Ben Gurion Airport
Ben Gurion AirportIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The judges of the High Court for Justice repeatedly asked the State's representatives in a hearing Wednesday why Arabs are checked more thoroughly at Ben Gurion Airport than non-Arabs. The State representatives failed to answer the question in a way that satisfied the judges.

The State's attorneys told the court that 0.5% of the country's population undergo more stringent checks than others at the airport. Court President Dorit Beinisch was shocked. She asked: "Is the population divided into two categories? Are there two kinds of citizens in the security check?"

In the course of the session, Beinisch agreed to let the State attorneys show her classified material regarding changes made in the security check setup, ex parte. The Court decided to postpone its decision regarding the case.

Attorney Awni Bana, who represented the ultra-leftist Association for Civil Rights in Israel along with Advocate Dan Yakir, said after the session: "The court took seriously the central claim we made in the motion, that the subject is not how the more intensive security check in conducted, but the very labeling of an entire populace as dangerous."

Bana added that to this day, the Court has never given its approval to policies that discriminate between citizens, because of a security risk that stems from their nationality. "The questions that the motion raises place before the Court a question of principle: is the State allowed to attach a 'high danger' label to a group within its citizens, not because of concrete and tangible danger and suspicions regarding all its members, but solely because of the group's national-ethnic origin. We hope the Court does not create a precedent in this case."

Yakir added that "the invisibility of the security check that the Arab passengers undergo may be less humiliating, but this does not console them. Their very labeling is what is humiliating."