By Hatim Kanaaneh
The airport security apparatus’s routine act of strip-searching Ezies Elias Shehadeh, an Arab teacher in a Jewish school, has generated too much media noise including Israeli TV and radio reports and interviews and the main editorial in Haaretz.
Local Arabic language papers veered off from their focus on the earthshaking Nazareth mayoral election rerun destined to decide the future of the Middle East and the world’s balance of power and nuclear armament, all to report on the teacher’s claims of injured pride. At the risk of angering friends and foes alike, let me be the devil’s advocate in pointing out the obvious:
For one thing, Ezies exaggerates. What she underwent is the routine that Arabs have to put up with as long as they refuse to swear allegiance to Israel as a Jewish state. Let us not forget the special circumstances of this incident, an Arab woman put in charge of Jewish youth for two decades. This, of course, triggers caution in the minds of all sane security officers. All they did was to have the woman take her clothes off and to feel around her arms, legs and scalp for explosives worn as hairpins or jewelry or as a chastity belt. You go figure what a sick Arab mind can concoct. In other sensitive circumstances requiring caution, such as in high security incarceration facilities, all body cavities are inspected including the performing of rectal and vaginal exams. We didn’t do anything of the sort to this woman though the risk we have to weigh, that of endangering Jewish lives, far outweighs such security infractions as drug smuggling in suspects’ orifices.
And this Ezies is upset because she was the only one in the entire group, students and teachers, who got the extra security inspection. You look at the woman in the picture in the paper or on your screen on the Internet and you realize what must be going through her mind. She must delude herself, as she manages to do to most readers, that she is a westernized female. Think for a moment how an Israeli Ashkenazi woman trying to pass herself as a Muslim Arab in Lebanon, Syria or Iraq nowadays would fare. I for one wouldn’t trust her. And lack of trust was all that we displayed towards Ezies. She must have forgotten the favor our government has just done her community, the Christian citizens of Israel. We passed laws designating them as our favorites, our pets, the least despised among the non-Jews in the country. We openly declared them non-Arabs. And the woman still complains!
And this sham of Ezies trying to pass herself as a western woman has a wider implication than first meets the eye: Think for a moment how much media time and how many newspaper pages we would have wasted had we paid equal attention to every Arab man or woman who underwent close scrutiny at the airport. We do that regularly day in and day out without anyone making a fuss about it as long as the subject is some old Moslem woman wrapped in hijab or an old Palestinian man donning a kufiyah. So what if they miss their flight? It is our airport and our security that counts. Think how much more is the damage that one such terrorist can cause. When was the last time that a Palestinian woman in the image of a modern Western model exploded on an El Al plane, you ask? Every day is my answer. It is what goes on in their sick minds, not what they actually do, that worries us.
Let us put ourselves in the shoes of this Arab teacher at a Jewish school: She must ask herself why do we have separate educational systems. And if separate, why do Jews decide on our curriculum and policy issues. And if separate, why blatantly unequal? She and the likes of her must think that their children deserve the same as ours. She teaches at Tirat Carmel. Just join me for a tour inside her mind, please. The woman knows that this town on the beautiful mountainside overlooking the Mediterranean shore just south of Haifa was once, in the lifetime of her parents, a prosperous Palestinian Arab village. And yet she and her family couldn’t buy a home there and gain acceptance in its current Jewish milieu. And she knows just as well as we do that many stone homes in the town were built by Palestinians who are now unwanted refugees in South Lebanon or being starved in Yarmouk or, at best, are internally displaced, Present Absentees, who are transparent to Israel’s justice system. Believe me, when we think about it, what the Palestinians have forced us to do to them is enough to turn them all to terrorists.
Regardless how flashy or wide Ezies’s sunglasses are, she remains a suspect. We have to remain on guard for the likes of her as long as she and her ilk deny us peace in our promised land, our Jewish only state. It is them or us, believe me.
– Hatim Kanaaneh is a physician who has struggled for over four decades to improve the health of his Palestinian community in Galilee against a culture of anti-Arab discrimination. He is the founder of the NGO The Galilee Society and the author of the book A Doctor in Galilee and of a forthcoming fictional trilogy. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.