Palestinian-American: I was denied boarding Israeli El Al flight

Middle East Monitor  /  July 19, 2023

A Palestinian-American Noor Fawaz was forced to remove all her electronic equipment from her carry-on luggage by El Al staff who claimed she posed a ‘security risk’, and later denied her boarding.

Palestinian-American Noor Fawaz has said she was denied boarding on an El Al flight from the US to Israel because she was deemed a “security risk”.

In a video posted on Twitter, Noor said that when she went to drop off her luggage at check-in she was told “because I am Palestinian and I’m flying into Israel, I’m not allowed to take my laptop, my chargers, not even my portable chargers with me on the plane, because they are worried that someone packed my bag.”

“They are making me take it out and put it into the [checked in] bag.”

She added: “The “person in charge” told me that I wasn’t allowed to take any luggage with me on the plane, not even my backpack.” This is in spite of the fact that her ticket said she was allowed hand luggage on the plane.

“I straight up asked, “Why? Is it because I’m Palestinian?” Without hesitation he said, “Yes, and you’re going to places like Ramallah.”,” she continued on Twitter.

Her bag was then marked with a yellow sticker and she was told she’d have to go through extra security before the flight. This included being patted down from head to toe and having to remove several items of clothing, including her socks. El Al staff also proceeded to delete pictures from her phone after they saw that she was documenting her ordeal, Noor explains.

However she was later informed that her laptop was being removed from her bag and would be shipped separately as “there was an “alert” which according to him [El Al staff] means “it contains explosives”.

After complying with their demands, Noor says she was told she was being denied boarding “as an “alert” came for my shoes and again, they “may contain explosives.”.”

She was then put on a United Airlines flight and was able to take her hand luggage, including her laptop, on board with her, but not before having to go through additional security screening. “At this point, I’ve gone through a total of FIVE security screenings in the span of seven hours,” she explained.

Upon arriving in Tel Aviv, Noor was taken to Border Control, had her passport taken from her and she was told to wait. “After two hours of waiting an officer called my name and I was taken into an office,” where she was asked the “typical questions” including details about her family and why she was visiting. After this screening she was given her visa and allowed to leave the airport.

At her family home, when she opened her luggage she found that “my stuff was a complete mess. It appeared that they went through every single item and just shoved everything back inside.” Exhausted by the ordeal, Noor said: “I was treated like a criminal on the loose … I was so overcome by the stress and exhaustion, I honestly felt like I was going to faint multiple times.”

In the end, however, she added: “I’m Palestinian and you won’t ever break my soul … I stopped by Al-Aqsa compound last night to remind myself that it’s always worth it.”

El Al has not replied to MEMO’s request for comment.

Noor’s case comes as Israel bids to join the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP), an effort which hinges on a month-long trial due to start tomorrow, when Israeli authorities will offer unfettered passage to US citizens of Palestinian origin who are West Bank residents, diplomatic sources say.

The VWP would mean its citizens would not need to secure a visa before travel to the United States. Tel Aviv has been unable to join as the terms of the VWP mean it would need to treat all US citizens equally, however, currently Palestinian-Americans are regularly targeted for extra screening and are discriminated against as they travel to Tel Aviv airport.