Israeli woman attempting to enter Saudi Arabia. Or Syria. Or Yemen. Or Iran."

    They wouldn't even let her in. But they don't pretend to be democracies, either. Well, Iran does, but they're also idiots.

  7. For the vast majority of people who pass through security in an Israeli airport, it is not like this.

    When people talk about implementing more Israeli-like security measures in airports, they are referring to multiple layers of security starting at the curb, the sort of which are described in the article "The 'Israelification' of airports: High security, little bother" which can easily be found via Google.


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