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IDF treats pregnant NYT journalist "cruelly" at Gaza crossing

News sources reported during the day on the humiliating harassment of a foreign journalist by IDF soldiers, as she tried to enter Israel from a Gaza crossing. According to IDF radio (Hebrew) and the Jerusalem Post, Pulitzer Prize-winning, veteran photographer Lynsey Addario, working for the New York Times, was returning to Israel after an assignment in Gaza. The 27-week pregnant Addario – who just last March experienced the horror of being kidnapped and sexually assaulted at the hands of Qaddafi loyalists in Libya – contacted Israeli authorities responsible for the Erez crossing before arriving, asking and receiving approval to be spared the metal detector because of her pregnancy.

When she arrived the soldiers knew nothing about her. They gave her the choice of going through the metal detector, despite her doctors’ recommendations, or submit to a physical search. IDF radio reported that she said the search would have taken place behind a glass wall.

She chose the machine despite the warnings. Then soldiers claimed that something went wrong and made her walk through again – three times. They laughed and ogled at her the whole time. Then they sent her for a physical security check anyway, which involved taking off her pants and lifting her shirt. As quoted in the Jerusalem Post:

I asked if that was necessary after the three machine checks, and she told me it was a ‘procedure’ – which I am quite sure it is not. They were unprofessional for soldiers from any nation.”

Calling her treatment “gratuitously rude and unprofessional,” Addario – who noted that she had traveled to over 60 countries in her 15 year career as a photojournalist — said she has “never, ever been treated with such blatant cruelty.”

[Director of Government Press Office Oren] Helman, in a letter to the Defense Ministry’s Spokesman Shlomi Am Shalom, asked for the matter to be “investigated urgently” and said that he was “shocked by the incident” as described by Addario.

I’m sure he was shocked. It’s not like a pregnant reporter from al-Jazeera, for example, and a Wall Street Journal reporter were stripped, detained and humiliated en route to an event in Jerusalem.  It’s not like that happened recently enough to remember – January 2011.

New York Times photo editor David Furst sent a letter of complaint to the GPO, who passed the buck to the Ministry of Defense. The  MOD spokesperson’s response read (quoted in the Post):

“In extraordinary circumstances it is possible to conduct a body inspection instead of the x-ray machine but due to problems in coordination and a specific overload at the crossing, the photographer’s request did not reach the inspectors in time,” the Defense Ministry said in its statement.

“The Defense Ministry employs strict security measures in order to prevent attacks by terrorist groups. We expect people to understand this. Nevertheless, we have apologized to the New York Times and the photographer,” the statement read.

On the radio this evening, the spokesperson was cold and impatient. “There can be a mistake,” he said, rushing to the finish. “But we expect people to understand our pressures.”

So, the soldiers go on guffawing. The spokesperson will eventually quit when he’s tired of being the whipping boy for an idiot policy. I imagine the person who took her initial request to avoid the metal detector jotting down her name on a pad and making a paper airplane out of it, headed for the garbage.

Here’s the rub: we get upset when the face is known to us, even by association: New York Times; hostage in Libya; journalist. The fact is this happens all the time, to other 27-week pregnant women with no editor to write the IDF and stand up for them. If you cut them, do they not bleed? And if you wrong them, will they not take revenge?

I’ll say it again: occupation behavior is monster that cannot be silenced on command. Once an occupier of Palestinians at a checkpoint, you will be an occupier of westerners and journalists at the checkpoint, of Arab citizens in Israel, on the roads, in the supermarket, and probably, eventually, in your very own home.

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    1. aristeides

      I see this reported in several different news outlets but not, oddly, the NYT

      Reply to Comment
    2. AT

      What bothers me about this article, besides the mistreatment of the woman herself, is that the analysis reflects even the left’s misunderstanding of what’s wrong with the IDF. As someone who spent ten years in the reserves as a new immigrant, I can say unequivocally that the IDF treats its own soldiers with blatant cruelty and criminal neglect. How the does one expect foreigners or certainly the “enemy” to be treated better? The roots of the problem lie with the deep corruption inherent in the IDF which has many causes (the occupation only being one of them). Until Isralis, including the left, are willing to do a deep critique of the IDF, it’s role in Israeli society and the stink of corruption that infects the army, nothing will change and incidents like these will continue. And yes, the occupation won’t end either because it serves the heart of corruption.

