Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Ben Gurion airport

The bra:  A security threat at Ben Gurion airport (Israel)

Anonymous is 21 years old and lives in Berkeley, California. Her father is a Jordanian Palestinian and her mother is a British Jew. 

Anonymous posted on Mondoweiss this October 13, 2013 ‘The bra is a security threat’: Harassment and interrogation at Ben Gurion airport

I took a deep breath and looked around at my surroundings. I mostly kept tabs on the other people who I had been in line with.

While most went through the baggage scan machine and straight to their ticket desks, the other members with yellow stickers on their luggage like myself had all been cleared after a 10-15 minute bag check with only one or two of their bags being searched.

I was the only person left at the checking tables. The thin bald man in the suit came over once again.


The following trip to Israel took place in September, 2013.

“What do you have in your pockets?” he asked me. “My passport, my visa, and my phone” I told him.

“Fine” he said, “she will escort you to security.” He pointed to the young blonde.

I reached for my bags. “No no. They stay here. You go with her.”

“Who will watch my bags?” I asked him. “They will be here. Go with her.”

The blonde woman and I walked through the airport.

“How old are you?” she asked me. “21” I said, “and you?”

“23” she said.

We stopped before a big white door. She swiped her id card and typed in a code. The door unlocked. I entered a white room with a baggage x-ray machine and a white table that looked like a dental chair. Curtains hung in the near right corner.

The blonde pointed to that corner with a foam chair and metal legs.

“Sit there” she said. I sat.

A young man appeared, he was in a plaid shirt, jeans and a pair of white Adidas. Undercover police for sure.

He lurked on the other side of the curtain that the young blonde partially drew. “Stand with your arms at your sides” she gesticulated.

I watched the man’s white sneakers stop on the other side of the curtain, facing towards it. I took my shoes off and my phone was placed in a grey tub. I eyed my passport and visa on the shelf in front of me.  She did a general pat down and then pulled my pant waist far from my body and checked around between the gap where my underwear and my belt would have been if I had been wearing one.

She sighed and told me that I was finished and should take a seat. Somebody else came through the white door on the other side of the curtain and began laughing with the plain-clothed guard. I could tell by the voice and by her black shoes under the curtain that she was a woman.

The young blonde woman left with my shoes and my phone in the grey tub. I eyed my passport again on the ledge in front of me and stuck it into my pocket.

“Are your pockets empty?” Another blonde woman came through the gap in the curtains, the undercover guard moved to the table across from the gap and viewed in. I took my passport out again and held it in my hands. “Yes”.

She had large round eyes and appeared older than the first blonde woman who had checked my bags, maybe she was 26-29. Her hair was wavy and limp against her head. My phone beeped again, probably my family calling me to check on why I had not notified them about my status through the airport as we had agreed.

I guessed at the time. It was perhaps around 6:45. I had been in the private security room for roughly a quarter of an hour.

“I am the security supervisor here and I have some questions for you” she told me. She asked me again as to the purpose of my trip, to which I gave the same generic answer of Holy Land sights, friends and family visits.

“Who’d you stay with?” I gave some names. “And the addresses?” I gave one address of a friend in Jerusalem who I’d stayed with for a block of time.

She questioned me more on the details of the residents in the flat and how I knew them. She asked me why I’d stayed there and how I could be friends with the people who I mentioned. All had Jewish names.

“We just are” I told her. She stared blankly. “Ok…” she paused.

I said nothing, just looked up at her face. “And who paid for this trip?” she demanded. Her tone was hostile and her body language was on edge as she stood above me and looked down at me in my chair. “My mother.”


“So that I could visit the sights, friends and family” I repeated.

“You are going to London now.”

“Yes I am.”


“To visit family.”

You are always visiting family” she commented in a teasing tone, the corner of her mouth in a slight snarl, “Why is that?”

“Because I am. Any other questions?” I told her flatly.

“What do you do?”

“What do I do?”

“Yes in the USA or wherever you live what do you do.”

“I work. I recently graduated college.” She asked for the details of what I studied and where I worked. I gave her one-word answers.

“What are your family names?” she again demanded.

“T(Palestinian) and N (Jewish).”


“Yes N(Jewish).”

“And your other name is T(Palestinian)?”

“That’s right.”

“Your father was born where?”


She repeated my name. “That is my name.” She paused, confused.

“You told another security person that you are Jewish but really you’re just a Palestinian.”

“I am both” I told her.

“What do you mean both?”

“I am Jewish and Palestinian. My mother is Jewish and my father is Palestinian, do you want my family names again?”

The undercover guard was still sitting on the table swinging his legs. His face twisted.

“So if you are both, where is your family in Israel?”

“Jaffa and Tel Aviv” I told her. She was frustrated. “But who…you’re going to England?”

“My mother was born in Britain, why I am going to England and who I will see is not relevant. Do you have any other questions?” I asked her.

This was the first emotional rise that she had gotten from me and, though it was mild, I reminded myself to calm down.

I did not want to spend any more energy on this process than I had to. The goal is to end this and go. End this process and go. I reminded myself.

She paused. “Ok, were you told to bring anything onto the plane?”

“I am just bringing myself and my luggage”

“Yes but were you told to bring anything with you?”

“I don’t understand your question”

“Were you told to carry something onto, you know, the plane”

“I still don’t understand your question. I am attempting to board this plane in order to leave Israel and I am hopefully bringing myself and my luggage”

“But there is nobody else?”

“No? I am by myself” She turned around to leave.

“Excuse me, what is your name please?” I asked her. “My name?” The guard smirked.

“Yes your name.”

She and the guard exchanged glances. He sniggered. She laughed. “What do you want my name for?”

“You know my name so I would like to know your name.”

“It’s Hilda.”

“Hilda what?”

“Hilda Ma…” She mumbled the rest. “What was your last name again please?”

“I’ll spell it out for you later if you want. Ok?”

“Yes thank you.” She tossed the curtain aside.

I sat in clear view of the guard who exchanged some words and guffaws with Hilda. He raised his eyebrows at her and pointed at me, his tone of voice said, “can you believe that? Who does she think she is?

Hilda imitated me and they laughed again. She then disappeared to the other side of the room where I lost visual contact with her. The guard watched her speak with the young blonde woman who then reappeared in the curtained area.

She pulled the curtains closer together behind her. The white shoes stood on the other side of the curtain, facing towards it. She motioned for me to rise and hold my hands away from my body.

“Are you going to check me again?” I asked. “Yes” she said.

She scanned me with a metal detector, paying close attention to my chest where my underwire was making the machine beep (which anyone who wears a bra can tell you happens routinely in a check with a handheld metal detector). She lifted up my sweat-pant legs and checked around my calves.

“What’s in your hair?” she said, pointing to my poofy bun on top of my head.

“Nothing, it’s just a hair tie” I said. “Ok can you take it off” she told me.

