IDF treats pregnant NYT journalist “cruelly” at Gaza crossing

News sources reported during the day on the humiliating harassment of a foreign journalist by IDF soldiers, as she tried to enter Israel from a Gaza crossing. According to IDF radio (Hebrew) and the Jerusalem Post, Pulitzer Prize-winning, veteran photographer Lynsey Addario, working for the New York Times, was returning to Israel after an assignment in Gaza. The 27-week pregnant Addario – who just last March experienced the horror of being kidnapped and sexually assaulted at the hands of Qaddafi loyalists in Libya – contacted Israeli authorities responsible for the Erez crossing before arriving, asking and receiving approval to be spared the metal detector because of her pregnancy.

When she arrived the soldiers knew nothing about her. They gave her the choice of going through the metal detector, despite her doctors’ recommendations, or submit to a physical search. IDF radio reported that she said the search would have taken place behind a glass wall.

She chose the machine despite the warnings. Then soldiers claimed that something went wrong and made her walk through again – three times. They laughed and ogled at her the whole time. Then they sent her for a physical security check anyway, which involved taking off her pants and lifting her shirt. As quoted in the Jerusalem Post:

I asked if that was necessary after the three machine checks, and she told me it was a ‘procedure’ – which I am quite sure it is not. They were unprofessional for soldiers from any nation.”

Calling her treatment “gratuitously rude and unprofessional,” Addario – who noted that she had traveled to over 60 countries in her 15 year career as a photojournalist — said she has “never, ever been treated with such blatant cruelty.”

[Director of Government Press Office Oren] Helman, in a letter to the Defense Ministry’s Spokesman Shlomi Am Shalom, asked for the matter to be “investigated urgently” and said that he was “shocked by the incident” as described by Addario.

I’m sure he was shocked. It’s not like a pregnant reporter from al-Jazeera, for example, and a Wall Street Journal reporter were stripped, detained and humiliated en route to an event in Jerusalem.  It’s not like that happened recently enough to remember – January 2011.

New York Times photo editor David Furst sent a letter of complaint to the GPO, who passed the buck to the Ministry of Defense. The  MOD spokesperson’s response read (quoted in the Post):

“In extraordinary circumstances it is possible to conduct a body inspection instead of the x-ray machine but due to problems in coordination and a specific overload at the crossing, the photographer’s request did not reach the inspectors in time,” the Defense Ministry said in its statement.

“The Defense Ministry employs strict security measures in order to prevent attacks by terrorist groups. We expect people to understand this. Nevertheless, we have apologized to the New York Times and the photographer,” the statement read.

On the radio this evening, the spokesperson was cold and impatient. “There can be a mistake,” he said, rushing to the finish. “But we expect people to understand our pressures.”

So, the soldiers go on guffawing. The spokesperson will eventually quit when he’s tired of being the whipping boy for an idiot policy. I imagine the person who took her initial request to avoid the metal detector jotting down her name on a pad and making a paper airplane out of it, headed for the garbage.

Here’s the rub: we get upset when the face is known to us, even by association: New York Times; hostage in Libya; journalist. The fact is this happens all the time, to other 27-week pregnant women with no editor to write the IDF and stand up for them. If you cut them, do they not bleed? And if you wrong them, will they not take revenge?

I’ll say it again: occupation behavior is monster that cannot be silenced on command. Once an occupier of Palestinians at a checkpoint, you will be an occupier of westerners and journalists at the checkpoint, of Arab citizens in Israel, on the roads, in the supermarket, and probably, eventually, in your very own home.