Israeli Airlines Allegedly Strip-Searched Palestinian Women

The women were preparing to fly back to Tel Aviv when they were required to strip naked for security, otherwise they wouldn't be allowed on the flight.

An EL AL Airlines aircraft.

In addition to the Israeli government's ongoing mistreatment of Palestinians, Israeli airlines are also subjecting them to greater scrutiny, a new lawsuit claims.

Three female Palestinian Arab-Israeli students from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem traveled to Belgrade for a short break in October 2016 when security agents told them they were not going to be allowed on the plane going back to Tel Aviv unless they agreed to be strip-searched.

No other passengers were singled out, the lawsuit against Arkia Airlines and El Al, the national carrier, claims. 

“I overheard the chief security officer tell [a woman officer] that if I did not take off my bra I will not get on the plane,” one of the students told reporters. “I couldn't speak. It was a shock. I completely undressed the upper part of my body. It was painful.”

The incident was so traumatizing that one of the women reportedly fainted during the process.

According to the students’ attorney, Awni Bana, the airlines and security agents were acting in a discriminatory manner by singling out the Arab-Israeli girls. 

“The search was unwarranted,” Bana said. “The women were not acting in a suspicious manner and there was no intelligence suggesting that the women posed a security threat.”

The suit argues that the only reason they were targeted was because they were Arab.

According to The Independent, this isn’t the first time that Arabs were the victims of racial profiling while traveling through Tel Aviv. In the past, many civil rights groups have tried to take action in order to address the several allegations of racism and discrimination involving Arabs traveling through the country. However, few individuals filed lawsuits.

This latest action against Arkia Airlines and El Al is the second discrimination accusation El Al has been slapped with. The company was successfully sued for gender discrimination earlier this year after a woman was forced to move seats to accommodate requests made by ultra-Orthodox Jewish male passengers.

It’s upsetting to think that Arab-Israeli students, like these three young women, are often forced to endure similar situations because the Israeli government has, for the past several decades, kept the Palestinians under their military rule.  

As these cases surface, it’s important to speak out against this virtual state of apartheid, pressuring governments to stand against Israel’s age-old policy of racism and divisiveness.

Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Gabriela Bhaskar

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