The headline and lead paragraph of Jerusalem correspondent Janine Zacharia's Nov. 27 article might lead readers of the Washington Post to believe that they're about to find out why many in the aviation industry consider Israel's screening of passengers the gold standard in airport security measures. ("Israeli air security is easy on most, intrusive for a few" page A7).
But they would be wrong. Because, it turns out, the bulk of her article is a full-bore attack on Israel's profiling methods, including special scrutiny of Arab travelers..
The result of such profiling, Zacharia reports, is that most travelers pass through airport security with "relative ease." "But," she emphasizes, and this is the real purport of her story, "But Israeli personnel do single out small numbers of passengers for extensive searches and screening, based on profiling methods that have so far been rejected in the United States, subjecting Arabs and, in some cases, other foreign nationals to an extensive screening that comes with a deep civil liberties price."
Zacharia then spends most of the rest of her article detailing horror stories of travelers who were singled out for special screening:
--A terrorism "expert" at Tel Aviv University complains that some people who come to Israel for a conference have been asked -- horrors of horrors -- if they had met an Arab. And if the answer was yes, they were stripped and had their laptops confiscated. And Zacahria quotes this "expert" as concluding that "there is a lot to be improved in this approach towards innocent, foreign citizens." Readers, however, are left wondering exactly how screeners are supposed to spot "innocent" foreigners without even asking whether they might have met an Arab -- or checking their laptops.
--Sometimes, Zacharia complains, a Muslim-sounding name is enough to trigger extra screening. As an example, she cites the experience of Donna Shalalah. an American of Lebanese descent who was Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration and now is president of the University of Miami. She was questioned for more than 2 hours at Ben-Gurion Airport because of her Arab name.
These and similar incidents prompt Zacharia to also bemoan that "Israeli Arabs are regularly subjected to more extensive questioning. They also are subjected to body and bag searches more frequently than Jewish passengers." Rank discrimination, wouldn't you know it.
As a prime example of Arab profiling, Zacharia points to the experience of Hunaida Ghanem, an Israeli Arab "with a PhD from Hebrew University and a postdoctoral degree from Harvard." Ghanem complains that a screener felt through her hair, then examined behind her ears, neck and shoulders, and even felt under her bra and "on to my tummy."
This, whether Zacharia realizes it or not, actually gets her into espousing reverse profiling -- that people with advanced degrees ought to be able to show up at airports, wave their diplomas, and be passed through without further ado.
But there's a slight problem with exempting passengers with sterling academic pedigrees. Ayman Al Zawahiri, a leading Al-Qaeda planner of 9/11, graduated from Cairo University with a master's degree in surgery. Mohammed Atta, who crashed one of the planes into the World Trade Center, held degrees in architecture from Cairo University and in urban planning from the Technical University of Hamburg. Zacarias Moussaoui, another 9/11 terrorist, graduated from London's South Bank University with a master's in international business. And Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, reputedly the mastermind of 9/11, earned a degree in mechanical engineering from North Carolina's Agricultural and Technical State University.
Where would Zacharia draw the line on which sheepskin qualifies as a no-questions-asked permit to sail through security?
Sadly, Zacharia doesn't even bother to recognize that her political correctness doesn't yield any practical measures to sift out possible terrorists among air travelers.
All this is topped by her article's most serious flaw -- Nowhere does she point out that the reason Israel applies extra screening to Arabs and/or passengers with Arab connections is that from the state's founding, it has been Arabs who have waged war against Israel. And not only foreign Arabs, but sad to say, some Israeli Arabs who have hooked up with Palestinian terrorists from the West Bank and facilitated their transit to targets within Israel. While most Israeli Arabs are law-abiding, there has been in recent years a growing fifth column that also poses a real threat to the country.
Amazing though it may seem, nowhere in Zacharia's article is there any mention of the first Palestinian intifada, the second Palestinian intifada, the tens of thousands of rockets fired into Israel by Hamas terrorists in Gaza. Nor is there is there the slightest indication that Hamas, which rules Gaza, is dedicated to the destruction of Israel by violent means -- a strategy also subscribed to by the terrorist wing of Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah political party, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
Perhaps, just perhaps, that's the answer to the riddle posed by Zacharia in the article as to why "if you are a Jew, you can celebrate your journey. You can go to the duty free. If you are an Arab, you are discriminated against, separated, humiliated."
Actual realities and history just might explain why Jews have an easier time than Arabs going through security control before boarding or alighting from planes at Ben Gurion Airport.
It's almost beyond belief that the Washington Post can run an article on Israel's airport security measures without any mention whatever of why they're needed in the first place. And that there's more danger from some Arabs than from Jews.
It's as if a reporter were to do a piece on U.S. airport security screenings without pointing to 9/11 or to more recent attempts by terrorists to blow up airplanes landing in the U.S. -- a causal connection, sad to day, that's also all too often missing from Post news coverage.
Forgetfulness in the name of political correctness seems to govern the paper's reportage.