I took my hair down and she sifted through my curls. “You have a lot of hair” she told me.

I put it back up into a bun and said nothing. Then she left through the gap in the curtains.  The man walked to the gap in the curtain and again turned to face me. I sat down and looked at him. His feet were swinging and his eyes mocked me.

The young blonde came back with the same probe, with a flat head and a cotton pad, that she had used to check my luggage earlier that morning. “Ok stand up again” she told me.

“What is that?” I asked her. She looked shyly at me. “This will um go around your chest and your bottom area

“My bottom?”

“Your waist and yes like that” she said. “For what purpose?”

“To check and then scan into the machine…it’s just your surfaces” she told me.

I withheld a shudder, feeling the situation slowly slipping out of my control. There was no one else in the room, only the four of us, Hilda, the young blonde, the young undercover guard, and myself.

Hilda called the guard over to the right hand side of the room. I watched his white Adidas move back and forth as he rocked on the other side of the curtain. The young blonde stuck the flat-headed probe down my shirt and then around my bra.

Then she pulled my sweatpants far away from my body and circled the probe around my waist.

Can you pull your underwear down a little bit please?” she asked me. This was the first time that she had said please and I could tell that she was embarrassed.

I stared at the gap in the curtain and pulled the top of my underwear down. I looked her in the face. Her skin was dewy. The woman swept the probe around my body again and then told me to lift my feet off the floor. She checked my soles. I heard my phone beep twice in its grey bin somewhere on my right by the white “dental” chair next to Hilda and the guard.

The young blonde avoided my eye contact and left through the door.

About 30 seconds later, Hilda reappeared and swept open the curtains. The guard reappeared with her and moved to stand on my left by the curtain seam.

“Ok so I need to take off your underwear.”

“Excuse me?”

“Yes the machine signaled a problem with your shirt and underwear so you need to take them off”.

The guard stared me down. His eyes were mocking. “You want me to take off my underwear and then do what with them?”

We will scan them and then you will need to put other ones on.

“Other ones? I only have what I have on.” On cue the young blonde rolled in my red suitcase and pulled it into the curtain area.

“What did the machine detect exactly?” I pressed. “I can’t tell you that. You just need to remove your underwear and your shirt.”

“And then you want me to change back into them?”

“No you have to check them in with your luggage and wear something else.”

“But I don’t want to wear anything else. My other clothes are dirty.”

“You have to wear something else. The bra is a security threat.

“My bra is a security threat?”

“Yes and so is your shirt.”

My mind buzzed as my emotions rose. I looked at the guard and he smirked back at me. “This is your punishment for asking Hilda’s name” I told myself.

The young blonde girl looked at me with my suitcase in hand, a surprisingly distressed look on her face. The expression was guilt. Only later did it strike me that the time between the probe test and Hilda’s decision that my underwear threatened security spanned an average of 30 seconds and that this was, most likely, a time too short to have actually checked the cotton pad on the end of the probe and communicated the next sequence of events between Hilda and the young blonde along with the organized retrieval of my suitcase from the terminal.

I unzipped my bag and popped it open. The inside was a mess from the first rummage through it and I had no idea where anything was. I calmed myself down, took deep breaths, reminded myself that this was all a power play with the intention of making me feel uncomfortable and unfamiliar.

I fished out another bra from my bag and took the first shirt that I could find. I went into my underwear pocket but Hilda stopped me. “Why don’t you just wear the ones you have?” she said.

“You told me to change my underwear” I responded.

“No you can leave them. I just want your bra and your shirt” she barked at me.

I folded the two articles over my arm. “Give them to me” Hilda demanded. “I need to scan these before you put them on.”

I handed them over to her while the guard watched. She disappeared, I don’t remember what she did. I was busy watching the young blonde woman who looked as uncomfortable as I felt. Hilda handed me my bra and shirt. I stared at the guard. Hilda caught my eye, “you have to change clothes now. No one will see you.” She left and drew the curtains behind her.

For the first time since I entered the airport, I was alone. I watched the guard’s white shoes, pointed towards the curtains.

For good measure, I faced the wall and placed my passport in my pocket. I changed my clothes and replaced them with the ones from my bag. I went to my bag to fold them back in when Hilda pulled back the curtains.

“No don’t pack them yet I need to test them!” she barked.

“You already checked them. That’s why we are going through this process, correct?”

I will check them again.”

I passed them to her right past the guard’s body. He had stepped very close to Hilda and myself. As I passed my clothing to Hilda, he stared down at the bra in my hand and then back up at me. I stood there. I took deep breaths. My eyes dared him to utter a word. He didn’t, he just stared at me.

The young blonde called me back to the other side of the curtains and closed them behind me. My whole body was vibrating with anger. She checked around my body with a metal detector for the second time.

The young woman patted down my top yet again. My throat constricted and I could feel angry tears welling up somewhere inside me. I swallowed my feelings. I buried them. I reminded myself of my goal in this very moment and of the stubborn character that my family was so well known for. I made a pact with myself that I would not give them the emotional response they were pressing for.

I would not let them compromise my dignity. “Focus” I told myself. “Just focus.”

Hilda brought my shirt and bra back from wherever she had taken them and I packed them into my chaotic suitcase. As Hilda and the guard joked and laughed together, the young blonde approached me. “This is all protocol you know” she whispered at my side.

“Oh really? This is protocol?” I said slowly. I looked her in the eye and she looked down at her feet. I hoped that she was ashamed of this process, ashamed of the actions that had been deemed “appropriate”, realized that she was a pawn in all of this, but no less guilty in carrying out the policy of racial and specific group targeting that this whole experience was built upon.

The end of the process was sudden. The whole thing was surreal actually. Hilda left the room in one swift movement. The door slammed behind her. The guard kept tabs on me with the young blonde at my side. I closed my bag and pulled it to standing.

“You can put your shoes on” the young blonde said.

I looked around. “Ok, can I have my shoes please?”

“Oh yeah.” She brought me the grey bin with my phone and shoes and I slipped them on.

The girl pointed me towards the door and we walked through, the plain clothed guard disappeared into the hallway behind us. I did not see him again.

The girl and I walked back together, alone. “You know…” she began “I’ve been working here for 1.5 years and I have never seen them do something like that.”

“Do something like what?” I asked. She looked up at me with a crease in her forehead, “make someone take off their bra…”

“I hope it’s the last time” I told her. She looked ahead into the terminal. We stopped talking.

We reentered the large room that I had first had my bags checked through, the glass doors to the outside of the airport shone with the bright light of the sun. It was now morning. I smiled to myself that I had finished the process.

“I get to leave now”, I thought to myself. My eyes adjusted to the light in the terminal where I clearly saw about 6-8 security guards rummaging through the complete contents of both of my carry-on bags that now lay limp on the floor. Stuff inside grey bins, outside grey bins, on the conveyor belt, across on other tables; my things were strewn absolutely everywhere. It was chaos.

