BBC rejects complaint concerning inaccurate claim about Israeli airport security

As readers may recall, on March 22nd the BBC News website published an article by Home Affairs correspondent Tom Symonds in which it was inaccurately claimed that the level of security checks at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv are dependent upon the colour of the traveller’s skin.Brussels airport security art

Symonds wrote:

“Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, often cited as the world’s most secure, relies on profiling. Passengers are closely watched and intensively questioned about who they are and where they are going.

It works because it allows a more fluid and less predictable line of security.”

However, Symonds then went on to tell his readers:

“But it is a technique often criticised as “politically incorrect” because those without white faces, travelling to and from “non-western” countries, face more scrutiny. [emphasis added]

Symonds provided no evidence to support his inaccurate allegation of racial profiling according to skin colour.  One example contradicting that allegation was given by a former director of security at Ben Gurion airport in an article from 2010. 

“Israeli aviation security manages to create a reasonable balance between detection technology and human interaction. While at American airports we deploy people to support technology, in Tel Aviv technology is deployed to support people. Does it work? Ask Anne Marie Murphy, a young Irishwoman who, in 1986, nearly boarded a plane while carrying an explosive device without her knowledge. Her terrorist boyfriend, who was supposed to be on a separate flight, had given her a bag with a concealed bomb. When a profiler began to ask her a standard set of questions, it became clear that she was an anomaly (she had no accommodations lined up, among other issues). The device, which was cleverly hidden, would not have been detected during a pat-down, or even by an X-ray scanner. But the profiler, who was not distracted by her ethnicity, religion, gender, or her obvious pregnancy, saved Murphy and hundreds of other passengers—simply by taking her aside and talking to her.”

BBC Watch submitted a complaint concerning that inaccuracy. The BBC Complaints department’s response fails to address the issue raised in that complaint and the article has not been corrected.

Response airport complaint

BBC Watch will of course be pursuing the issue further.

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