Putting Donna Shalala’s Ben Gurion Airport Humiliation to Good Use


shalalaportrait.jpgIsraeli media is reporting that former Clinton administration Secretary of Health and Human Services and University of Miami President Donna Shalala was “humilitated” at Ben Gurion International Airport. What makes matters a bit more complicated for Israel is that she was there to help protest the “academic boycott” of Israel.
Secretary Shalala was held for some two and a half hours in her view because she had a Lebanese last name, was not apparently reported in a VIP registration system, and had no “handlers” from Israeli organizations assisting her.
Deputy Foreign Minister and former Israel Ambassador to the US Danny Ayalon has “agreed that a new protocol will be drafted that will keep incidents to a minimum.”
But this should not be just about VIP treatment in Israel. This kind of incident occurs in the United States frequently as well as Israel, and probably in other countries. Stories abound not just about time delays but about the gruff treatment that US customs officials handle those they hold back.
I wrote some time ago about the US Customs treatment of German Green Party Chairman Cem Oezdemir at Dulles Airport — and when traveling through much of the Middle East, I constantly hear about VIPs and just regular folks who succeeded in getting visas nonetheless being subjected to equivalent forms of “humiliation” as Shalala apparently received while in Israel.
When I have been in Israel on my own and not under official sponsorship, I too have been subjected to pretty serious scrutiny. I once answered a question honestly that added an hour or so to my time. The young lady security screener asked (as I was departing Israel), “what place of worship do you belong to? a church in your community?” I responded, “I don’t do religion.” Red flag.
That said, I was treated with great respect by the Israeli screeners who frequently apologized for how long the search of my bags and perhaps my past were taking. But they were the epitome of politeness — and I got through.
I went to St. John’s Episcopal right across from the White House after this trip — just so I could claim it next time in Israel — but there is a deeper problem about the treatment of folks at borders, particularly the American border that I hope those angered by the Shalala case think about.
While many may be justifiably irritated by ethnic profiling and screening at Israel’s airport, the spotlight should equally be held on US airports.
— Steve Clemons


6 comments on “Putting Donna Shalala’s Ben Gurion Airport Humiliation to Good Use

  1. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Donna Shalala says;
    “I love it when they slap me around a bit. And when you’re a whore, its just one of the prices you pay. I’m going back for more.”
    The Lobby Stands Triumphant
    By M.J. Rosenberg – August 7, 2010, 11:13AM
    You might think that former Secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS) Donna Shalala would be furious after being detained at Tel Aviv airport for the sole infraction of being an Arab-American.
    This is from the Israeli daily Yedioth Achronoth:
    When Shalala arrived at the airport, she was not recognized as a VIP and was even afforded what she claims to be “special” treatment because of her Arab last name. She claims she was held for two-and-a-half hours during which she was asked invasive and humiliating personal questions. Despite the delay, she managed to board the flight to the US. Officials who spoke with her said she was deeply offended by the treatment she received.
    But guess what. Shalala, after a few day’s reflection. is not offended at all. .
    On the contrary, back in Miami she defended the Israeli policy of ethnic profiling — followed by humiliation applied to such security threats as post-60 year old former cabinet officials and university presidents.
    “While I was inconvenienced, Israel’s security and the security of travelers is far more important,” said Shalala, who is of Lebanese descent. “I have been going in and out of Israel for many years and expect to visit again.”
    So I checked with my friend who knows the scene at the University of Florida. “Are you crazy? If Shalala hinted at criticizing Israel, millions of dollars the university is counting on would dry up instantly. She can’t say a word or the university will have to put all its expansion plans on a shelf forever, not to mention the scholarships that will disappear.”
    And that is how it works. I have been remiss on focusing mostly on Congress. I am afraid that even I don’t know the half of it. Excuse me while I go vomit.


  2. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Yes, by all means lets express some lukewarm indignation at Israel’s habit, of late, of “humiliating” American Statesmen and Stateswomen. (As if they can’t handle humiliating themselves without outside assistance).
    But, uh, lets ignore the fact that Israel is shooting American citizens, engaged in peaceful protest, in the head.
    Nothing to see here folks..hey..look over there at the red faced politico with the bruised ego. Don’t those Israeli’s know any better than to pick on their whores?


  3. hidflect says:

    Seems your getting screened all over again by your commentors. Yes, Steve.. what IS your opinion on XYZ situation in Israel? Answer carefully. You don’t want to be red flagged again. The Hasbara handlers are out in force today.


  4. Bill K. says:

    Every day in every U.S. airport people are being “humiliated” by TSP
    security protocols, most of which are useless. And the vast majority
    of them are innocent U.S. citizens with no indication that they are a
    potential threat. We are so afraid of “profiling” anyone that
    everyone is treated shabbily and our security is no better for it.
    While it may be annoying for one time VIPs like Donna Shalala to be
    subjected to questioning, the Israeli system seems to work a lot
    more efficiently than the shoe removal that seems to be the core of
    our system.


  5. Steve Clemons says:

    On the Lebanon issue, Nadine, I have stayed away from it as I just don’t know enough. I’m in China at the moment and working on some big projects here as well as writing some articles. There is so much other coverage that seems to be rife with speculation that I figure that if and when I decide to write about the incident, there’s no rush. My gut tells me that the Lebanese/Hizbullah were testing Israel — but I don’t want to write more than that at moment because just too far away from it at the moment. best, steve


  6. nadine says:

    Well, that’s the choice, isn’t it? You can ask deep probing questions of everyone who raises a red flag as potentially troublesome; or you can just make everybody take off their shoes. I know which system I would put bet my life on.
    BTW, Steve do you have an opinion on why the Lebanese army ordered a planned ambush of the Israeli brush-clearing crew the other day, and why Hizbullah had sent a television crew to cover it?


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