In the Vancouver Province today, HRC Research Analyst Jake Beaumont says that “when it comes to airport security, Israel is regarded as the gold standard. On a daily basis, Israel is forced to deal with strategic, tactical and existential terror threats, while facing constant scrutiny from the international community and our media for efforts that every nation is obligated to take to ensure the safety of its citizenry.”
Read the op-ed in full below:
When it comes to airport security, Israel is regarded as the gold standard. On a daily basis, Israel is forced to deal with strategic, tactical and existential terror threats, while facing constant scrutiny from the international community and our media for efforts that every nation is obligated to take to ensure the safety of its citizenry.
Given the tragedies that have taken place in Paris and Brussels, the world searches to find answers as to why individuals would commit such atrocious and ghastly acts of violence against innocents. For terror groups like ISIL, Hamas and state-sponsors of terrorism like Iran, terrorists are devoid of any humanity or regard for human life. The international community is charged with facing people who consider innocents as enemies and are forced to bolster their intelligence efforts and resort to ever-intrusive counter-terrorism measures in order to prevent, disrupt and thwart potential terror attacks.
Interestingly, considering the constant threats Israel faces, its rates of airport terrorism are incredibly low. Indeed, Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv has not been successfully penetrated by terrorists since 1972.
In order to maintain this high standard of thwarting terrorism, highly trained security guards are situated throughout Ben Gurion to conduct behavioural profiling. Not to be mistaken for racial profiling, wherein people are searched based on their ethnicity, behavioural profiling serves to identify threats based on suspicious and abnormal behaviour. Unlike the Transportation Security Administration in the U.S., full body scanners and machinery are often not relied on to detect terrorism in Israel, rather, questions, designed to look for inconsistencies and nervous behaviour, are relied upon and are often successful in thwarting terrorist attacks. For example, travellers are often asked what school they went to, what place of worship they are affiliated with, what gym they go to, etc.
As opposed to the arguably lax security at Brussels, extra layers of security (almost to the point of paranoia) pervade Israel’s airport, where personnel are highly trained to search for specific behaviour.
Five kilometres from the terminal building is where the first security check takes place as airport security question passengers while conducting quick searches on their vehicles. Cameras with constant surveyors keep a close watch on any suspicious activity. Before entering the terminal, another checkpoint has security guards who analyze and inspect passersby in an attempt to draw any sort of suspicion a terrorist might conceal. Part of this security screening process involves passing through some of the most effective pedestrian turnstile on the net.
Cameras are placed on the perimeter of the airport and close attention is paid to areas where passengers do not frequent. Arguably, if these tactics had been implemented at Brussels, the bombings would likely have been thwarted or at the very least there would not have been such devastating consequences.
While checking in at Ben Gurion, you are asked questions designed to trip you up or evoke any suspicious answers. Depending on your specific answers, as well as your past travel records, this will determine how long the following checks and searches will be.
This pre-check process screens out those who are non-suspicious, so rather than giving the same checks for everyone, resources are efficiently allocated to those whom agents deem as most worthy of scrutiny.
If marked as suspicious by a border guard, you will be brought into a side room, where thorough searches and interrogations are conducted for physical and psychological purposes. This process can last for as long a couple hours.
Indeed, in 1986, these tactics helped agents foil a terrorist plot when they found Jordanian terrorist Nizar Handawi who placed a bomb in his girlfriend’s bag.
These acts of security have saved many lives in the process. It’s the reliance on human detection for certain nuances which cannot be picked up by fancy machinery or even the untrained eye. Indeed, Israeli airports will not request everyone to throw out liquids or take off your shoes and belt when coming through the scanners, rather they rely on extra lines of human scrutiny who have been highly trained to pick up on suspicious behaviour.
Although many passengers complain about the tedious security measures, we should prioritize safety over convenience and expediency. How many more attacks must we undergo before Europe and North America are forced to take a look and question the system we have in place today? Indeed, the time to act is now. Perhaps it’s time for Europe to take a page out of Israel’s book.
Jake Beaumont is a research analyst at HonestReporting Canada, a non-profit organization that ensures fair and accurate Canadian media coverage of Israel.