S.A Traveler Harassed & Humiliated by El Al Staff

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Media Review Network (MRN) has once again received a complaint from a South African citizen traveling to Israel on an El Al flight from O.R. Tambo International Airport.

She was left severely traumatized and deeply humiliated when she was interrogated and body searched by El Al staff at the check in counter. She was asked to strip down to her under clothes and asked to remove her bra.

The MRN is disillusioned and disappointed that such incidents continue to occur at these El Al offices with impunity, despite such incidents having been reported to the relevant authorities.

We have been given assurances by our Government that this type of treatment by the El Al staff will not be tolerated on South African soil. However it does seem as if the El Al staff are a law unto themselves and are therefore beyond reproach.

The Media Review Network invites the media to further investigate and uncover the shenanigans that carry on at ORT in the name of Israeli security. We also call on our Government to clarify publicly whether the involvement of Shin Bet at ORT has been resolved as promised.

The contact details of Alta Klein, the traveler, and her sister Michelle (South African contact) are:

Alta Klein: alta.klein@gmail.com / Mobile: 0729812495

Michelle Jacobs: michelle@pro-sales.co.za / Mobile: 083 627 2347

The young South African female who traveled to Israel was left in tears, dishonored and embarrassed. Alta Klein’s account of her horrifying experience follows below.

Issued By:

Iqbal Jassat – Chairman,Media Review Network

Cell: 083 594 3749

E-mail: mrn_ij@telkomsa.net

The Media Review Network (MRN) has dealt with such matters in the past. For us to pursue this matter with the relevant authorities, we will needed some information (Alta’s Answers in red):

1. Do you want us to pursue the matter? Yes

2. Are you prepared to speak to the media; print and electronic? Yes

3. E mail to me your account of exactly what happened. How many interrogators were present? Male as well as female? Were you physically molested? Length of interrogation? Can you remember any of the Questionsthey asked? Any other information you think may be of importance. Please see below my account of what happened

4. When are you returning to SA? My ticket is booked for the 18 November but I am planning on coming back to SA by the end of October

5. Are you prepared to give us a statement right now? Yes

6. Where you also interrogated on your arrival at your destination? No, just normal question on what your purpose for the visit and who will you be seeing

7. What is Bevan’s position regarding this matter? Heis very upset about what happened and has told me to go ahead with it. Iwould like to keep his name and career out of it as he is still contracted here and any bad publicity could jeopardize his contract

Alta’s Account:

“When we got to the airport walking towards El Al check in, there was a man who I noticed on my right hand side who asked me where was I travelling to. I told him to Israel and walked on. My sister stood asideby the travel agents and I went in the line. I was early as there are always lots of people travelling to Israel and it takes some time just getting to check in itself. I arrived at 5.45.

An older lady asked me to come through to her at the desk which they have. She knew me as well as I her as I am always travelling with El Al and come there when I drop Bevan off. She asked me the regular questionslike; who packed your luggage? who are you going to see in Israel? Has my luggage left my sight since I packed? She also asked me questions about Bevan; how his doing? When is his next game? and asked about another player from SA who used to play in Israel. From there she told me to follow her to check my luggage, which I was used to! She asked me about what was in my handbag and if I had any electronic equipment in it.

I told her yes that I had my cell phone and camera in my handbag. She then told me to keep my cell phone on me. when she scanned my handbag with the blue stick they use she put it on the machine and the machine went off. I heard another lady ( I think it was her supervisor as the other workers kept going to ask her questions) tell her that the machineneeds to be cleaned as they had not cleaned it and that is why it keepsgoing off. They then told that they need to take my bag to the back room to check it further as the alarm went off. Once my handbag was taken to the back room the older lady checked my main luggage and then said that all was fine and I can close it (which I did). The older lady proceeded with other travelers and I was left sitting there waiting for them to get done.

While sitting there I had lots of time to observe and watch other travelers being questioned and bags getting checked but I noticed that they were not opening their hand luggage. One traveler even asked if sheshould open her bag and she was told no because the don’t check hand luggage. I was bit surprised at the statement as they always check mine,so I asked the younger lady who had taken over with my luggage, why is the other passengers luggage not being checked and mine is and she told me that there was no alarm on hers!

There were only ladies dealing with me. About 4 in total. Every time they came out to ask me for more stuff which they had never done before.I had my laptop with me as well which I always carry and all of the items I carried with hand luggage is what I carry all the time an they have never questioned me about it or wanted to check it besides the blue stick which they just use to scan around the items.