I appeared before the tables, covered in my things, as the plastic gloved hands continued the sifting process. Everything was separated and individually run through the little metal detector behind me.

A stern, balding, reddish haired man with a black kippah stood there with an earpiece on one side. His arms were crossed and by the way that the skinny bald man stood next to him and all the guards checked in with his appraising gaze, I could tell that he was the boss of this particular operation.

Hilda had disappeared completely. She was nowhere in sight. I said nothing about the bags. I just breathed. “Excuse me”, I called to the skinny bald man, “What was the woman’s name who checked me in the security room?”

The man looked at me, “You mean Hilda?”

“Yes Hilda” I responded.

The man with the kippah turned his glance towards me. “What is her full name?” I asked.

The bald man opened his mouth to answer but first turned his attention to his superior. “We don’t give last names” the man with the kippah asserted. “I doubt that”, I thought to myself.

“Ok what is her title then please?”

“Hilda, Security Supervisor.” A woman with a clipboard appeared between us and asked the skinny man who I was. He pointed to my name on a short list, which she then highlighted in yellow and pink. The skinny man looked at me, “You will make your flight.”

A young woman beckoned me to her box, I’m next. She opened my passport and stared down at the page. She stutters my first name. “Yes?”

“Ra…Ra…” I pronounce the rest of it for her. “What was the purpose of your visit?” I let out the same monotonous answer I had uttered all morning.

“You have friends and family here?” she asked. “Yes.”

“Ok where are they?”

“Tel Aviv and Jaffa” I said. She paused and cocked her eyebrows. “That’s the same place.”

“No no, I said Tel Aviv and Jaffa” I told her, thinking she had not heard me correctly. “Yes that’s the same place.” What she was implying hit me.

All morning I had been mistreated, combed out of the crowd and profiled, my time wasted and my dignity subsequently stepped all over without a second thought.

I had been treated like a criminal for having an identity that I was born into, told explicitly in each of these actions that I did not belong here and had no place here at all as a person with Palestinian heritage.

Harassed and picked out from the rest because of my name, my history, the assumptions that go with them, and my very intention to visit my family, many of who cannot visit me in the USA.

Here I was being told by a girl in uniform, very close to my age, that my town had no existence in the present, even as I had just left from it hours before arriving at the airport. The whole morning’s exchange culminated at this moment as a burning ember in my stomach. It was emblematic of the constant reminder that we Palestinians are being systematically forgotten and erased from public consciousness in every sphere of life, delegitimized in every root that we are attached to inside and outside of the Israeli state.

Tel Aviv, some of it built on two prominent neighborhoods of my town, much of the rest built upon the orange groves that sustained it, was swallowing up my very presence, right there in the middle of the airport.

I realized that, to this girl I was already a disappeared part of “history”, excluded from her general consciousness, not even present in her own imagination of the past.

Yet here she was, looking right at me. I wanted to show her, to figuratively reach behind her glass case, that I was not a shadow of the things that were but a glimmer of the present and future of what is and what can be.

“They are not the same place” I tell her “One is north and one is south. One is a city and one is a town.”

“No, you were in one place. The name of the city is Tel Aviv – Yafo. Not Yafo. Same place.” She handed me back my passport and stared at me, annoyed.

“It is not the same place” I told her. “Is that all?”

“Yeah. Go.”

I hurried to my gate, through the final check and into the airport lounge area. I decided that the plane would not leave without me, from the beginning the airline had been notified about my ensured tardiness. I stopped at a candy and snack store on my way to the gate and chose a bottle of water. I brought it up to the woman at the desk.

“Passport and boarding ticket please” she told me. I handed both to her. She looked me up in the computer in front of her. Her eyes fixed on me. “How long have you been in Israel and what is your final destination?” I was incredulous. I was being asked security questions by a candy vendor.

“Excuse me, I’ve already passed through security. How much are those tic-tacs please?” I grabbed the box next to me. She told me the total and I paid. She asked no more questions.

I took my boarding materials from the counter. As I turned around, I noticed two plain clothed men with shaved heads watching me from their seats at the fountain. They had no baggage. I guessed who they were. I moved past them and walked briskly to my gate. I kiss the necklace around my neck as an act of gratitude and I know that I will be back. I also know that it will not be easy. It never is.

I hope that one day this story becomes a fairy tale of what was once the Occupation, in all of its arbitrary character and continual perpetuation of inequality, injustice, and illusion.

For now, this experience as described above is just a minor example of the humiliation and daily challenges that Palestinians face on a regular basis when trying to cross checkpoints inside and outside of the West Bank and Gaza. It is just a minor example of the racial profiling that Palestinians with Israeli passports or Jerusalem ID cards go through on a regular basis when walking down the street or applying for a job.

It is just a minor example of how the Occupation divides the Palestinian population into all of our different “statuses” and privileges while combining us all together into one essential package.

It is an example of a situation where the oppression of certain groups of people has been completely normalized by the international community.

If we can start anywhere in deconstructing this Occupation, literally taking it apart, we can start by educating ourselves and our communities. I implore those who read this to learn about the history of Palestine, to learn about recent events on the ground, to talk to as many people as they can, to be curious and ask questions, to look at displays of military power and question the motives of those governments who support them.

Throughout all of this, please remember, that this is not a historical issue, it is a human one.

Peace, Justice and Dignity.

‘Do you feel more Arab or more American?’: Two women’s story

The frequency of Israel blatant and humiliating discrimination against US citizens of Palestinian or “Arab” origin is skyrocketing, and the US is projecting an attitude of helplessness and indifference to its citizens from Palestine…

Here is another account of two women travelling to Israel.

 posted on June 2, 2012: ‘Do you feel more Arab or more American?’: Two women’s story of being detained and interrogated at Ben Gurion

ben gurion airport
Ben Gurion Airport

“I am an American citizen. I went to American schools my entire life, graduated from an American university and work as an architect in New York City.

Why was this happening to me? It all started with a simple question. “What is your father’s name?” Ben Gurion Airport

“Bassam.” I replied to a bleach-blonde pregnant woman interrogating me… 

“Okay, please wait a few moments in the waiting room over there.”

Little did I know that my father’s Arab name would make me guilty until proven innocent.

A “few moments” would turn into a 14-hour nightmare at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.

Sasha Al-Sarabi and Najwa Doughman

I was hoping they wouldn’t separate me from my friend Sasha, whom I was traveling with.

We had been warned about possible interrogations and security checks but were reassured that, since we were both young, female professionals from New York City with American passports, it wouldn’t be a problem to enter Israel.

It was going to be my third visit and Sasha’s first.

Sasha was called in to be interrogated and was led into a small office to the left of our waiting room.

Twenty minutes passed until Sasha came out, walking quickly back to her seat.

