Media Overplays Airport Security Issue

Just this week, en route to Israel through a British airport, I observed a young family being held up at security. Despite the fact that he had a newborn infant strapped to his chest in a baby carrier and was accompanying his wife and young daughter, the young man was subjected to multiple pat downs.

Struggling to hand over the baby while juggling with items of clothing and luggage, this was clearly an inconvenient and unpleasant experience being meted out to a family that should not have raised any security concerns. Finally it was discovered that metallic buttons on the baby carrier had set off the security scanner alarm.

I mention this as just one example of how, in a post-9/11 world, all of us have been affected by the increasing levels of security checks at airports.

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But it seems that Israel’s airport security procedures are the only ones that can induce almost righteous indignation in the media.

As the Associated Press reported: “Israel’s attorney general on Wednesday upheld a practice to allow security personnel to read people’s email accounts when they arrive at the airport, arguing it prevents militants from entering the country.”

Cue dramatic headlines that overstated the story to the point of being misleading as well as adding a sinister backdrop to the story. For example, this headline in The Australian:

This from the Sydney Morning Herald:

This from The Guardian:

And this from the Daily Telegraph:

You could be forgiven for thinking that Israel is a police state comparable to North Korea. This is, of course, not the case. While Israeli sources do not give out information regarding just how many foreign visitors are stopped for more extensive questioning at Ben-Gurion Airport, with a record 3.5 million visitors to Israel in 2012, 2.5 million of them arriving by air, it is quite reasonable to conclude that the vast majority of these visitors entered Israel unhindered.

And lest Israel be accused of deliberately targeting non-Jewish visitors, that would actually make up the majority of incoming tourists, 58% of which is Christian with only 23% Jewish.

Allowing security officials to check email accounts of persons deemed suspicious in their presence is a legitimate issue for debate, hence the need for Israel’s attorney general to rule on its legality.

However, in addition to irresponsible and sensationalist headlines,