One of the ladies came out and ask me to show her how my camera works, which I did and then she told me she needs to take my cell phone as wellfor checking but I should also show her how it works and put the cameraon. Once that was done she asked me to put my laptop on and plug in my camera and show her also how it works. While my laptop was starting up, she proceeded to the back room with my camera and cell phone in her hand. I noticed she came out of the room a couple of times with my camera and phone in her hand which I thought was strange cause if they were suppose to check it why was she still holding it for so long and helping other passengers. It was as if I was not there anymore. They were busy doing whatever they were doing and I was just sitting there looking at everyone. By then the El Al crew members arrived and to my surprise their luggage was checked which I had never seen done before but it was a short check and they were told they can go. By that time itwas about 6.20 and I was still sitting and waiting my handbag cell phone and camera. Then one of the ladies finally came out of the office and asked my to show them the camera on my laptop, which I did and then was told that I can shut it down but they need to take it to the office with my laptop bag to check.

I was asked to come through and said that I could leave my main luggage in the front. I told them that they keep asking me if I ever left my luggage and now they say I should leave it behind while I go in the office! I said I will take it with me and went in.

In the office is a room with a couch and a small mall like dressing roomand a door leading to another room which was left opened and glass division in the wall which normally you could see through but this time they had blocked it but you could still kind of make out what was happening in the next room. I had been in that room before as Bevan had his main luggage searched through thoroughly last year. They must have noticed me standing and trying to see what they were doing so they came to ask me to have a seat. ( while trying to see what they were doing I noticed they had my handbag in an x-ray machine and they were trying to search for something and I kept hearing their warlike talkie go off to ask about me and they said they were going to scan everything. By that time it was 6.45). I heard my phone ring and asked for it and when they brought it they told me they need it back. I had missed the call and handed them my phone once again.

After that 2 ladies came back out the room and asked me to take my jacket and shoes off. I took the items off and handed it to them. Straight after they came back out and told me that they need to do a strip search to check my clothes and body. I asked what it was for? I had asked the same question throughout my waiting and they always had the same answer: WE HAVE DETECTED A BOMB!!!

I was told to go behind the curtain and 2 of the ladies came in as well while the other 2 kept on with my handbag. They put my fingers through my hair but first asked me if my hair was real!!! They told me that theygoing to scan my body with the manual scanner and if it goes off it is probably my under wire bra and my buttons on my jeans. The one lady was so cold and did not care to even explain the reason why their were doingthe scan. She just stood against the wall while explaining to the olderlady where to scan. They did not even know how to work the machine!! I was patted down by the older lady and asked to turn around and they did the same thing from behind. I was then asked to open my jeans to scan the buttons and I had to open it and they put the machine down my pants abit and around the waist and my back. They then asked me to take off mybra while they were there and then while if was taking it off the younger lady said they should wait behind the curtain. By that time I was in tears as I could not understand why this was happening as they had never gone too such extent and I was the only person they were checking like that. I handed my bra to them and the one lady took it to get scanned.

On her return they came back and scanned my jeans again on top and inside around my waist and a bit below. I was then told that I can put my clothes back on. After a few minutes they came out with my belongingswhich I checked for any missing items and started to pack my bag once again. My credit cards, bank card, drivers license and change as well asnotes were all lying in a basket which I had to go and start to check and pack into my purse. The last item I received back was my cell phone. Once I was done they said that I could now go and check in. When I came out there was no one at check in. Everyone had gone and there was just one guy on the other side busy with paper work and he called a lady to get someone to check me in. The check in guy came and I ask to change my seat or upgrade it and he was very helpful and he kept on asking me what was wrong but I just tried to hold back tears and said I was fine. Once done I took my bag behind the counter for them to wrap as the flight wraps every passages bag. the guys that normally wrap were not there and one of the security check guys did it for me. By that time it was already pass 7.10. Boarding was at 7.05. I went back to say bye to my sister and my nephew and then went to passport control. I arrived at El Al boarding gates at 7.20 and then decided to go and have a smoke then returned straight after to go through and board. One of El Al security guys looked at me at the back of the line and told me to go straight through.I found it rather amusing cause now they were being nice after all theyhad put me through. Normally at the boarding gates a security check is done to see if you received the security check paper which every passenger gets after they question before check in but they did not ask me for mine but just let me through.

I had no problem at Israel passport control. they just asked me a few questions on who I was coming to see and the purpose of my visit and then I went through to collect my luggage.

I have never felt so humiliated in my life. It felt so sick and confusedthat when I got onto the plane I walked all the way to the back when myseat was right in the front. It was really traumatic and with no properreason or explanation. All they kept on saying was they detected a bomb. !!”

Thank you,Alta

MRN

Author: MRN Network

The aspiration of the Media Review Network is to dispel the myths and stereotypes about Islam and Muslims and to foster bridges of understanding among the diverse people of our country. The Media Review Network believes that Muslim perspectives on issues impacting on South Africans are a prerequisite to a better appreciation of Islam.