Foreign reporters threaten boycott of gov’t events after strip-naked search

Several reporters, one of them pregnant, were required to take off their underwear during security check ahead of Netanyahu speech; others, including Washington Post bureau chief, forced to remove trousers; Foreign Press Association: We will decline further invitations unless given assurances this will not recur

Earlier today, YNET reported how Israeli security services tried literally strip-searching a pregnant Al-Jazeera reporter, Najwan Simri Diab, ahead of a speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  According to Simri Diab, after she was already made to wait for half an hour and stripped to her underwear, the guards decided to go even further:

“After the [female] security guard checked my bra under my undershirt, she told me to take off the bra. I asked her why, but she insisted. Later her superior came over and supported her. I refused, but she said “Everyone took it off, and so will you.” I said, “I’m not taking it off and I’m not coming in,” and she said, “So you won’t come in.”

Simri-Diab said that the location where the strip search took place was far from out-of-bounds for male security detail.

“A spokesman from the office saw me and asked what was going on. When I told him, he said, “don’t be dramatic.” The girl told him I’m refusing to be searched. They put me aside for 20 minute and would not give me any of my things, checking every paper and document in my purse. Later they gave me back everything all messed up in a box.”

According to YnetNews,

The General Security Service stated in response, “All guests were subjected to a security check in accordance with the customary security procedures in such events.”

Well, turns out the GSS wasn’t lying  – Simri Diab was far from the only one grossly humiliated by their staff; she shared her experience with many of the guests, including several other reporters and the Chief of the Washington Post bureaue in Jerusalem. The Foreign Press Association, representing all foreign media in Israel, put out the following statement, which we bring to you in full:

The Foreign Press Association is outraged over the treatment members received at the hands of Israeli security personnel during Tuesday night’s invitation-only gathering with the prime minister. While we appreciate the need for security, it is not remotely acceptable to invite people for cocktails at a five-star hotel and then make them undress at the door.

Several members were forced to remove their underwear, waiting for as long as 20 minutes in this humiliating situation while security checked their documents. Others, including the bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, were strip-searched and forced to take off their pants. A number of members walked out of the event in disgust following this despicable treatment.

It is incomprehensible that anyone would think such humiliating treatment is necessary at such an event. All GPO card holders are known to authorities and have already undergone extensive background checks. All participants emptied their pockets, submitted their equipment to inspection and went through metal detectors to enter.

The Shin Bet has its responsibilities but  it must also operate within reasonable parameters. In a democratic country security services are not permitted to do as they please. For a government trying to usher in a new era of relations with the foreign media, it is a peculiar way to start. We are confident the prime minister would not accept such abusive security checks for his  friends or family.

We ask for assurances that this will not happen again or we will respectfully decline further invitations.”