Look at Ben-Gurion Airport, and see us. Nothing reflects Israel 2018 better than that entrance gate, the place Israelis hold most sacred.
Elaborately designed, efficient, modern, with a semblance of the epitome of freedom – here the “open sky” is the limit – while under the magnificent columns and moving walkways the injustices fester, well hidden, as usual, behind screens. The Ben-Gurion we love so much is an airport of segregation, an airdrome partially in the Shin Bet’s control, including a thought-police station. Welcome arrivals and departures: Peter Beinart is not alone.
It begins long before the entrance. About two million residents, some of them living on the very outskirts of the airport, see it from their window but cannot go near it, not to mention use its services. Their Jewish neighbors are allowed, but they themselves are prohibited. They’re Palestinians. Have you heard of any other international airport that is closed to some of the state’s residents solely because of their origin? If this isn’t the port of apartheid, what is?
As the permitted ones drive up to the checkpoint at the entrance, the ceremony of opening the window and greeting the security guard, armed with a machine gun – the most racist procedure there is – takes place. Everyone cooperates with this sickening act, intended to hear the passengers’ accent and ascertain whether they are Jews or Arabs.
The security guards know what they’re doing. They also know what they’re doing at the security examinations in the airport. Invasive, intrusive questions that have no place in a free country, that have nothing to do with flight security. Not everyone is subjected to this, of course. Profiling is the name of the game, intended to make it easy for us, the privileged Israeli Jews, and deprive and degrade all the rest. Security, hush-hush, don’t ask questions.
And then the numbers with the different endings on the sticker attached to your passport, separating one traveler from another, on the basis of his origin, or the extent of suspicion he raises. There are numbers whose digital endings mean complete nudity in front of the male or female examiner. This does not apply to the Jewish Israelis.
Most of the suspicions in Ben-Gurion Airport arise because of origin or ideological affiliation. An American of Palestinian origin – suspicious. A Jew is not, of course, unless he’s a leftist. There are no suspicions of right-wingers. There’s no chance that an racist evangelist from Alabama, an “Israel lover” and believer in Armageddon, could endanger anything. Only the Norwegian tourist who took part, bad girl, in a tour of Breaking the Silence, is jeopardizing the flight’s safety or the public’s security. Only the activist of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel is a potential plane hijacker, or a possible terrorist.
No rightist supporter of the settlers, Jewish or Christian, has ever been held up at Ben-Gurion Airport and interrogated about his activity on behalf of the settlements, which are far more criminal than any demonstration, protest or act of solidarity with the Palestinians. Such a person, it seems, has yet to be born. In Israel, the fascist, even anti-Semitic, right is patriotic, and so it is in Ben-Gurion Airport too, the mirror of our homeland’s landscape.
It will end only on the day Israelis are humiliated like that at the gateways to other countries. Until then the security excuse will be upheld and used for everything. And we haven’t yet said a word about the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Try once to think of the one standing in front of you or behind you in line, an Israeli Arab, director of a hospital ward or a construction worker. He has the same passport, the same citizenship as yours, in the nation-state of equality for all. Try to imagine the feeling of exclusion, the affront of deprivation. What does he say to the child who asks why we are here and they are there, how does he overcome the suspicious looks.
On top of all this came the ridiculous, outrageous war on BDS, which turned Ben-Gurion border officials into duty officers of the thought-police. Beinart was its victim, but he’s a Jew and quite famous, so his interrogation was declared an “administrative error.” But this is no error: This is Ben-Gurion Airport. This is Israel. And now, to the duty-free shops.