An interesting story has played out on Twitter over what happened to Noor Fawaz, a Palestinian-American journalist, when flying to Israel. It should come as no surprise that she encountered so much trouble on both El-Al and United Airlines, but at the same time, I have to wonder how much is too much.
Palestinian-American Woman Noor Fawaz Shares Of Her Difficult Journey To Israel
You may want to read her story from the source, but rather than embed 70+ tweets, I will summarize what happened below:
- Fawaz booked a trip via Chase to travel from Newark to Tel Aviv on El-Al
- El-Al, as the flag carrier of Israel, has additional screening in place for all passengers and profiling passengers based upon race, ethnicity, or ethnic origin is standard practice (I’ve seen it myself and per Fawaz, this was confirmed by the security personnel questioning her)
- Fawaz was flagged in the system and underwent additional screening
- Her laptop purportedly set off an explosive alarm and she was told that it could not travel with her to Tel Aviv (she pointed out that they offered to ship it to her, which does seem counterintuitive if there was actual concern over explosive material)
- She was searched (forced to strip half naked) and questioned again at the gate (all passengers are, though to varying degrees) and this time her shoes set off an explosives alarm
- On that basis, she was denied boarding…but El-Al immediately rebooked her on United Airlines
- At the United gate, she went through a similar security process (because this is mandated by the Israeli government) but again found herself on the receiving end of additional scrutiny
- TSA agents blamed an email from the Israeli government
- She was allowed onboard with her shoes and laptop and the flight was uneventful
- Upon landing in Tel Aviv, she was pulled into secondary screening and again questioned after waiting two hours
- A visa was finally issued and she was on her way
- When she opened her bag later, she found all the contents reorganized
I was denied boarding on @EL_AL_ISRAEL because they claimed that I was a “security risk.” Here is a glimpse of what it’s like to travel to Israel as a Palestinian, even if you’re an American. It all started when I went to go drop off my bags at the counter at EWR. pic.twitter.com/1W9X9fm3pX
— Noor | نور (@nfwazwaz) July 18, 2023
Fawaz claims the conduct toward her represents unjustifiable discrimination, but suggests that she was subjected to secondary screening not because she was Palestinian, but because of tweets like this:
Israeli Security Is Tough…
Without litigating the Arab-Israeli conflict here, I would say 1.) Israel has the right to protect its borders and 2.) no foreign person, including an American like Fawaz, is guaranteed access to the Israeli state. If an Israeli questioned the right of the United States to exist or applauded attempts to destabilize and overthrow the government, regardless of its very real flaws, I am not sure I would not want that person on US soil.
So in this case, it is not as clear cut as Israel just blatantly discriminating against anyone of Palestinian origin wanting to travel to Israel. But as I mentioned earlier, there is discrimination worked into the system and a former friend underwent extensive security when he traveled to Israel simply because of his Jordanian background…he had no ties to anyone in Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza. This is a concern.
When I flew out of Tel Aviv a few years back I underwent a horrific screening because I was originating in Amman, Jordan. I thought it was ridiculous. So I empathize with Fawaz in that respect. The redundancy of the security does seem to be a bit too much.
But still…even though there is a degree of plausible deniability possible with each of those tweets, it is the sort of speech that raises red flags in a place like Israel. Whether it should be or not is almost secondary: it is and that will not change. Her treatment should not have come as a surprise under current protocols.
The question of whether a US citizen should be subject to such blatant discrimination on US soil and by US government agents (TSA) is another matter…we may discuss that in a future post.
Noor Fawaz had quite a lot of trouble trying to travel from Newark to Tel Aviv and then obtaining a visa once she arrived. Ultimately, she was still allowed into the country despite questionable tweets, but had to go through extra rounds of questioning and security. I will not go so far as to posit that such security is necessary to protect the Israeli state (it may be, it may not be…I’m not in a position to make that judgment), but I was not at all surprised to read her account and as someone that loves visiting Israeli, I hope she found the inconvenience worthwhile to visit one of the most unique and beautiful places on earth.