The day before Thanksgiving at LaGuardia Airport.(Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)
Navigate to News section

Israeli Airport Security, All the Rage

And why it doesn’t completely translate

by
Marc Tracy
November 30, 2010
The day before Thanksgiving at LaGuardia Airport.(Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

Though it has since died down, in the weeks before Thanksgiving few stories were bigger than the Transportation Security Administration’s alleged new, overly intrusive airport inspections (media columnist David Carr explained yesterday why the meme resonated so much). If the United States was the Bad Guy—bulky, unnecessary, and despicable, embodied in the viral video by the security agent who aggressively patted down the three-year-old—then the Good Guy was Israeli airport security, which famously protects an ostensibly far more endangered populace, and does so with a certain flair (remember how after 9/11 you heard that the only airline that still served their meals with metal utensils was El Al?).

Dutifully, the Washington Post consulted an Israeli security expert, who dutifully informed us that using intelligence-like security techniques such as profiling and targeted inspections and questioning is faster, less intrusive (for most), and more effective than the American way. We also learned that Israel self-consciously sees security expertise as one of its most promising exports. The problem, arguably, as Post columnist Dana Milbank reported, is that Israel’s way is far more expensive: Israel spends $56.75 per passenger, the United States spends $6.93 per passenger—figures that probably reflect the geometrically larger scale the U.S. operates with, but only in part. Which doesn’t mean Israel has no wisdom to offer, but that their methods are only applicable to a certain extent.

Which doesn’t mean they’re not going to make fun of us!

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

Support Our Journalism Today

The Jewish world needs a place like Tablet where varying—even conflicting—viewpoints can exist side by side. Our times demand an engagement with big ideas and not a retreat from them.

Help us do what we do.