She attempted to reassure me: “It’s going to be fine. They just want to see if we’re lying about anything.” But she was obviously flustered.

Now it was my turn.

“Najwa, come.”

Do you feel more Arab or more American?” the bleach-blonde pregnant woman asked. I had answered the ten previous questions very calmly, but with this question I looked back at the security official confused and irritated.

She couldn’t have been much older than me—her business attire and stern facial expressions did not mask her youth.

“I don’t know, I feel both. Why? Does this affect my ability to get in?”

She ignored my question. “Surely you must feel a little more Arab, you’ve lived in many Middle Eastern countries.”

I did not see the correlation. I have never felt the need to choose. “Yes I have but I also lived in the US for the past seven years, and was born there, so I feel both.”

My response did not convince her.

“Hm. Will you go to Al-Aqsa?” (The Mosque in Jerusalem)

“Yeah, maybe.”

“Will you go to Jewish sites as well?”

“Yes, why not? We want to see everything.”

“But you have been here two times already. Why are you coming now for the third time? You can go to Venezuela, to Mexico, to Canada. It is much closer to New York, and much less expensive!”

I realized the conversation was going nowhere.

“Right, but I wanted to come back here again. Don’t you have tourists who come back more than once?”

“I’m asking the questions here,” she replied disgruntled.

“Okay, we are going to do something very interesting now!” Her face transformed from a harsh stare to a slight smirk. She proceeded to type “” on her computer and then turned the keyboard toward me. “Log in,” she demanded.

“What? Really?” I was shocked.

“Log in.”

I typed in my username and password in complete disbelief. She began her invasive search: “Israel,” “Palestine,” “West Bank,” “International Solidarity Movement.”

Looking back, I realize I shouldn’t have logged in. I should have known that nothing I did at this point would change my circumstances, and that this was an invasion of my privacy.

Yet, all the questions, the feeling that I had to defend myself for simply wanting to enter the country, and the unwavering eye contact of the security officers left me feeling like I had no choice. I was worried I would let Sasha down if I refused and that it would be the reason for both of our denials into the country.

She sifted through my inbox, reading every single email with those keywords. She read sentences out loud to her colleague, sarcastically reenacting and mocking old Google Chat conversations between Sasha and me about our future trip to Jerusalem. I squirmed in my seat.

The Israeli authorities have a notorious reputation for denying entry to Palestinians of all citizenships, and I had received all sorts of advice, solicited and unsolicited, on how to cope with the problem.

The security officer opened an email from a friend living in Jerusalem who had advised me to remove myself from internet searches. “They are heavy on googling names at the airport recently,” he had written. “See if you can remove yourselves, not crucial but helpful.”

The security guard found this especially hilarious. With a laugh, she called her blonde colleague over and reread the sentence mockingly. “You can tell your friend, not only do we google you, we read your emails, too!”

I was beyond uncomfortable, uncertain of how else they would try to humiliate me. “Okay, I think you’ve read enough,” I said. “Is what you’re doing even legal? Can you please log out now?”

The guard became even more defensive. “You could ask me to log out, but you know what that would mean, right? Tell me to log out,” she dared me.

I was speechless. I felt completely helpless, furious, and exhausted; I was now entering my fourth hour of interrogation.

After reading several more emails, they wrote down every contact name, email, and phone number they could find. Finally, the interrogator said, “Okay you can go.” But before I could even feel the slightest sense of relief she added, “Good luck getting into Israel.”

Three more hours passed.

A large bald man eventually approached us holding our passports. “Come with me,” he ordered. We walked straight across the hall to another waiting room, in front of two small offices.

“As of right now, you have been denied from entering Israel.”

Despite the looming feeling I had after walking out of the interrogation room that my hours in this country were numbered, the words still stung with disappointment, frustration, and anger.

Sasha had had it. “Okay, I want a lawyer,” she said. “And I want to call the American embassy, now.”

The guard was not fazed by her requests.

“Yes, yes, call whoever you want, after you do procedure.” He turned his back and walked away.

We peered into the office. A stout woman in uniform, about fifty years old, was taking pictures and fingerprints of a man sitting in front of her. Sasha was called in next. The woman told Sasha to sit in front of the camera.

“Wait, before you take my picture, can you tell me why we have to do this?” Sasha asked.

This is procedure. This is how we do things in Israel,” the woman responded, looked back to her camera.

“You’re treating me like a criminal! I don’t want you to take my picture,” Sasha said. “We’ve already been denied. Why are you doing this?”

“You will take a picture and then wait in a facility until your flight.”

Sasha was persistent. “What facility? Our flight is in nine days! Why were we denied? We need to call the embassy now!”

You will call after you take your picture. I don’t know why you were denied. My job is just to do procedure. When I go to America, the same happens to me. I get denied from America,” claimed the woman.

“No,” replied Sasha, “No, you don’t.”

After our pictures were taken, we officially felt like criminals. It didn’t help that two new female guards were now assigned to watch us at all times.

The most humiliating thing was each guard couldn’t have been more than twenty years old. Everywhere we went, they were right behind us. Even when Sasha went to the restroom, the security guard went with her. After about 30 minutes, six more security guards surrounded us to walk us to another room across the airport. It was as if all the shepherds had come to herd two small sheep.

We had not committed any crime. Our only sin was being born to Arab parents. It was then that we realized what a sheltered life we had lived. We had always read about racial profiling and heard accounts from family members and friends in college. We always sympathized and were infuriated by it, but never had we felt it first hand.

Sasha and I paced back and forth with anxiety while we were made to wait in the hallway. At one point I turned my head and noticed the female guards pointing at our attire and admiring Sasha’s pants. It hit me then, for the first time, that these guards were actually young girls, interested in fashion and trends, like we were. Under different circumstances, could we have actually been friends?

They led us into the next room, which was painted white and had an intimidating, large “Explosive Detection” machine. The guards proceeded to open our luggage. They picked through every single piece of clothing and every tube of makeup. They inspected my laptop and Sasha’s iPad, wiped each item with a cloth, and ran them through the machine. They x-rayed and scanned everything—twice.

After they had gone through every one of our belongings, they proceeded to the body search. I was taken to the back of the room with one male and two female security officers. The room was smaller and closed off with a curtain.

The older woman seemed to be training the younger one. She would murmur directions in Hebrew as the younger officer patted me in different places. The man stood right outside the half-open curtain. They scanned my body with a metal detector, and it beeped at the button on my jeans. “Take off your pants,” said the older officer immediately.

I lost my last nerve. “NO,” I responded. “We’ve already been denied. You searched everything. Why do I need to take my pants off after you’ve denied me? I will not take my pants off.”

“This is how we do things in Israel,” the woman snapped back. “You have to take them off.”

“And if I don’t?”

“Then someone will make you.” They all walked out of the room.

