Students sue Israeli airlines for ethnic profiling, strip searching & alleged sexual assault
The three masters students of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are Palestinian citizens of Israel and were on their way back from Belgrade in October 2016 when they were told they couldn’t board the plane to Tel Aviv unless they agreed to be strip-searched.
“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 girls told Al Jazeera. “I couldn't speak. It was a shock. I completely undressed the upper part of my body. It was painful.”
One of the women fainted during the screening, which lasted two hours and was conducted by Israeli security personnel.
The students are suing El Al and Arkia airlines, alleging ethnic profiling adding that the search “went well beyond a pat-down and amounted to sexual assault.”
The women bought their tickets from Arkia Airlines, while EI AI handles security checks for Israeli airlines.
“The search was unwarranted,” Anwi Bana, the students’ attorney said. “The women were not acting in a suspicious manner and there was no intelligence suggesting that the women posed a security threat.”
“Every action taken by any El Al security employee is closely monitored and debriefed. It goes without saying, that El Al does its very best to keep every security procedure respectful and tolerant,” El Al said in a statement.
The airlines have until October 20 to answer the charges, after that the court will set a trial date. RT.com has contacted both airlines for comment.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) has collected the testimonies of several passengers who have experienced similar discriminatory practices at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport.
The ACRI asked the Supreme Court in 2007 to rule out ethnic profiling at airports. In 2015, the Court annulled the petition.