A report published in internet Maariv: http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART1/507/861.html
Below is Michal’s letter to members of the Knesset along with a description of the treatment she received last year.
Michal Gelbart, New Profile activist describes in her letter to a large number of Knesset members the embarrassing story of the consistent humiliation encountered in the special treatment accorded to her mother at the Ben Gurion airport upon her entry and departure from the country. This is a phenomenon that is familiar to many Israeli and international activists as well as to Israeli Palestinian citizens.
Michal has the support of New Profile; Attorney Gabi Lasky has promised a response and further action on the part of Knesset members Zehava Galon, Avshalom Vilan, and Dov hanin.
The special treatment undergone by Ingrid Steinitz and others rates a protest, root canal treatment, and terminal watch. Today it’s us; tomorrow it’s all those responding in talkbacks.
From Michal Gelbart to members of the Knesset
Greetings and Salutations,
My mother, Ingrid Steinitz, a native citizen and resident of Denmark, 72 years old, has been and continues to be a peace activist. As a child she was obliged to flee from Denmark to Sweden during the Nazi occupation (in 1943).
My mother comes to Israel every year, always for a family visit combined with peace activity: to visit me, her daughter, a native citizen of Israel, living here with my husband and my four children; to meet with representatives of local peace organizations; to participate in theolive picking, and more.
In recent years her arrival in and departure from Israel have been characterized by actual torment in the airport. One year ago, on November 8, 2005, she arrived at Ben Gurion airport and was given a severe runaround for a number of hours, encountering a degrading attitude.
On Thursday toward morning (3:30am on November 16, 2006) she arrived on another visit, one of the reasons being in honor of the birthday of my young son, her grandson.
Immediately on arrival, her passport was taken without any written documentation given to her despite her specific request.
She was ordered to hand over her hand bag.by security person Omer Weiner. That she refused to do without the presence of a policeman. A policeman eventually arrived, and all her possessions were taken apart in the rudest possible manner.
At one point she was taken for a body check (remember – this is a 72 yr old woman!!!). When she was asked to turn her back to the examining woman and to spread her legs apart, she said it reminded her of theconcentration camp. At that point the woman responsible lost her cool and began yelling at her that she couldn’t compare them to Nazis. Mymother answered that she was only telling her how she felt, and that as a child she was forced to flee from the Nazi terror.
All the checks and the humiliation lasted about two hours after a long night flight. When she arrived by train to my home, she was dizzy and totally unnerved, and she announced to me that this was the last time she was coming here. As her daughter and the mother of her grandchildren, I am sad and angry; and as a resident of the state of Israel I’m embarrassed and ashamed!
To the best of my knowledge, my mother has been placed on a blacklist of peace activists. Who can explain such behavior to me? Do you wish and are you able to help change this situation? In a few days, on November 26, my mother will be leaving Israel to return home to Denmark. Will you allow her an additional humiliation?
Thank you in advance,
A description written by Ingrid Steinitz, mother of Michal Gelbart, and translated from the Danish follows of that night and the questions she raises as a result of that experience.
What is the Connection between the Treatment at Ben Gurion Airport and Security?
I arrived on November 15 at 2:40am by train to the Ben Gurion airport to fly at 6am with Malev, the Hungarian airline, to Budapest and from there on to Copenhagen at 5:40pm the same day. (I had arrived on November 8 together with eleven other Danish grandmothers, and we underwent about two hours of questionning and examinations of our luggage and ourselves.)
They took me out of line with all my luggage to a special room for a thorough check that developed more-or-less into a circus. A body search, to empty pockets – apparently that’s done all the time; I wonder what they can be looking for? Of course the metal detector screeched because of the zipper on my slacks . Almost anyone would understand this wouldn’t they? The young woman asked me to remove my slacks (she doesn’t have the right to do that). I removed them altogether and gave them to the lady who, of course, found nothing that was causing the screeching besides the zipper.
The shoes were passed over for x-raying. After about 40 minutes, I again put on my shoes and slacks including a handkerchief, keys, reminder notes, etc. in my pockets. Now it was the turn of my travel pack, my back pack, and myhand luggage (a small back pack and a small bag with food for the trip). I’m a vegetarian, and sometimes the airlines forget to take along the vegetarian food. Also, I expected to spend about eight hours in Budapest and a 71 yr old grandmother lives on quite a low budget. 3-4 youngsters checked the back pack very thoroughly, paying special attention to the camera, the MP3, pens, and a very small pen-shaped American flashlight that aroused extra suspicion. Many of the items were taken for scanning or whatever they do with them.
I insisted on repacking my things myself. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to find them along the way and in Copenhagen. I repacked the back pack, the small bag with rainwear (nylon), a spare sweater, 5 clementines, and my cheese sandwiches (toast with slices of yellow cheese) all of which had been gone through very carefully and thoroughly.
Sandals and sneakers from the large pack of course needed to be sent for scanning. New presents that were completely sealed, a large package of seeds, and some soup nuts from my Israeli grandchildren to my Danish ones and several packages of humus had the choice of having holes punched all over them or to be sent in a special "security package". I of course "chose" the security package – I don’t need seeds and humus scattered throughout all my luggage! I’d like to know why three packages of Bisli from grandchildren to grandchildren didn’t receive the same special treatment as all the rest.
It resembled a circus, and I looked in amazement and uncomprehending at their comings and goings to and from the scanning of pens and markers. An intense examination of my toilet articles with talcum powder, vaseline, panties, and more. I began to wonder whether they might remove and put back all the toothpaste from the tube just to be sure…
The security officer Tal Gal-On began to yell and threaten that I would miss my flight and need to pay for a new ticket myself and that the hotel would cost me between $200-300. I don’t remember what else he threatened, but I needed to concentrate on repacking my things properly. I answered him that I had arrived three hours before the flight to avoid pressure – I’m simply not ready to be pressed. I lose keys, credit cards, and more when I’m under pressure – so I come especially early. (On the trip to Israel I had brought 26 small and cheap cans of mackeral requested by my grandchildren and I wasn’t sure whether the security people might be opening them all… as they insisted in opening the new mp3 packages I had brought for my grandchildren…)
He began to yell and scream and said I couldn’t get on the plane with my shoes (?) The shoes had undergone scanning one hour earlier. I answered him that of course I need to travel with my shoes because I don’t intend to catch pneumonia in the cold and rain of Denmark and Budapest. I asked for a copy of their decision in writing, and to speak with the fellow’s boss. He insisted that he was the one in charge and that "those are the rules." He argued vigorously that I had the right to choose between giving up the shoes and giving up access to my personal belongings. How are the two things connected? What is the connection to security? He geve me five minutes to decide until he returned. Clearly, I couldn’t choose between such nonsense. He returned and while continuing to check my belongings, he offered me coffee. He gave the impression that he understood that the situation was ridiculous. The one in charge, a woman of about 40, arrived and repeated that I would need to choose. I repeated my demand to have it in writing. She apparently agreed, but then she disappeared.
After about two hours my belongings were packed. I gave up trying to understand the circus and I handed over my shoes (packed in a security package, and the seeds, etc. packed in another package, and I walked barefoot, accompanied by security people to the "check in". The person in charge from the air line refused to receive me barefoot. The circus seemed to make him nervous, and he immediately sent a security man to bring me my shoes. He gave me a red note and explained that he would keep them for me until Budapest at which time I would get them back.
What has this circus/play to do with security?
How does putting on my shoes in the cold and rain of November connect with security?
What’s the connection between travelling with my shoes on and being able to get to my personal belongings on the way?
How is the connection between them connected to security???