Israeli Security at a South African airport?

Walton Pantland is outraged that Israeli security police are operating in South Africa where they detained, interrogated and strip searched Xolile Nxu, the Vice-President of the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) at O R Tambo Airport (formally Johannesburg International).


  • Mr Nxu said that
    “Israeli Apartheid is worse than South African apartheid. I cannot accept that the very people who were subjected to pogroms in Europe, who understand how it feels, are now doing the very same thing to the Palestinians that was done to them in Europe.”
    THAT BIT OF PROPAGANDA IS STRAIGHT OUT OF THE TERRORIST PLAYBOOK.It is no wonder the Israelis gave him a thorough search.

  • I doubt that harassing someone for holding an opinion is a good thing…

  • I was once strip-searched by British security personnel at Heathrow Airport. I did not, however, contact The Guardian or the Times to complain.

    El Al has its own security at all the airports it services, with the agreement of the local airport authorities.

    Long security checks are unfortunately the norm at Ben Gurion Airport. This is a matter of some controversy in Israel, and has been covered extensively in the local media. I happen to be amongst those who think that the security procedures need to be improved so that people don’t have to wait for hours or feel humiliated by questioning. Given that the passenger in question was traveling to Israel in order to attend a conference on non-violent resistance to Israel in the Palestinian Authority, it is easy to understand why El Al security took him aside.

    Security procedures should be made less onerous, but I would like to point out that the Israeli airport has not experienced a terror attack since 1968 and is widely regarded as the safest in the world.

    I also take exception to the blogger’s use of the expression “Zionist spooks.”

  • Lisa, you’re avoiding the issue.

    You were searched by British security in Britain. You write about long security checks by Israeli security in Israel.

    The issue is a South African citizen being strip searched by Israeli security in South Africa.

    El Al may have it’s own security at all airports, but this doesn’t make it acceptable.

    It’s important to ensure that no one brings bombs or anything that may endanger the lives of other passengers on board any flight. That can be done by a standard security check. What happened to Mr Nxu was a lot more than that. It’s not the remit of airport security to perform a customs officers’ job.

    Note that he was attending a conference on NON-violence, in a state that often claims to be ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’. Why should that be a problem?

    And what’s wrong with calling Israeli agents Zionist spooks? That’s what they are, aren’t they?

  • Lisa,

    I’m a South African and reading that story made me feel a bit uneasy. I can imagine that Mr. Nxu really taking exception to this given that the trade unions played a major role in resisting the brutal Apartheid regime and now he is subjected to searches on South African soil 14 years into democracy.

    While El Al security may be flawless, you can’t be serious by saying:

    “Given that the passenger in question was traveling to Israel in order to attend a conference on non-violent resistance to Israel in the Palestinian Authority, it is easy to understand why El Al security took him aside”

    I would have imagined that someone promoting non-violent resistance would actually be in the interest of Israel…

    And if that really was the case, what you are implying is that Israel is using El Al security as a conduit to do political (rather than security) screening. This would be a rather dubious practice….

    With respect to the blogger using the term “spook” – it’s slang for someone working in the intelligence or security field.

  • Mohamed – If Mr. Nxu was so unhappy with El Al’s security then he should have flown SAS, which also has direct flights between Jo’burg and Tel Aviv. El Al uses its own security staff and procedures with the full agreement of local airport authorities. If the local airport authorities oppose the presence of El Al security, then El Al simply does not fly to those destinations.

    The reason someone attending a conference on resistance to Israeli occupation would be a likely candidate for extra security checks – whether the conference was about violent resistance or non – is as follows: there are several precedents of well-intentioned, innocent people who were active on behalf of, or sympathetic to, Palestinian causes being used without their knowledge as potential bombers. In 1986, for example, El Al security guards discovered 10 kilos of explosives in the luggage of an Irish woman who was pregnant by her Palestinian boyfriend. The explosives had been placed in the woman’s baggage without her knowledge. So while I think it highly unlikely that Mr. Nxu would have committed a violent act voluntarily, there is a chance that someone he mistakenly trusted could have given him a wrapped package to take as a “gift” to someone he was supposed to meet at the conference.

    The term “spook” is indeed slang for spy, but I have never heard it used to describe a security inspector. A security inspector is not a spy. Furthermore, the term Zionist and Israeli are not interchangeable. Israeli is a nationality. An Israeli citizen carries an Israeli passport – not a Zionist passport. Zionism is an ideology. There are many Israelis who are not Zionists.

    By the way, does either of you know what a Zionist is?

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