Security perversions at the Israeli Prime Minister's Office

On Thursday, the Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Israel issued a statement that “strongly condemns the continued harassment of journalists attending media events at the prime minister’s office”.

What happened this time? It’s really a shame that any journalist stood there and took it: “In the past two days, three female reporters in separate incidents were forced to undress, remove their bras and have them placed through an X-ray machine in front of a group of colleagues. In addition, pocketbooks were emptied in public, with personal items also put on display and X-rayed for everyone to see”.

Why did these journalists comply?

Was someone pointing a gun at their heads? [Probably not… but… ]

We reported, in January, on an earlier FPA complaint, here.

The statement noted that “This type of treatment is unnecessary, humiliating and counterproductive. After repeated appeals and promises by security officials it appears that the Prime Minister’s Office does not have the desire to stop this happening“.

According to the FPA, whose elected board would not have issued this statement without sufficient provocation, the Prime Minister’s office is the only place “where this type of incident occurs”.

So, being now sufficiently provoked [again], the FPA threatened that it “will begin consulting its members over whether the foreign media should no longer cover events at the PM’s office”.

Already, last January, the FPA threatened to actually stop attending such briefings — now, it says it “will begin consulting its members” about such a “boycott” [really wondering if we can still, now, use this word, legally, in these circumstances to describe such actions in Israel, without fear of retribution or prosecution?]…  See our previous report here.


UPDATE [Saturday 23 July]: AFP [Agence France Presse] reported on Friday that one of their correspondents had been subjected to this perverse security procedure, but added that the two other female correspondents subjected to the same or similar treatment did not wish to be identified. AFP wrote that: “Foreign journalists on Friday spoke of their distress after being asked to remove their bras for a security check before being allowed into the offices of Israel’s prime minister. The three women were told by security personnel to undress and take off their bras for x-ray in two separate incidents at the Jerusalem offices of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week. All three complied with the request, despite the distress it caused … Each of the women was taken behind a curtain in the lobby of the entrance hall and patted down before being told to undress, then their bras were passed out in full view of male and female colleagues and security personnel, to be put through an x-ray machine. Their personal effects were also emptied out in public view and put through the machine … Sara Hussein, who works for Agence France-Presse (AFP), described the incident as utterly humiliating. ‘I can only describe the experience as among the most humiliating in my life’, she wrote in a complaint to the FPA. ‘I have covered meetings of presidents at the White House and not been subjected to anything similar’. Neither of the other two women reporters, both of whom were deeply distressed by the incident, wished to be identified. All three have filed detailed complaints with the FPA, which is pursuing the matter with the Israeli authorities”. This AFP report is posted here.

AFP added, in its report, that “Officials at Netanyahu’s office refused to comment directly on the two incidents, saying only: ‘We are aware of the concerns and we are looking into the matter’ … Government Press Office head Oren Helman expressed regret over the demand for the women to remove their bras, describing it as ‘offensive and damaging to the State of Israel. We are talking about an embarrassing failure, which we will do everything within our power to prevent from reoccurring’, he said in a statement sent to AFP. ‘This is certainly not our policy’.”

UPDATE TWO [Saturday 23 July]: An official of the FPA informs me that my assumption that the other journalists subjected to this peverse security treatment at the Prime Minister’s Officer were NOT those from Al-Arabiyya Television who conducted the very softball interview with PM Netanyahu , which the Prime Minister’s Office [PMO] published here

Accordingly, on the basis of information from this FPA official that the assumption was wrong, I am removing discussion about the substance of the Al-Arabiyya interview with Netanyahu here — which looked at the softball questions and the unchallenged spin in the  answers in the light of the intimidation and humiliation that the women involved had experienced — and will repost it elsewhere

This same FPA official responded both to my observation that the FPA had already threatened a “boycott” [can we now use this word, legally, in these circumstances to describe such actions in Israel, without fear of retribution or prosecution?], yet this kind of humiliation recurred, and to my wondering why the women involved had agreed to accept such treatment, by writing in an email: “the big companies may not agree.  For some reason the men are better at this – they simply turn round and walk off and to hell with the story.  Do you think women are more concerned about losing their jobs?”

The men may be better at refusing such treatment — but they are also less understanding of the specific humiliation that women feel in such situations. Palestinian Television discussed this matter in a program called “Falastin Sabahan” [Palestine Morning], which discusses articles published in the Palestinian press. The male co-host of the program read out the report with a big grin, shook his head, and laughed…



Now, I have my own complaint, though a FPA official earlier advised me not to give it second thought: for publishing one of the previous FPA complaints — and I am a member of the FPA since 2007 — I was “mentioned” [this is not a benign act] on a website named Our post that somehow earned such a mention [for anti-semitism] was published on 18 July 2010, here.

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