I began crying and shaking as my mind went through a million different nightmares. Were they going to get more people to hold me down? What the hell is going to happen to us? I wanted to see Sasha and not be alone for a minute longer, but was too afraid of the consequences of leaving the room.

The guards returned a few minutes later with shorts taken from my luggage. “Fine,” they said. “Wear these.”

I struggled into them with tears streaming down my face. I stood ashamed and mortified as she patted me down all over again. I had never felt so humiliated, so degraded, and so violated.

Once my “security search” was over, I changed back into my jeans and returned to the white room. It was Sasha’s turn to be searched.

When this was over, two men from immigration services approached us holding our passports.

“Now you will be taken to a facility.”

“A facility? You mean a jail? Are we arrested? How long are we going to be there?”

“This is not jail. It’s a facility. This is where everybody goes that is denied entry from the State of Israel.”

They took all of our luggage and our phones and drove us about five minutes away from the airport to a gated, white building.

All of the windows had double bars on them, and none of the doors had doorknobs. We walked through the dark halls and passed by open rooms filled with bunk beds.

“You can call your parents from my phone, not yours. Leave your phones here. But if it is an international call, use yours. Your flight back is at 8 am tomorrow morning.”

We called our parents, and he took us to our room on the second floor. Inside were ten bunk beds, four sleeping women, a sink, a bathroom, and a shower.

We both stared at the beds for a minute before lying down. The mattresses looked like they were made of duct tape, the room smelled of urine, and there was a grey, furry sheet on each bed. We folded my sweater in half to use as a pillow, and lay in the three-foot-wide bed together, looking up at the bottom of the bunk above us.

“FREE PALESTINE, I Shall Return—Maryam 2006” and “21 Gaza Peace Activists detained” were scribbled on the wood. Reading those sentences over and over gave me an odd sense of peace, and we drifted into a restless sleep.

At about 5 am, the guard came to wake the Spanish woman in the bed beside ours. “Wash your face,” he told her. She sprung up, splashed water on her face, and waited for him to come back and unlock the door. We sat up anxiously in the bed waiting for our turn to leave.

At 6:15, a guard came and told us that the US embassy was phoning for us. My parents had called them from Virginia after our two-minute conversation to inform them of what was happening. Sasha answered the phone. “Oh, thank God, we’ve been trying to get in touch with you! This is Sasha. We’ve been through a lot the past few hours.”

“As I told your friend’s parents yesterday, there is really nothing we can do. I’m just glad that you’re going to be able to get on the next flight.” the woman said dispassionately.

“This is ridiculous. They went through my friend’s email. Is that legal?”

“Well, they can do whatever they want. There is nothing we can do. They are their own country, and they make their own rules.”

“If only you could see the conditions we are in. I just wish you could come and smell the room.”

“Oh, I’m really sorry, but at least you’ll be getting on the next flight,” her voice was annoyingly monotonous.

“I can’t believe we are funding this system. I understand the special relationship between America and Israel, but there is clearly something wrong with the way we are being treated”.

“Well, there’s a lot of things wrong with a lot of systems.” She clearly wasn’t going to help us.

“You are right. We should all just sit here and be complacent like you. Well, thanks for your call.” And Sasha hung up.

We had been desperately waiting for this call, and the amount of frustration we felt after receiving it was overwhelming.

We had demanded over and over to be able to talk to the American embassy, hoping that being American would give us some sort of protection or a little sense of security. There is no difference between every citizen in America, we thought naively.

Surely the US Embassy would rescue us and demand that we be treated like human beings. Surely they would reprimand the Israelis for their appalling practices and demand that they act like the democracy they claim to be.

If we were two American citizens in a Syrian or Iranian “facility,” would the American embassy’s reaction be the same? Would Obama himself not have made a statement by now, demanding our release? If we were Americans of Polish or Chinese descent, would we have been treated this way?

American citizens are usually given a three-month visa upon arrival. Why were we an exception? There are a lot of things wrong with a lot of systems, but when we are funding one with billions of our tax dollars, this means that we are supporting it.

An hour later, which seemed like an eternity, the guard showed up. It was now 7:30 am, which was only thirty minutes before our flight. This turned out to be no problem, as we were driven straight to the steps of the airplane. Our passports were given to the captain of the Air France flight.

When we arrived in France, three policemen waited for us at the door of the plane, took our passports from the captain, and led us down the stairs of the airplane straight into their police car.

“Does this happen often?” Sasha asked.

“Every day,” replied the officer.

Note: About Najwa Doughman and Sasha Al-Sarabi

Najwa Doughman, 25, graduated from the University of Virginia in 2009 and currently works as an architect in New York City. Sasha Al-Sarabi, 24, graduated from the University of Virginia in 2010. She currently works in finance in New York City.


“How I felt Erased of my indentity!”: US Randa Jarrar

On a recent trip to Israel, US citizen Randa Jarrar gets detained, denied entry, and sent to ‘the Arab Room.’ 

Randa posted this May 4, 2012: “Imagining Myself in Palestine”

Image from Flickr via Rusty Stewart

“Trouble began weeks before I boarded my flight to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport.

I had heard horror stories about a detention area dubbed The Arab Room.  In my anxious and neurotic style, I had emailed a dozen people—American academics and artists of Arab, Indian, Jewish, and European descent— and asked them: ” what I am supposed to tell the immigration officers at Ben Gurion once I arrived?”

They all wanted to know if I was using my American passport, and I assured them that I was. The vast majority told me not to tell the officers that I would be staying at my sister’s in Ramallah. They said this would cause trouble, and offered up the names of friends and family for my use.

The generosity of people poured in, and I was advised to say that I was staying with this writer, or that visual artist, or this former-IDF soldier—people I had never met, but who had volunteered themselves to be my proxy hosts. A friend of mine, who is a phenomenal photojournalist, gave me her phone number and advised to tell the officers that I would be staying with her, and I agreed.

This photojournalist told me to prepare for the officers to call her themselves once I gave them her number, as this is something they are known to do.

I was so afraid of facing the guards at the airport that I had a difficult time imagining the rest of my trip. I would picture myself walking around Ramallah with my sister, or attending a concert, or visiting my aunts, or seeing the separation Wall of Shame, or staying at the American Colony Hotel for an evening, and I would draw a blank. There was a Wall there, too, between my thoughts and Palestine.

Growing up, my Palestinian identity was mostly tied to my father. He was the Palestinian in the family, and when we went back to the West Bank it was to see his brothers and sisters and parents. We always entered Palestine through Amman, crossing the Allenby Bridge over the river Jordan and waiting in endless inspection lines.

I remember these trips dragging on through morning and midday and well into the afternoon. My father would sit quietly, and when I complained, my Egyptian mother would tell me that the Israelis made it difficult for us to cross into the West Bank.

Mother said: “The Israelis wanted us to give up, that they would prefer we never go back. We must not let them win.

