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Haaretz: No Scanning Machines, No Arabs!

Rights groups petition PM to stop ‘Jews only’ flight from north

by Zohar Blumenkrantz and Jack Khory, Haaretz, 14th Jun 2006

The Adalah Legal Center on Wednesday demanded Prime Minister Ehud Olmert immediately rescind a Shin Bet order barring Arabs from traveling on flights from Rosh Pina and Kiryat Shmono in the north, to Tel Aviv in the center of the country.

An investigation by Haaretz has revealed that there is a Jewish passengers only policy on these flights.

The Transportation Ministry, acting on instruction from the Shin Bet security service, decided that Arabs would not be allowed on the flights following a financial dispute that prevented the use of luggage scanning machines in airports in the north.

Adalah, a center for Arab minority rights in Israel, also requested that Olmert and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz expose to the public all other Shin Bet instructions having to do with security checks at airports.

The center for the struggle against racism has also petitioned Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to cancel immediately the Transportation Ministry’s decision.

Both rights groups are considering asking the High Court of Justice to close airports that do not agree to allow Arab citizens board flights.

The flights from the north to the center of the country are operated by Tamir Flights, which won a Transportation Ministry tender in March. To operate the flights, the company bought a scanning machine, to inspect passengers’ suitcases and carry-on items.

The machine was to have been placed at the new terminal in Kiryat Shmona, but a difference of opinion over the use of the terminal has ensued between Tamir Flights, the Transportation and Industry and Trade Ministries, as well as the Kiryat Shmona municipality.

In April, the Industry and Trade Ministry stopped funding providing the NIS 30,000 monthly cost for security for the building, saying, “The new operator must bear responsibility for securing both the the equipment and the building.” As a result, the necessary security checks are not conducted, and non-Jewish passengers are not allowed to board flights.

Udi Tamir, one of Tamir Flight’s owners, confirmed Tuesday that non-Jews are not permitted on flights, saying he cannot allow all passengers on flights, because there is no scanning machine at the airport in Kiryat Shmona. Tamir added that he is operating according to security forces’ instructions.

According to the Transportation Ministry, “This is not discrimination, but a technical malfunction. We are trying to find an immediate solution that will permit all of the country’s citizens to fly from northern Israel, without restrictions.”