Cancer patients humiliated at Ben Gurion airport

A charity treat for 36 teenage cancer patients went wrong when three members of the group were humiliated and forced to strip in the course of a security check at Ben Gurion airport.

Friday, 27 August, 2010 - 10:04
London, UK
YNet, Radio 103, other

Thirty-six young cancer patients from the north of Israel – both Jewish and Arab – received a funded trip from a local charity and set out for Disney World in Orlando, Florida – but their journey was soured by a humiliating altercation with security personnel at the Israel’s Ben Gurion airport.

Accompanied by Dr. Monique Peretz-Nachum, their oncologist, they arrived in Ben Gurion airport and were asked to undergo a routine security check before leaving the country.

As is her custom on trips of this sort, Dr. Peretz-Nachum pointed out three of the young boys to the security personnel before the start of the security check, explaining that they would probably beep as they passed through the metal detector, due to metal implants they had received during treatment.

According to Dr. Peretz-Nachum, this explanation was sufficient for security personnel on previous trips, and children whose implants beeped were frisked quickly with a manual metal detector before being waved through.

But this time the three boys with implants – aged 13, 15 and 18 – were held back, despite the doctor’s explanation, and told they could not proceed with the others. They were obliged to wait for half-an-hour in a glass cubicle for the arrival of a senior attendant. All three boys, Israelis, happen also to be Arab.

The senior security attendant, a woman, demanded the children show her the scars from their operations as proof that the implants existed – in full view of passersby. Despite a deep sense of humiliation, two of the children agreed to do so, and exposed their scars – on the lower leg and on the shoulder.

The third boy refused to expose his scar in public, as it was on his thigh and would have entailed removing his trousers. The security attendant insisted, so he asked to strip in front of a male attendant, in a closed room and in the presence of his doctor, Dr. Peretz-Nachum.

Only after further arguments and delays was the boy taken to a closed room where he stripped to show his scar to a male attendant. Dr. Peretz-Nachum was not allowed to be present despite bitter protests on her part and on the part of the boy.

When asked, the airport authorities insisted they were acting according to procedure and cited ‘security considerations.’ They claimed they had treated the children with ‘respect and sensitivity.’

Israeli outlets YNet and Radio 103 published the story as a case of humiliation – but only Natan Zehavi of Radio 103, a local Tel Aviv radio, asked the key question – whether the boys were Arabs or Jews.

Dr. Peretz-Nachum, who was interviewed by the radio on Monday, explained that the group included both Arab and Jewish youth, but that the three boys who had been detained were all Arabs. She agreed with Zehavi’s definition of the incident as one of racist discrimination, and said that on previous trips, Jewish cancer patients with implants had been waved through with a pat on the head and sympathy for their illness. She expressed her dismay at this treatment of young cancer patients.

The group was ultimately permitted to proceed to Disney World, but returned angry and determined to publicise the story. They told Israeli press that they were treated with care and respect by US officials once personnel were told that they were cancer patients – unlike their experience in Israel.

This is not the first time Israeli air security personnel has been accused of racial profiling. In April, an Israeli court ordered Israeli airline El Al to compensate two Arab brothers, citizens of Israel, for humiliation by security personnel.

This article may be reproduced on condition that JNews is cited as its source

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