Israeli Druze diplomat says he was racially profiled at Tel Aviv airport
An Israeli diplomat from the country's Druze minority has accused security agents at Tel Aviv airport of racially profiling and humiliating him and his family as they travelled on official business.
Israel's ambassador to Panama, Reda Mansour, who hails from the mainly Druze town of Isfiya near Haifa, was flying to the Central American country on Saturday when he was stopped and interrogated by security officers at Ben Gurion airport.
"When they learned that we came from Isfiya, they asked to see our passports," Mansour wrote on Facebook after the incident, AFP reported on Sunday.
Israel does not publicly admit to using racial profiling at Ben Gurion airport, but rights groups and others have alleged mistreatment or harassment of Palestinians and other minorities as passengers move through the airfield’s several-tiers of security, according to the Times of Israel.
The Foreign Ministry said it was in contact with both its envoy and the Israel Airports Authority, adding that when citizens and visitors encounter officials at the entry and exit points to the country, including those working in security, “it must be done professionally and with mutual respect”, the Times reported.
While Israeli Palestinians and Druze often denounce harsh treatment by the airport's security staff, it is rare for a senior official to speak out on the subject.
After detailing the encounter, Mansour wrote of "humiliation" and concluded his post: "Go to hell... I feel like vomiting."
The veteran diplomat also noted that his village is home to a memorial for Druze soldiers killed fighting under the Israeli flag.
"I advise that you take your security guards and those in charge of their training to visit this cemetery and teach them about self-sacrifice and respect," he added.
Unlike Palestinian citizens of Israel who may volunteer to serve, the Druze are subject to compulsory service in the military or police alongside Jewish Israelis.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday tweeted his "deep appreciation for the work of Ambassador Mansour who represents Israel in Panama".
Without mentioning the incident, Netanyahu praised Israel's Druze community as "dear to our hearts".
Thousands from the country's 130,000-strong Druze community took to the streets last August to denounced a law declaring Israel the nation state of the Jewish people, arguing it renders them second-class citizens.
Netanyahu strongly backed the law.
As responses on social media poured in, many of them hostile to Mansour, Israel's Airports Authority on Sunday said the security guard "did his job".
"Security checks at Ben Gurion Airport are carried out regardless of religion, race or gender," it said in a statement.
Still, Haaretz reported that Israeli Foreign Ministry retirees wrote a letter in support of Mansour:
"Dear Reda, we've decided to write to you personally and express our sorrow for the experience you endured.
"We were appalled by the treatment you, your daughter and the rest of your family received during the security inspection at Ben Gurion Airport as well as the condescending statement issued by the Israel Airport Authority spokesperson following the incident, which ignored your feelings.
"Throughout the years, we've seen you invest your heart and soul in the representation of the State of Israel in the world. You are an excellent ambassador and a pride to all of us. Please express our support to your daughter and the rest of your family.
"We are convinced that our friends at the Foreign Ministry will later find the way to show you their support," the letter said.