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August 6, 2010, 11:36 AM ET

U. of Miami President Is Halted at Israeli Airport

Donna E. Shalala, president of the University of Miami, was detained and interrogated for two hours at Ben-Gurion Airport on her way back to the United States after a visit to Israel last month, according to the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth. She was subjected to a "humiliating" security debriefing because of her Arab last name, the newspaper reported. Ms. Shalala, a former U.S. secretary of health and human services, had been among a delegation of American university presidents organized in part to protest the academic boycott of Israeli universities, and to discuss a  medical school being built in northern Israel as a joint venture between Miami and Israel's Bar-Ilan University.

Update: In a statement issued after returning to the United States, Ms. Shalala said: "While I was inconvenienced, Israel's security and the security of travelers is far more important. I have been going in and out of Israel for many years and expect to visit again."

Comments

1. greenhills73 - August 06, 2010 at 01:18 pm

This is a great story (along with the update). It is nice to read that Ms. Shalala has the right attitude.

2. goscranton - August 06, 2010 at 02:08 pm

This is classic. A "see no evil" supporter of Israel gets a taste of her own medicine. Students, stay away. I was strip searched including body cavity with ultrasound and I don't even have an Arab last name.

3. 11200222 - August 06, 2010 at 04:36 pm

goscranton: sounds like you have a real attitude problem, so it's no wonder you ended up being extensively searched.

4. zlosada - August 06, 2010 at 04:38 pm

Israeli security is, indeed, very very frightening.

5. goscranton - August 06, 2010 at 04:47 pm

I was pulled out of line before speaking or interacting with anyone. Not only do I not have an "attitude problem" (and what was Donna Shalala's attitude problem?), but there was nothing amiss with my appearance, luggage, papers, tickets, etc. They just like to torture people (newsflash).

6. elsakristie - August 06, 2010 at 05:31 pm

look folks, Israeli security has always been the toughest, next to Germany (which scared me bigtime), but it has nothing to do with what you look like, your last name, your first name, or anything else. They have a system of checking and it WORKS. Which is more than I can say for the USA.

7. your_rights - August 06, 2010 at 06:09 pm

Ms. Shalala "hopes that" students and faculty will go "back and forth" between the U.S. and Israel. Ms. Shalala, you should step down as president and stop encouraging others to risk their lives for this futile effort.

You can not enter Israel if you have a stamp in your passport from an Arabic country. I'm not saying she did, but anyone with an Arabic name is a fool to attempt to enter Israel.

And why is the discussion of "a new medical school being built in northern Israel" even occuring? Israel has the financial resources to do this on their own. If the U. of Miami has money to burn, I suggest they spend it on their own campus. I.E. Maybe you could reduce tuition costs and stop asking the U.S. government for financial aid.

8. your_rights - August 06, 2010 at 06:58 pm

"Human Rights Watch said [that] Recent [July, 2010]proposed bills [in Israel]would penalize human rights groups for critical reporting and advocacy, including publicizing information on war crimes, expressing support for boycotts, or helping refugees and asylum seekers."

click on humanrightswatch.com and click browse by country.

9. lslerner - August 06, 2010 at 08:08 pm

I would not want to be treated by a physician who got his training at Bar-Ilan University. Goodness knows what influence religious orthodoxy will have on good medical practice!
(Here in the US I avoid Catholic hospitals for the same reason.)

10. bibi76 - August 07, 2010 at 09:38 am

My, what bigoted and intolerant (or perhaps just ignorant) comments here. Please remember that its not the intolerant Jews trying to blow us up at every turn; it is the tolerant Muslim terrorists. It is not the Jews who won't let you into their country if your passport is stamped from a Muslim/Arab country, but most Arab countries in the region that won't let you in (or will "interrogate" you) if you have your passport stamped by Israel (which is why, by the way, why Israeli authorities will stamp a separate piece of paper--and not your passport--if you tell them you are going on to visit Arab countries.

And as for health care, get me in an Israeli hospital over an Arab hospital any day. So many Jewish doctors have their training right here in the States, and their operational guidelines are in keeping with U.S. standards.

11. california - August 07, 2010 at 11:33 am

Anyone who travels in the Middle East knows that you have to have passport with no stamps from Israel if you want to visit any of the Muslim countries. So business people have 2 passports, one for Israel, and 1 for the Arab countries. In addition, if you travel in many Arab countries, a woman cannot drive, must adhere to a very covered-up dress code, or risk arrest or deportation. If you live there, a woman cannot vote, that is if the country is not a dictatorship or monarchy.

Israeli civilians have been bombed and killed regularly. Their tight security has helped to lessen this to some degree. I recently went through Israeli security where a law student questioned us in great detail. My companion, a very responsible US attorney, had not shaved for days, and quite honestly, looked pretty scary, so he got the tougher questioning, although I was not immune.

Compare that with Newark airport where I had some high school grads who were flirting with each other while putting wands over my body to check disinterestedly for explosives, and I think that I would much prefer the Israeli way. Of course it is not perfect, but hopefully they have prevented some catastrophes.

12. snwiedmann - August 09, 2010 at 07:41 am

The purpose of airport security is to prevent the hijacking and bombing of planes. Say whatever you want, here's a fact: No El-Al flight has ever been hijacked or bombed.

13. jschantz - August 09, 2010 at 10:57 am

I travel for a living. I've been questioned at security in Israel, Canada, Mexico, and UK, but I've been searched more in Atlanta and Chicago than any other city or country in the world...It's just the state of the world.

14. ugg123456789 - August 10, 2010 at 01:53 am

This article is a great example of the theme I agree with comment above. I travel for a living. I've been questioned at security in Israel, Canada, Mexico, and MBT Women shoes, but I've been searched more in Atlanta and Chicago than any other city or country in the world...It's just the state of the world.

15. jbookinweiner - August 12, 2010 at 06:14 am

California (comment #11) clearly has no idea what the Arab/Muslim world is like and to let some of those statements stand risks perpetuating falsehoods:

Statement 1: "Anyone who travels in the Middle East knows that you have to have passport with no stamps from Israel if you want to visit any of the Muslim countries."

This is untrue. There are many countries in the region that admit people who have Israeli stamps. At this point I believe it is only Syria and Saudi Arabia that fall into this category, although there may be one or two more.

Statement 2: "if you travel in many Arab countries, a woman cannot drive, must adhere to a very covered-up dress code, or risk arrest or deportation." Women can,and do,drive in every country in the region except Saudi Arabia; only Saudi Arabia and Iran have the dress code referred to above. The societies are conservative and foreign women are advised to cover their shoulders and knees, but then there are places in rural Europe and in other parts of the world where that would apply.

Statement 3: "If you live there, a woman cannot vote, that is if the country is not a dictatorship or monarchy." Again not true in most cases. Women not only vote, they serve in Parliament and as ministers in countries from Morocco to Kuwait. In Saudi Arabia they do not. Several Arab countries have women serving as ambassadors in major posts such as the US and UK. Bahrain even has a Jewish woman as its ambassador in Washington. A far cry from the picture painted above.

Such ill-informed,ad hominem attacks on the Arab/Muslim world are irrelevant to the topic of this forum and one has to wonder about the motivations of those who make them. They perpetuate the falsehoods that permeate our society. One hopes, I fear in vain, that they are not repeated in classrooms at colleges and universities around the country, thus poisoning the minds of another generation of American students with misunderstanding about the Arab and Muslim worlds.

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