Petition Closed

You’re an accomplished international journalist based in Jerusalem, one of the most prestigious assignments in the global media industry.

The country’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, invites you to a private cocktail party, an annual gala he hosts for international journalists.

What happens when you get there?

Apparently, that depends...

If you’re Arab, have an Arab name or are even talking to someone who has an Arab name, you will be taken aside, questioned at length, sent through a security screening multiple times and strip searched.

If you are none of the above, welcome to the party.

Such was the vibe on January 11, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security detail strip searched a number of high profile foreign journalists as they tried to enter an invitation-only cocktail party somewhat akin to the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner. The purpose of the event? To reach out to journalists.

Several journalists were forced to take off all their cloths, including their underwear, for as long as 20 minutes while Netanyahu's security personnel checked their documents.

Yet all journalists at Tuesday's event, including those who were strip searched, are registered with the Israeli government, have already undergone extensive background checks, and were registered for the event days beforehand.

All those singled out for 'extra screening' were international journalists of Palestinian or Arab descent, with the exception of Charles Levinson, the Wall Street Journal's correspondent in Israel, and Menahem Kahana, a veteran Israeli photographer who works for AFP. Both men entered the security check, however, while talking to Palestinian or Arab journalists also waiting in line. Their supposed association with Arab journalists, witnesses said, was the reason they were singled out.

The Foreign Press Association, which represents international journalists in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, expressed "outrage" over the incident and has threatened to boycott future Netanyahu events should they not receive a response.

Show your support for that call, and tell Netanyahu that you expect him to take responsibility for the incident with a simple, public apology.

Letter to
Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein
Senior Foreign Press Coordinator, Israeli Prime Minister's Office David Baker
Foreign Press Advisor, Israeli Prime Minister's Office Mark Regev
and 2 others
Director, Israel Government Press Office Oren Helman
Spokesperson, Diaspora Affairs and Public Diplomacy Ministry Anat Weinstein-Berkovits
I am deeply concerned over the Tuesday, January 11 incident at the prime minister's annual press gala.

Reports from dozens of witnesses attest to Prime Minister Netanyahu's security detail strip searching a number of international journalists as they tried to enter the invitation-only gathering.

Several journalists were forced to take off their cloths, some including their underwear, for as long as 20 minutes while the Shin Bet checked their documents.

All journalists who attended the event, including those who were strip searched, are accredited by the GPO, have already undergone background checks, and were registered for the event days beforehand.

Even more worrisome, all those singled out for 'extra screening' were international journalists of Palestinian or Arab descent, with the exception of two journalists (one Israeli, one American) who were noticed by guards to have been speaking with Palestinian or Arab journalists as they entered the security check. Their supposed association with Arab journalists, numerous witnesses said, was the reason they were singled out.

Whatever the reason, it is simply unacceptable for the prime minister of Israel's security detail to aggressively frisk and strip search Arab journalists he invited to a festive gathering, indeed it is the opposite of the kind of behavior one would think is in Israel's interest.

The Foreign Press Association expressed "outrage" over the incident and has threatened to boycott future events held by the prime minister should they not receive a response.

Oren Helman, the new director of the GPO, expressed "regret that journalists left the GPO Annual Cocktail Reception feeling that they were treated in an unbecoming manner by security."

What happened here is just wrong. While Mr Helman's statement is encouraging, Prime Minister Netanyahu himself needs to to simply take responsibility for the incident and publicly apologize.

I look forward to your response at the email below.