My relationship with my Palestinian identity was cemented when I enrolled in a PLO-sponsored girls’ camp as a teen. We learned nationalistic songs and dances and created visual art that reflected our understanding of the occupation.

As my family and I moved to America in 1991, my Palestinian identity shifted again, and I began to see myself as an Arab-American. My father’s fiery rants on Palestine died out when Yitzak Rabin was murdered by a Jewish-Israeli extremist. I remember my father weeping in our American wood-paneled den. He said that Rabin had been the Palestinians’ last chance.

When my sister got a job in Ramallah last year, teaching music to children, I knew I would want to visit her. I had not been to Palestine since 1993. I had planned to go back in the summer of 1996, but I was pregnant and unmarried.

My parents did not want to speak to me, let alone take me with them, in such a shameful condition, to the West Bank. I never went back with family after that. I led my own life.

I moved about a dozen times over the following 15 years—an American nomad. I didn’t want to visit the West Bank and be at the mercy of family. If I ever visited, I would do so independently. When my sister moved to Ramallah she found an apartment of her own, and it had an extra room. It was the perfect time to go. My husband booked my flight and was thrilled. I told my sister I was coming.

I felt uneasy as soon as I arrived at the Philadelphia Gate. I didn’t notice  any other “Arabs” boarding US Airways flight 796 to Tel Aviv.  I found myself surrounded by Christian missionaries and Evangelicals and observant Jewish men. The group across the aisle had their bibles out, the man sitting next to me read from a miniature Torah…

As the flight took off, I recited a verse from the Quran, almost against my will. I am an atheist, but all the praying was contagious.

I spoke to no one on the plane, and no one spoke to me, until I got up to stand in line for the bathroom. A man with a wandering eye and a yarmulke asked if I knew why a section of the plane had been hidden behind a thick grey cloth. I said that it was probably to give the flight attendants a little privacy during the eleven-hour trip. He nodded, and said, “Good. I was worried that it was for those crazy Ultra-Orthodox people. They’re like the Jewish Taliban.”

I nodded, uncomfortable. I wondered if he would have spoken to me like this if he knew I was of Palestinian descent, and an ex-Muslim. He continued, “They’re ruining Israel. They spit on an 8-year-old girl because she was dressed inappropriately.” I told him that I had heard about that story. A bathroom opened up, and he moved to slip inside, but before he locked the folding door he said: “Unbelievable how crazy they are.”

It was not a conversation I had expected.

As we descended into Israel, the blue Mediterranean floated by below us. We saw the shore of Tel Aviv, and the buildings along it. An American teenager sitting in front of me started shouting, “It’s so pretty! It’s so pretty!” She wouldn’t have any trouble clearing customs, I was sure.

When we landed, everyone on the plane clapped, something I thought only Lebanese people did, and I smiled. I turned on my phone and called my sister and let her know I had arrived, and that I would call her on the other side of customs and immigration. I was only an hour away from her.

I took a deep breath and did something superstitious, as I tend to do when I am feeling powerless and anxious. I flipped to a random page in my passport, hoping to find meaning and reassurance in it. The page was a picture of an old steamship, presumably in the shadow of Ellis Island. I found the image inspiring, calming, and I felt ready to face customs.

This was how Israel treated someone with a voice and American citizenship.

I had deleted anything on my website critical of Israel, which amounted to about 160 posts. I had deleted the section in my Wikipedia entry stating  that I was a Palestinian writer. It had been unsettling, deleting my Palestinian identity in order to go back to Palestine. I had been told that the Israeli officers might confiscate my phone and read my Facebook posts and Twitter feed…

So I temporarily deactivated my Facebook account and locked my tweets. The entire endeavor left me feeling erased.

I had read an article about the hundreds of activists that had flown into Tel Aviv Airport last July 8th (mostly French). They had all been detained over the weekend and then flown back to their countries of origin. Only one of visitor had made it through. When she was asked how she managed it, she said: “I chose the “smiliest” immigration officer and stood in her line”.

So, when I entered the immigration hall, I did the same. The agent I chose was blonde and young, and her line was moving the fastest. I stood, waited, and tried to relax.

When there was only one person in the line in front of me, the woman went to the back of her booth and a young bearded man took her place. He did not seem “smiley” at all. I considered switching lanes, but I knew I would look suspicious. And I waited.

When it was my turn, I gave the officer my blue American passport. As he scanned it, I noticed that he had unbelievably long lashes. He thumbed through the pages, and I was afraid of what he would make of the Lebanese stamp. He asked me what my purpose was for visiting Israel. I told him it was my Spring Break, and I had come to visit friends. He asked me where I was staying. I did as I’d been told…I was staying in Jerusalem, with the photojournalist.

He picked up a black telephone. When he hung up, he told me to go wait in the room in the corner. I asked him if I could have my passport back, and he said no. I asked him when I would be getting my passport back, and he didn’t answer. He only repeated that I needed to go to the room in the corner.

I crossed the immigration hall diagonally, and entered the Arab Room. Sitting in the room and waiting were a young Arab man and an older Arab woman in hijab, two black men in African garb, one of whom was holding an iPad, two middle-aged Arab women in hijab, one dark-haired Tunisian-American woman in a long skirt, one woman in a Whitney Houston t-shirt, her hair gathered up in a turban, and one dark-skinned Arab woman in a pant suit…

It was readily transparent that we had all been racially profiled. A young man joined us, and got on his phone. I heard him saying, “No, they just finished questioning me. I’m half-Egyptian. I should be out soon.” I got up and told the woman guard at the door that I needed to go to the bathroom, and she nodded. When I came back to the room, I sat down and took out a magazine, reading as calmly as I could.

About twenty minutes passed before a redhead, about nineteen, summoned me down the hallway. I followed him to an office where a few brown men were answering questions. The redhead asked me to take a seat and swiped my passport through at his station.

He asked me, “What is the name of your father? And what is the name of your father’s father?”

My father and I hadn’t spoken since he read my first novel, nearly four years ago. He had sent me an angry email, and told me that we would no longer be seeing one another, or speaking.

I gave the redhead the names he’d asked. He noted something on a piece of paper, and asked me where my father was from. My father was born in 1950, when the West Bank was part of Jordan, so I told the redhead that my father was a Jordanian-American.

“So, he is from Jordania?” the redhead said, and I said that technically, yes. “Where was he born?” I told the redhead that my father had been born in Jenin. He noted something else on a piece of paper, gave it to a man who seemed like a superior, and asked me to go to another room in an opposite corner. When I said that I was a writer and an American citizen, born in Chicago, he shrugged, and instructed me, again, to go to the room in the opposite corner.

I went to the room, and I waited.

My father had said in his email that, by writing about sex in my novel so shamelessly, I had disregarded the legacy of my Palestinian family, which had defeated Napoleon!

