Washington, D.C. | July 31, 2023 – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has filed a complaint on behalf of Noor Wazwaz, a U.S. citizen, who was denied boarding on an El Al Israel flight to Ben Gurion Airport on July 18, 2023. Ms. Wazwaz faced serious discrimination and harassment by agents working for El Al Airlines and Israel, with the cooperation of US agencies, including the Transportation Security Agency (TSA), both in the US at Newark Liberty International Airport and in Israel at Ben Gurion Airport due to her Palestinian, Muslim, and Arab backgrounds. The complaint, filed with the US Department of Transportation (DOT), calls for an immediate investigation into El Al Airlines and its treatment of Ms. Wazwaz, as well as into the airlines use of race, national origin, and religion to discriminate against passengers.
She was forced to undergo extensive and humiliating searches and questioning unlike other passengers. These included separate and multiple screenings, head to toe pat downs, removal of certain articles of clothing, swabbing of all personal items, amongst others. Ms. Wazwaz posted a video thread on Twitter of the incident, and it can be found by clicking here.
ADC National Executive Director Abed Ayoub said, “It is unconscionable that a U.S. citizen would be subject to such treatment, let alone having it happen here in the U.S. There is no justification for the treatment she faced, and we demand an immediate investigation into all of El Al’s policies. There is no room for airlines who create different rules and procedures for passengers of different racial, religious, and ethnic backgrounds. There is no justification of allowing Israeli security personnel to target our community members at American airports. The treatment Ms. Wazwaz faced has been historically faced by US citizens of Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim backgrounds while flying El Al and continues until today.”
Ms. Wazwaz was required to check all of her bags, despite the airline’s allowance of a carry-on, which included the laptop and charger she needed to work on while traveling. Officials then proceeded to place yellow tags on her passport and all her luggage – with no explanation as to the purpose. Following additional screening after checking her bags, Ms. Wazwaz was informed that her laptop tested positive for explosives, and she was barred from taking her laptop with her. There was no additional questioning about the laptop and she was not given an opportunity to rebuff the baseless accusations. Additionally, while being interrogated at Newark Airport, her personal documentation and items were deleted off her phone by El Al and Israeli security officials. Despite not testing for any explosives, she was not permitted to board her flight. After another multiple screenings, including some done by TSA, she finally was able to board another flight and travel to Palestine through Ben Gurion Airport. Upon arrival, she was detained by Israeli border officials. Among the demands made of her was an accounting of every contact in her phone that had a Palestinian or Israeli country code. When Ms. Wazwaz’s ordeal finally ended and she arrived at her destination, she discovered that her bags had clearly been searched and ransacked though no note was placed indicating such a search.
ADC has requested an investigation into Ms. Wazwaz’s experience to ensure that El Al is held responsible for their mistreatment of an American citizen, and called for an immediate investigation into all of El Al’s discriminatory policies.