The following story is 100% true. It tells us a lot about the modus operandi of the security services… and not necessarily only in Israel.
(A story goes with it… As this story was already published in Haoketz, +972 and Al-Ittihad, what Free Haifa can add is the story behind the story. You may find it at the end of the original text.)
During the seventies of the previous century I was active in the leftist organization “The Workers’ Alliance”. It so happened that I represented this organization in several meetings and conferences in Europe.
In those days, the security services shared the left’s belief in the power of the word. According to this belief, as the world was created by words, it can be changed through words… The services put a lot of efforts to monitor our words. On each “visit” to Lod’s Airport, while traveling out of the country or on the way back, just as I presented my passport for examination, I was taken to the police station at the airport, like many other activists and opponents of the regime. They would search my bags and clothes, looking for any piece of paper that could indicate what I’m up to, where would I travel and with whom I met or will meet.
Human beings, by their nature, learn from experience. On one occasion they found a phone book in my possession and took it for farther inspection. It came back by mail weeks later, all ragged and torn. I decided to make things easier for me and for them and started searching myself before being searched, to make sure that I don’t have with me any piece of “personal” paper that may open the way to questions or to prolong the inspection.
Everything went on very well. Gone were the days of “The Workers’ Alliance”, I joined “Abna Al-Balad” and did not have any political travel for a long period… I found a job in high tech and began traveling for work. But once you entered the blacklist it was very hard to get out. I continued to search myself before arriving to the airport and “The Comrades” there continued to stop me every time I presented my passport and search me without finding anything to ask about.
I’m a quiet person by nature. I don’t like to complain and I was satisfied with the mutual security arrangements. But I learned that some other “names” on the blacklist become managers and university professors. They had to travel many times and were tired of the repeated searches. Their complaints reached the press. Finally they couldn’t bear it any more and petitioned “The High Court of Justice” (the famous Bagats) through “The Association for Civil Rights in Israel” (ACRI).
I did not follow the details and I was not interested in the subject, until the day in November 1989 when I was sent by the company to an important conference… As I presented my passport to the border police – I knew that they will arrest me and search me and I was assured that they will not find any forgotten paper… However, even though I was ready for any strange occurrence, I was surprised… I noticed how the officer’s face became pale with fear as she looked at the computer screen after typing my passport number. Within a few seconds security guards surrounded me, carried my bag and escorted me into a special search area that I did not know before.
I was observing their actions and didn’t understand. They are not looking for papers. They took the clothes from the bag one by one and sprinkled strange powder on them… They rummaged every object meticulously and carefully. Even the toothpaste – they squeezed most of it out of the tube beyond repair. There is no other explanation: They are looking for explosives!
I began to ask myself: What was the secret information that changed my status with the security services from “political dissident” that is subject to traditional search through his papers to a “dangerous terrorist” against whom you should apply all the innovations of chemical search? Does “The Comrades” know about me things that I don’t know about myself? Is it possible that “the leadership of the world revolution” has decided to move me from the political to the military wing and forgot to tell me about it, but the news arrived to the services?
* * *
One would expect that the story will end here. I would be left in ignorance and the doubt will eat me from within: “Who framed me?”… But, fortunately for me, at the same period I used to volunteer at ACRI and I had to accompany one of their lawyers to Jerusalem…
The trip from Haifa to Jerusalem is pretty long. The urgent issue that we were traveling for was probably fairly simple and didn’t require discussion nearly as long as the travel. The conversation between us switched from one subject to another. As I was looking for topics of conversation I asked the lawyer:
– By the way, what happened with the petition to the high court against the blacklist? On my recent trip they gave me some hard time.
His reply was:
– Well, the result is not bad at all… We did not get everything we wanted, but we agreed on a compromise that satisfies us… The court endorsed our main argument that it is not acceptable that border security will be used for political control. Of course, we can’t object that they will perform the original duty, searching for explosives!
* * *
It turns out that, on the day of my traveling, I happened to be one of the first “suspects” that came to the airport after applying the “new regime” – which turned us, by a keyboard stroke, due to the “achievements” of ACRI and the “wonders” of the Israeli democracy, from “political hazard” to “terrorist danger”. That’s why the officer, when the new classification popped before her eyes, was so horrified. For this reason the security personnel took their search task so seriously.
Over time, naturally, they got used to the fact that this new classification is essentially “nonsense” (probably some of them have realized that it was political harassment) and the claimed search for explosives became fast and superficial, just as the search for papers before them…
My name was not deleted from the blacklist until 2003, after some other interesting experiences which I might tell another time.
* * *
This story was originally published in Arabic in the literary supplement of Al-Ittihad newspaper on 31.5.2013. It was later published in Hebrew on Haoketz. Today it appeared in English in Haoketz and +972.
The illustration is a gift from the artist Iris…
The Story Behind this Story
As some of our good friends started “The Warsha” to bring a little bit of culture to our people in Haifa, I wanted to support them and signed up to a “creative writing” course with the writer Ala Hlehel. It came out that I hardly can build one proper sentence in Arabic, so Ala sent me to learn grammar instead. I ended up in the hands of a stern Arabic teacher Mussa ‘Odeh.
One day he assigned me the task of filling a page titled “In the Airport”. At first I wanted to tell the story of a lonely Arab man from Haifa that was induced to import a Jewish bride from the US. When he met her at the airport it turned out that she was a poor black woman. As far as I know they leaved happily ever after.
But this sticky romantics was too much for my poor Arabic, so I sticked with the devil that I really know – the Israeli security octopus.
After I filled the page, and my teacher Mussa and my Arch teacher Rajaa Zoabi Omari, corrected my Arabic, I changed the title to be more dramatic. It took another month of nagging Hisham Naffa in Al-Ittihad and it became my first work of art to be published beyond my high school paper.