I always thought he was being dramatic about Napoleon, but eventually I looked it up. In a book titled Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus 1700-1900, I found the Jarrar family, and I found Napoleon. The Emperor’s attempt to conquer Palestine had been stopped short in 1799, and an ancestor of mine named Shaykh Yousef Jarrar, the mayor of Jenin, had written a poem “in which he exhorted his fellow leaders… to unite under one banner against the French forces.” I’d never heard of this poet-warrior ancestor before, but I had given my son the middle name Yousef, as if by instinct.

A woman, wearing seven rings on her fingers, and a lot of blue eye makeup caked around her eyes, emerged from a small interrogation room and asked me to join her. She told me to close the door behind me.

The room was the size of a walk-in closet, and I knew it had been built to intimidate travelers. The woman said she liked my necklace, and we spoke about jewelry for a few minutes. I admired one of her rings in particular, and she smiled and said it was from Egypt. She then swiped my passport, and asked me about my parents’ names, again.

This time, I told her I was not in communication with my father, and that I was an American citizen, and a writer. She did not seem to care about this information one way or the other, and spoke my grandmother’s name.

I hadn’t heard my grandmother’s name in years. She had died in the early eighties. I told the officer this, and she nodded, and gave me the names of many of my ancestors. I wanted to ask her for her grandmother’s name, instead I gave her the name of my friend in Jerusalem, and my Israeli publisher in Or Yehuda.

“Your publisher?” she said, confused, and I said my book had been translated into Hebrew and published in Israel. I could see her computer screen. She plugged in my publisher’s name and my friend’s, in Hebrew, and their addresses came up. The program she was using looked clunky and old, but it held information on every citizen in Israel. At this point, things began to feel Kafkaesque.

She said that there was a Palestinian ID attached to my name. I told her I had no such ID. She said that I had entered the West Bank with the ID in 1993, and that they had record of the entry. She said that this would be a problem. When I tried to plead my case, she asked me to put my right finger on a glowing red scanner. Then my left finger. She took my photograph and asked me to go back to the first waiting room. When I asked her what I should expect, she said she wasn’t sure.

Half an hour later, a group of teenage guards took me to baggage claim. I asked them if I could speak to someone from the American embassy, or the consulate, and they nodded, smirking. A few minutes later, I asked them what we were doing there, and they said we needed to find my bag. I said that my carry-on bag was my only bag, and they seemed shocked. I travel a lot, I told them, which they seemed to find suspicious.

The teenage guards asked me why I travel light, and I said I was a writer. They frowned at me. We waited for more guards. It must have been their shift change. The baggage claim was deserted. In the corner, a few guards were giving each other massages. The guards I was waiting with gave each other high fives and chatted about teenage stuff. I kept asking what we were waiting for, and they ignored me.

Finally, they took me to a room in the corner of the baggage claim area. It was becoming clear to me that at Ben Gurion, unjust things happened in corners. The guards asked me to open my bags. I did as I was told. I noted that the room was filthy.

The Israelis were concerned with showing a clean and gleaming exterior—the floors of the airport outside shone–but for suspected threats and people like myself, behind closed doors, tucked away in dirty corners, they hadn’t bothered.

A very butch young woman asked me to follow her. She led me to yet another room, where the walls were faded and filthy, and the floor was covered in dirty carpet, littered with small bits of paper and hair clips. It reeked of intimidation, and of humiliation.

I don’t believe in hokey things such as souls or spirits, but I could sense a deeply disturbing feeling in the room. There, though I was not strip-searched, the young guard poked and searched every millimeter of my clothes and underclothes. I tried to keep myself distracted, so I wouldn’t weep. I tried to keep my spirits up. I wondered if she thought I was a “hair-orist.” I did not want to allow these teenagers to rob me of my dignity.

When I came out of the room, a boy with pimples, who looked like he was my son’s age, was going through my clothes. Above him hung a tourist poster for the Dead Sea. The poster read: “The Dead Sea; Where Time Seems To Stand Still“. I had been in Ben Gurion for over two hours, and knew the feeling. It was as if I existed outside of time, suspended in a strange molasses of interrogation.

When he was done checking all my clothes, he asked me if I needed any help re-packing the bag. I said that I didn’t, and that I had a system for packing. “You have a system?” he shouted. I told him this was an American idiom. Still, he watched me closely as I packed.

I was worn down and angry. The teenagers escorted me back to the waiting room, the Arab Room, where there was now a new guard. A few people were gone, and a few new people had arrived, but it was still an Arab Room.

The woman with all the rings walked in with my passport in her hand and said that she was sorry, but that I was not allowed to enter Israel. She said she had spoken to her supervisor, and that he had decided that I was not to enter Israel. When I asked her if I could speak to him personally, she said she would ask, and walked away with my passport. I never saw her again, nor did I see the supervisor.

I called my sister and told her the news. She was devastated. A friend of mine had been waiting in his car outside the airport to drive me to her, and I called him, too. When I told him now that I was being shipped back to the U.S., he said, furious, that he would call his friends at the U.S. Consulate. When I called him back, he said that there was nothing the US Consulate could do, and that I was banned by law from entering Israel because I was considered Palestinian.

I told a guard that I was a diabetic, and hungry, and an hour later someone wordlessly brought me sandwich. I began to feel like a prisoner, grateful for a dry bit of bread and cheese. Half way through the sandwich, I asked the other people in the room if they were hungry. A middle-aged woman in hijab said she was, and I gave her the rest of the sandwich.

A large guard appeared over me, hovering, and asked me in Arabic where I was from. I answered reflexively in English, “I am from here. And from California.” He asked me, in Arabic, where I was going after the airport. I said, in English, that I was going to Jerusalem. He walked away and accused me of pretending not to know Arabic. He said the word Arabic hatefully. I followed him, and said, in Arabic, “OK, I do speak Arabic. Where do I want to go after this? I want to go to a bar with my friends.” He laughed at me, and said I could go to a bar when I got back to America.

After a while, I was the last person in the room. It had high stone walls that spanned every floor of the airport, and when I tried to look all the way up, I could not see the ceiling. I felt as if I were trapped in a strange, deep well.

An elderly man who was not Jewish but who had attempted to make Aliyya was put in the room with me. When they told him he was being deported back to the U.S., he said he would not leave. The guard said to him: “I could do this the nice way, or I could do this the not nice way.” It was ludicrous in more ways than one, to hear a nineteen-year-old speak to an old man that way. He sounded like a thug.

An hour later, the bearded young man who had originally questioned me at the immigration hall became my guard. When I tried to go to the bathroom, he said I was not allowed. This made me nervous. I had been allowed to go before. I told him so. “Well, it’s different now,” he said.

“Different how?” I asked. “Am I under detention?”

He would not answer me. I told him that I was an American citizen and that I demanded to know whether or not I was under detention. He closed his eyes, then opened them, and said, reluctantly, “Yes.”

