Here’s another one of those minor stories that taken together provide a shocking portrait of the apartheid state that Israel is – not just for Palestinians in the occupied territories (there something worse is going on) but for Israel’s own Palestinian citizens, who comprise a fifth of the population.
An Arab tourism student at Haifa University came across guidelines showing that Natour, one of Israel’s largest travel agencies, has secretly agreed, since at least 2010, to a directive from airport security to divulge details in advance of all Palestinian clients travelling with the company (all of them citizens remember).
The purpose is to help airport security, who are really government officials, better carry out their well-known racial profiling practices: intensive questioning, humiliating baggage searches and invasive body searches. Such is the experience of most Palestinian citizens, and many non-Jews like myself, who pass through Israel’s Ben Gurion airport.
What’s even more amazing about the story, which broke on Facebook, is the pathetic efforts of Natour to make its own (doubtless enthusiastic) cooperation with this harassment of its customers sound as though it is being done with their best interests at heart.
Dori Shoshan, Natour’s deputy CEO for marketing, points out, as though it should win him Brownie points, that his company is popular with Palestinian citizens because, unlike most other local agencies, it makes an effort to produce tour pamphlets in Arabic. In other words, Natour has tried to corner the market in tourism for Palestinian citizens, so it can then shaft them with security checks at the airport.
By the way, Shoshan, it seems, can’t bear to call them Palestinians or Arabs, so he refers to them instead as “that sector mentioned in Facebook”.
Dori said that giving the Arab travelers’ names to the airport security officials is not a matter of discrimination but rather to ensure the Arabs are treated better. “We want to prepare in advance against the discrimination, as you call it.”
Asked why Natour issued the page with the directive on it to its guides, Shoshan said, “the goal is that as a Natour client, you get the full service experience.”
Yes, I bet they get the “full experience”.
This case has been taken up by a Palestinian MP, Ahmed Tibi, who points out: “No Arab citizen [of Israel] has ever attempted to harm a plane so the argument that the reason for the directive [singling out Palestinian citizens] is security is false.”
He has written to far-right tourism minister Uzi Landau, who would probably prefer that Palestinain citizens were collectively put on a no-fly list. So not much hope of help there.
Meanwhile, both the tourism ministry and airport security services – in a great Israeli tradition of lying to advance hasbara (Israeli propaganda) – denied the existence of the directive.