      Reply to Comment
    3. AT – there have been some cultural explorations like this, but I think the point you raise is fascinating – another friend made a very similar comment on 972 FB page. maybe you would like to write something exploring it? And most interesting – WHY that ‘corruption’ has happened. One question, why do you think it’s only the left that misunderstands this? If anything, the left is far more open and prepared to critique the army in many ways, and does so (and suffers for it…). It’s usually the right (AND the center) who won’t even touch the army, which holds an almost sacred place in their minds/hearts. Just a thought.

      Reply to Comment
    4. aristeides

      There’s a news story out of Florida in the US about the hazing in a university marching band, involving beatings so severe that a student recently died. This, despite dozens of students having previously been expelled for this activity.

      If you can’t root cruelty out of a marching band that exists just to make musical performances, how much harder it must be to root it out of an organization that exists to kill and maim and oppress.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Mesho

      I am weeping. I pray for Lynsey and her child.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Sarah

      Just an FYI but Robert Mackey did cover this on the NYT blog: http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/28/times-photographer-complains-of-israeli-soldiers-cruelty-at-border-crossing/

      Also, Addario is actually a freelancer and not a NYT staff photographer as stated in this article. Her coverage of the revolution in Libya was second to none. Here’s a good piece on having been detained in Libya back in March of this year. http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/30/lynsey-addario-its-what-i-do/ She’s tougher than tough. Not even the IDF can dent her resolve.

      Reply to Comment
    7. aristeides

      The blog isn’t the newspaper.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Jan

      I believe that incidents such as this are indicitive of the cruelty that many in Israel accept as normal. Israel is not a normal country and the cruelty exhibited by many, especially those in the Israeli Occupation Forces, can only be described as cruel.

      The fact that this cruelty makes more enemies doesn’t seem to bother either the IDF or Israel. After all, without enemies how could Israel still play the victim card.

      Hopefully the New York Times will move away from its love affair with Israel and show the country for what it is.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Sarah

      I know the blog isn’t the newspaper ARISTEIDES. So what? She’s a stringer for the NYT – therefore, the blog is where the immediacy of her message goes. There is no blame here.

      When’s the last time anybody here went through a checkpoint anywhere? I would hope all news outlets covering her story would be welcome here.

      Reply to Comment
    10. @Sarah, the article does not say that she was a staff photographer. I wrote that she was working for the NYT on her assignment in Gaza. That’s still ‘working for’ the paper, even if just a free lancer – especially if the NYT Int Picture Ed wrote the letter on her behalf.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Jameel

      I’m not condoning the actions of the IDF at all, but how responsible is it for a pregnant reporter to enter a war-zone like Gaza?

      That’s far riskier for her unborn baby than going through a metal detector.

      Reply to Comment
    12. There’s just one way of testing the IDF’s seriousness on this: Whether or not the shift commander goes to military prison for this. If he doesn’t, expect the next incident to happen within the next few days.

      Reply to Comment
    13. aristeides

      Sarah – So what? So the NYT doesn’t deem the torture of one of its own journalists as sufficiently newsworthy to place in the news section where it would reach the most readers. So that’s called a coverup. No blame? That’s the problem. Someone should be blamed for this incident, and harshly.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Piotr Berman

      It seems that the treatment of Addario was not particularly worse, if worse at all from the standard treatment of Muslim at Ben Gurion airport.

      Which does not mean that it was not pointless from security perspective. What dangerous stuff could be revealed in subsequent checks that could not be revealed in the first? Something very small and very dangerous? A pocket knife? Nail clippers?

      Keep in mind that gasoline is an extremely dangerous substance that is freely available. So is cutlery. How do invasive security checks contribute to security? ESPECIALLY not in the context of entering an airplane?

      Reply to Comment
    15. Ariely

      Sorry for the inconvenience innocent people are facing.
      Israel experience;

      1:A pregnant Irish woman named Anne-Marie Murphy was about to board an El Al flight at London’s Heathrow airport when her bag was found to contain three pounds of plastic explosives.
      There was evidence that Syrian officials were involved and as a result, Britain cut off diplomatic relations with Syria.
      2: Members the military wing of Fatah used a vehicle marked with “TV” and “PRESS” insignias assaulted a Israeli guard/

      Those are only a few examples of violation of any norm and vale committed by Arab terrorists and their supporters against the defending Israel.
      We will prefer not to have any type of security verifications.
      Unfortunately we have to implement lessons from real life