I lost it. I demanded to see someone from the embassy or the consulate. He ignored me. I said that he needed to take me to the bathroom. He said no. I lifted up my dress and pretended to squat, and shouted, “Fine, then I will go to the bathroom right here!”

He became angry and shouted to another guard to take me to the bathroom. When she said she couldn’t, he took me himself. He insisted on the gender-neutral handicapped toilet, and he waited outside the stall. When I was done, he checked the stall after me, to make sure that I had not concocted a bomb out of my pubic hair. I laughed at him, and he angrily took me back to the detention room.

I waited two more hours. Whenever a guard came into the room, I would ask him what was going on with my passport, and what I could expect. The guard would look down at me and sneer, “You have to wait. You have to wait.” When I told him I had been waiting for hours, he only repeated, “You have to wait.”

My wait felt interminable. In his speech to the UN, Mahmoud Abbas quoted the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish’s poem, “State of Siege.” He read, “Standing here. Sitting here. Always here./ Eternally here,/ we have one aim and one aim only: to continue to be. And we shall be.”

The state of sitting, of standing, of waiting, is the principal state of the Palestinian, it is the state of the refugee, of the oppressed, of the outsider, of the writer.

Eventually, two female guards came to tell me what time I would board the flight back to the U.S. When they did, I burst into tears. I had been holding out hope, right to the last. After they left, I was stuck with the male guard again, the one who had picked up the phone in the immigration booth.

I asked him if I could board a flight elsewhere—to Amman, or Cairo, even Paris. I wanted to go somewhere, at least, even if I couldn’t see my sister.

“No,” he said. “You have to go back from where you came.”

I said that this was unacceptable, and that I wanted the choice to go elsewhere.

This time, he shouted it. “No. You must go back from where you came from.”

“Are you from The Lord of the Rings?” I said.

He narrowed his eyes at me, and snapped, “Come with me.” He made me stand in a hallway for twenty minutes, as punishment. I made fun of his long eyelashes. I asked him if he was related to Snuffalupagus. He ignored me.

An hour or so passed, and a guard came and eventually escorted me to flight 797, back to the U.S. We bypassed security, avoiding a scene, and when we got to the airplane the guard gave my passport to the American flight attendant.

Do not give her back her passport until you arrive in America,” he said.

She squinted at him, confused. “What do you mean?”

“This woman was denied entry, and must return to the United States. Do not give her this passport until you have left Israel and arrived in America.”

She looked at me and nodded, frowning.

I went to my seat, which was in the middle of the middle row, the worst place to sit on a twelve-hour flight. The flight attendant walked over and handed me my passport. “Um, here you go,” she said, and I laughed and thanked her.

Holding my passport again on that almost-empty plane, I understood, in a way, how lucky I had been. The passport hadn’t been confiscated. I was not imprisoned. And yet, this was how Israel treated someone with a voice and American citizenship.

There are today, held without charge in the Israeli military detention system, hundreds of Palestinians, including children. There are reports of a systematic pattern of ill treatment towards them. Silenced and oppressed, these prisoners have little recourse. In the news recently I saw that two thousand of these prisoners have resorted to the last form of protest left to them: they have collectively gone on hunger strike.

I flipped through the passport, and, surprised, found that the officials had left a stamp on it. The stamp was massive, and read, in English and Hebrew, Ben Gurion Airport ENTRY DENIED. I stared at it for a few minutes. Then, I saw it: the picture of the ship I had seen eight hours earlier, that I had thought was a sign of good luck.

I remembered how, when I first met my mother-in-law in Texas, we had bonded over her collection of costume jewelry. A lot of the pieces were from her first husband, whom she had divorced before meeting my father-in-law. I noticed that many of the pieces he’d given her had imagery of boats and ships. When I pointed that out to her, she had raised her wine glass and said, “You’re right! He was shippin’ me out.” And that’s what had happened to me. I had been shipped out.

Two massive, bald-headed men sat on either side of me. If I believed the conspiracies, I would have thought those guys were Mossad. But it was obvious before long, from the way they blasted terrible club music on their earphones and, later, passed out, that they were just some doofuses on their way to America. In an attempt to be polite and not touch the men around me, I folded my arms, but this became terribly uncomfortable after a while.

A few hours into our flight, I decided that I was tired of being polite and so I put both my arms down. Minutes later, the man on my right began to jab my elbow. I ignored him and feigned sleep. He jabbed and jabbed.

Finally, I turned to him, my arm firmly on the armrest, and said, “I get it.”

He looked at me, embarrassed.

I really get it. But I am keeping this armrest. I am not moving. I will keep my arm here for the rest of the flight,” I said. And I did.

Is there a strategic defense program in Lebanon?  Yes, there is one and in progress.   You don’t have to take my word for evidence.

In short, the Lebanese army is in charge of security and civil defense in all Lebanon; the army is to take on defensive positions and respond to Israeli guns and repealing any land incursions and sea landings.  The Lebanese resistance forces of Hezbollah is in charge of targeting deep land and marine strategic installations within Israel: Hezbollah’ Secretary General, Hassan Nasr Allah, promised to target Tel Aviv if Beirut is targeted; to target Ben Gurion airport if Beirut airport is targeted; to sink any navy or commercial cargoes heading toward Israel if Israel Navy decides to seal off Lebanon’ sea front.  This is a very pragmatic and efficient strategic plan for several reasons:

First, the Lebanese army lacks war materials and is denied any modern and efficient weapons to strategically check the Zionist army.  Thus, Hezbollah is training and extending short to medium range missiles to the army in order to countering any Israeli pre-emptive war and the massing of troops by the borders.  This strictly defensive job is within the rights of the State of Lebanon: the international community could not lay blame on the Lebanese army to using weapons stocked by Hezbollah to defending the motherland.

Second, Hezbollah has the job of hurting Israel’s economy, commerce, transport, and whatever it takes to slow down any land or sea invasions.  Hezbollah cannot be blamed to counter attacking in kind, given the barbaric war that Israel waged in 2006 by destroying almost all Lebanon’s infrastructure and industrial complexes and polluting our sea shores with oil from destroyed refineries.

Third, this is a pragmatic plan well suited to Lebanon’s intricate political system that would have never agreed on any realistic strategic plan.   It is a plan being ironed out as difficulties and diplomatic troubles wreck the political and social landscape of Lebanon.  There is high level field cooperation between the army and the resistance which is antagonizing many political leaders who would like Lebanon to remain weak and begging foreign interventions to safeguarding its sovereignty.

Fourth, the political discussion around the famous “Table for the strategic defense plan” is an excellent source for open communication among the various parties to extending political cover for field integration and cooperation between the army and the resistance.

This approach to strategic defense could not have been possible without the tacit agreement among Iran, Syria, and  Qatar and their financial and material supports.  The political support of Turkey to Lebanon is a serious diplomatic counter weight to the US total support for Israel.




October 2022

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