Palestinian rights lobby group Media Review Network has written an open letter to the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) urging it to investigate allegations of alleged racial profiling, intimidation, harassment and the interrogation of travellers by El Al ‘security guards’ .
The Media Review Network (MRN) would like to inform the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) that Israel’s national carrier, El Al, operating at O R Tambo International Airport, ignores all protocol and profiles visitors and SA citizens on the basis of their colour, ethnicity and religion, at the Airport. This arbitrary form of discrimination violates the very principles of our Constitution which binds all parties including the operators of El Al.
On the 22nd April 2017, a Palestinian Archeologist, Ms. Abeer Zayyad, endured a traumatic and humiliating experience at the O R Tambo International Airport on South African soil. Ms. Zayyad and her brother had completed a successful lecture tour of our country and were scheduled to fly home to Jerusalem using EL AL Airlines. While waiting in the queue at the El Al check in counter, they were singled out and removed from the queue.
Their passports were confiscated. Each was taken to a separate room and interrogated from 5pm to 9pm on the O R Tambo International Airport premises, after which they were escorted to the plane for boarding. During this time they were questioned, quizzed and grilled as if they were common criminals. They were body searched in a humiliating fashion.
Their ordeal began when unidentified plain clothes white “security” men approached them while in the queue, impounded their passports and ushered them away. Their hosts who were at the departure area to see them off, were also intimidated and questioned. This “security officer” identified himself as a “senior airport security officer”.
This latest incident is indicative of the fact that the El Al staff operate with total impunity and complete disregard for the values of the Republic and continues to profile South African travelers, the public and citizens of colour.
Incidents of this nature raise questions which have to be addressed:
1.Who is in charge of security at O R Tambo International, a critical key security point in our country?
2.Were ACSA officials consulted and was the interrogation of Ms Zayyad approved via the security channels of ACSA?
3.Why was Ms Zayyad not afforded the opportunity of legal representation during her interrogation?
4.What checks and balances have been put in place by ACSA to ensure that arbitrary detentions and interrogations do not occur?
5.What checks and balances have been put in place by ACSA to ensure that the tenets of dignity and privacy are not dispensed with during interrogations.
6.Is Israel afforded special privileges to carry out their nefarious espionage activities at the Airport?
7.If there are special agreements and protocols which apply to El Al, that those agreements and protocols be disclosed particularly because same falls within the scope of public interest.
8.Do they carry out these activities at all our International airports?
9.Are other airlines afforded similar privileges?
10.Is the security at these key points outsourced?
11.If so, it makes it very simple to carry out “false-flag” operations in our country.
A plethora of questions may be raised. However the aforementioned are the most poignant at this moment in time.
The MRN would like to urge the ACSA to give the SA public in general and the traveler in particular an undertaking that this matter will receive your urgent attention and a transparent investigation will be set in motion and the findings made public within a reasonable period of time. The citizens of this country must be reassured that security at all our ports of entry is not outsourced to foreign agents and that the basic rights of all persons are protected by the Republic.