      Reply to Comment
    16. Sarah

      @ DAHLIA SCHEINDLIN, I was working off of the title here that reads “pregnant NYT journalist.” I think it’s important to understand how freelancing gives photojournalists like Addario more liberty to cover events as they happen. The downside of course, is having to wing-it in conflict situations without the backing of a large org like NYT.
      If Addario were actually on staff at the NYT, it’s likely her editor would never have assigned her to Gaza. This is something JAMEEL brought up earlier in the thread regarding Addario’s pregnancy.
      Using precise descriptors for Addario’s profession as well as her independent status within that profession would have answered questions within this news item and provided readers with a truer idea of Addario’s commitment to getting the story.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Sarah

      @ DAHLIA SCHEINDLIN I’m picking up a sentiment in your reply to ARIELY that if a terrorist act happened as far back as 1986 – a quarter century ago – the luster is long gone.
      OK here’s one: This past August, a 20 year old guy from Nablus stole a taxi and drove it into a group of people standing in front of a Tel Aviv night club. Four people in this group were border guards and two other people were club-goers. After backing up and ramming the taxi into this group a second time, the guy from Nablus got out and began stabbing people with a knife he had brought with him.

      I think most staffers at 972.mag would consider Nablus guy’s crimes an understandable act of an oppressed person seeking to unlock the chains foisted upon them by a colonial occupying power.

      Reply to Comment
    18. @ sarah – I take the point re the headline, but usually there isn’t enough room to give that level of detail.

      re – your second comment, you’re on your own here. I’m not even sure what planet you’re coming from. therefore, I see no need to engage.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Sarah

      @ DAHLIA SCHEINDLIN – Yes I guess that’s what I expected.
      You quote the JPost copiously, but describing Addario as a freelance photo journalist takes up too much room. Therefore, detailed accuracy which is a norm that all journalists strive toward does not apply to you. You also choose not to provide a reason for diminishing a terrorist incident as something that happened “a quarter-century ago.”
      I think you are behaving in this narcissistically defended manner because you DO know what planet I’m coming from; it’s the planet called “Earth” where terrorism is an actual thing with a reality equal to the mistreatment going on at security checkpoints as reported by Addario.

      The August terrorism I described happened just south of where you live. Your decision not to discuss or even acknowledge that it happened rests somewhere between insincerity and cowardice.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Piotr Berman

      I asked: “How do invasive security checks contribute to security? ESPECIALLY not in the context of entering an airplane?”

      Answer 1: 25 years ago a pregnant Irish girl had 3 pounds of explosives in a bag.

      Can such a bag be discovered with going through X-ray 3 times or without stripping a person down to underwear? Currently, at US airports there is a procedure of screening luggage for explosives, I do not understand that procedure but apparently it is very sensitive for trace amounts of nitrates that are common to explosive compounds. Aluminum powder would show on X-ray at once, I presume, and it would be detected by a metal detector (without a strip search).

      Answer 2: a terrorist hijacked a taxi. That can be done after crossing the checkpoint stark naked and after 20 X-rays. Especially if you have 10 shekels to buy a kitchen knife.

      Answer 3: a heavily armed group made an attack mere 100 miles (or 200 miles) from the crossing. Well, a simple metal detector would discover a machine gun, RPG etc.

      Answer 4: A press vehicle was used in an attack. Again, if true, some non-minuscule weapons were used.

      Bear in mind, there is technology out there to discover “bad stuff” quickly and with very trivial inconvenience. There was much research and development in this specific direction. I was particularly impressed how JFK customs discovered illegal apples I had with me (you are not supposed to bring produce from overseas). The bad staff was confiscated while a little doggy wagged its tail enthusiastically. I bet that were I in possession of cocaine, Semtex or an RPG customs would discover that as well. (Apples do not get you arrested in my experience, I cannot comment on other stuff).

      Reply to Comment
    21. AT

      @dahlia I did write something on the topic of army corruption nearly 10 years ago. It’s a bit out dated but still quite valid. I also don’t think refusal is as important as I did then. It focuses too much on “the occupation” and not why the army sucks.


      My critique of the left is that it has lost the meaning of being left – I.e. fighting fit just society in all realms. The Israeli left, until this summer, seems to be all wrapped up in the occupation, and totally forgot the material interests the occupation serves and the internal marginalization of weak groups in Israel. Why should Mizrahim or Haredim care about the left, if the left seems more concerned about “justice” for Palestinians and doesn’t care about them, for example?

      Reply to Comment

      rNOTE THAT Boston airport security has just confiscated a cupcake from an indignant passenger.(YahooNews)

      Silly? It’s easy to lampoon; if it were YOU who had the responsibility for things turning out all right, you might feel differently.

      Reply to Comment
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