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Israeli Airport Security Now Checking Emails

Associated Press picks up story from advocacy blog Mondoweiss

Marc Tracy
June 05, 2012
Ben-Gurion Airport last month.(Jack Guez/AFP/GettyImages)
Ben-Gurion Airport last month.(Jack Guez/AFP/GettyImages)

A story, and a story behind that story.

The story is that some travelers to Israel, particularly Muslims and/or those of Arab descent, are being asked, upon arrival at TLV, to log in to their emails and allow security officials to click around. What’s new here isn’t the ethnic profiling, which is S.O.P. for Israeli security and, though justifiably controversial, is credited with efficiently (albeit on a very small scale) preventing acts of terrorism. The news is the email component, which feels like a new type and degree of invasiveness. Officials search for keywords like “West Bank” and “Palestine,” the AP reports, and take down names and information that they find.

The story behind the story is that, as one blog points out, the AP—almost by definition the most mainstream of journalistic outlets—almost certainly picked up the story from Mondoweiss. Last Friday, the anti-Zionist blog’s eponymous founder, Philip Weiss, reported that a Palestinian-American was asked to show security her email at Ben-Gurion. Today, the AP ran its story, with that same Palestinian-American in the lede. You do the math.

UPDATE: I didn’t see this but the AP updated its story to credit Mondoweiss with first reporting certain individual cases.

The point, I think, is less that the AP is taking cues from a site that has it in for the Jewish state. The point, rather, is that the proliferation of outlets of all kinds, including those that have it in for the Jewish state, means that more news stories—and this story is undoubtedly newsworthy—are going to come to the attention of non-niche journalists and thereby gain wider notice. Maybe Israel has determined that the security it gets with these searches is worth the accompanying bad press (to say nothing of the accompanying violation of privacy). But I sure hope it didn’t suspect that word might not get out. In today’s world, there’s always a publisher.

Israel Asks Arab Visitors to Open Email to Search [AP/]
How Mondoweiss Democratizes the Discourse [Sixteen Minutes to Palestine]
Related: U.S. Embassy to American in Trouble in Israel [Mondoweiss]
Mondo Weiss [Tablet Magazine]

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