Eye on the Middle East Mar/Apr 2010

An Islamist terrorist’s attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines plane over Detroit, Michigan, on Christmas Day set bells ringing across America and the Western world, and near panic ensued as officials scrambled to react to the threat. New scanners, tighter security, and full-body exposure machines were installed in airports amid claims and counterclaims about possible violation of individual rights.

One thing is certain: like the aftermath of the 2001 Richard Reid shoe-bomber incident, when it was mandated that ever thereafter all passengers whip off their shoes, travelers will be forced to undergo more intrusive inspections—which is a major victory for jihadists.

Israel handles security altogether differently, to which everyone who has ever boarded an El Al airplane can testify. Following the announcement of stricter inspections after the attempted Christmas bombing, Rafi Sela, a security consultant at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, offered some worthwhile advice. First, he said, “If you have a suicide bomber or somebody who wants to make an impact, he doesn’t have to bring down a plane. He can just explode in the middle of this huge crowd that is waiting for security.”

Second, reported Arutz-7, “Sela criticized security procedures that check everyone equally, regardless of whether he is a potential threat or a tourist who is among the majority of harmless travelers….Direct eye contact by security officials can help them spot abnormal behavior.”

Sela also said the use of such a system would probably have stopped the bomber had he attempted to board a plane in Israel. He also said the information the U.S. State Department had received about the bomber before the flight would have red-flagged the man at Ben Gurion Airport—especially the warnings the man’s own father gave over concerns his son had been radicalized by jihadists and therefore posed a danger.

America’s obsessive concern about political correctness reviles any degree of profiling, considering it imprudent to look more closely at people from countries sponsoring terrorism. So America takes the burden of inspection from a few and places it on all travelers.

As Israelis see things, additional equipment is not the answer for protecting passengers from violence in the sky. They rely on inspections, even interrogations, of questionable individuals by qualified people who know what to ask and the proper way to interpret the answers they receive, including signs of evasive conduct and revealing body language. To this end, Israelis reportedly employ only college graduates and look for quality people who can be thoroughly trained to screen passengers. And although Israelis will quickly agree that no system is foolproof, the evidence affirms that Israel has a high rate of success in keeping the bad guys off El Al planes.

The fact is that equipment, however sophisticated, can be beaten. We are told that every new piece of security equipment America and Western countries purchase is also procured by terrorists who make it their mission to learn how to get explosives and dangerous cargo through without detection.

The difference between Israel, America, and Europe is that the Jewish state understands it is in a war—a real war for survival—and conducts its affairs accordingly. In most of the West, things are perceived quite differently. Repeatedly denying there is a war going on and turning a blind eye to those who are waging it merely assures that more of the same is on the way.

Better take a lesson from our Israeli allies.

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