What is wrong with this planet?

I got back from Israel today. Well, I was supposed to get back yesterday, but we missed our connection in Toronto, so we had to catch the first flight out this morning. Everyone else was thrilled that we got free rooms at the Hilton. I wasn’t. I won’t discuss the trip right now. Eventually I will end up with a lot of photographs, and then perhaps it will make sense to talk about the trip. Right now I will discuss an issue of greater concern to me.

We missed our connection in Toronto because a family was an hour or so late to the plane in Tel Aviv. At first I thought that it was extremely rude of that family to be so late for the flight. Only after we deplaned did I learn what actually happened.

The family was Palestinian. It was a large family, consisting of perhaps seven people altogether. In the Toronto airport, I overheard a member of the family talking about what happened to her family. Apparently, they arrived four hours early to Ben Gurion airport. Since they were Palestinian, they were “racially profiled,” if I can be as politically correct as possible. They were forced to go through security checks for at least two hours before they were allowed on the plane. She also said that she has travelled on this flight (or an analogous one) every year for fifteen years, and the same thing has happened every time.

Excuse me if I think that no one should have to put up with that sort of nonsense.

In contrast, we arrived something like three hours early, went through VAT (which took a long time), chose the slowest lines at every point, and arrived at the gate with an hour to spare.

I’m all for security, but let’s be reasonable! Two hour searches? That’s ridiculous! Does this happen to every Palestinian trying to travel out of Ben Gurion airport? Probably. Is it supposed to be surprising that a very small number of Palestinians blow themselves up to try to make a point? From what I can see, the set of rational people is a lot like the set of rational numbers. Almost all numbers are irrational. It seems that almost all people are also.

What annoys me even more is that my parents think that it is reasonable for these people to be put through incredibly extensive security checks. My mother, in her most unsympathetic tone, said that they are used to it. USED TO IT. Well, yes, I suppose they are used to it. That’s because it happens every time. And it still isn’t fair. My parents are so incredibly racist. My mother takes one look at an Arab and thinks “suicide bomber.” How did I end up living with these completely irrational racists? I asked my parents to think about how they would feel if they had to go through these long security checks every flight. How would they feel if everyone hated them because they were delaying a flight. Even if they aren’t to blame. Of course, they couldn’t come up with an appropriate answer. No one could because there is no appropriate answer.

Why do I live in this world? Should I write to Air Canada to complain? I don’t even know if they were to blame. To my local newspaper? To Ben Gurion Airport? I suppose it’s time for ME to do something. But what? And who is going to listen to some college student who thinks, like everyone else in the world, that he is a rare rational being?

At least I was very pleased to see the woman in the adjacent line at Canadian customs complaining vehemently about the situation. Perhaps there are a couple rational people around.


About Simon

Hi. I'm Simon Rubinstein-Salzedo. I'm a mathematics postdoc at Dartmouth College. I'm also a musician; I play piano and cello, and I also sometimes compose music and study musicology. I also like to play chess and write calligraphy. This blog is a catalogue of some of my thoughts. I write them down so that I understand them better. But sometimes other people find them interesting as well, so I happily share them with my small corner of the world.
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16 Responses to What is wrong with this planet?

  1. yuethomas says:

    It’s the airport security in Isreal. Canadians are extremely sensitive about racism, because Canada is perhaps the most ethnically diverse country in the world. Racism in Canada is not tolerated at all.

  2. Hmm…but in Israel on the other hand, well, it’s a whole different story.
    Tom, do you think Canada’s more diverse than even the U.S? Maybe perhaps Brazil also :-).

  3. intrepia says:

    The set of rational people is a lot like the set of rational people? 😉
    I agree with what you’re saying though… it’s completely unfair that situations like this should exist. And it’s also unfortunately true that there doesn’t seem like there is too much that can be done about it, at least within the scope of an individual’s power. But maybe, over time, things can improve… somehow this remark seems inadequate.

    • Simon says:

      Ok I fixed that error. Thanks.

      • Anonymous says:

        So what do you suggest?
        Treating people differently because of “racial profiling” is very bad. However, it is an unfortunate fact of life that 100% of the people who blew up themselves (and many innocent bystanders) fit a certain narrow profile (in Israel that means being a Palestinean, most likely male, in a given age group, etc.).
        Let us assume for a moment that a lengthy search at the airport is needed to make sure that there is no danger, or at least to reduce danger to an acceptable level. (By the way, the length of the search is not just due to physical search, but also to questioning people, searching on the computer, contacting other agencies, verifying/checking statements, etc.). If you don’t pick a group to focus on, the alternative is to subject everyone to the same treatment. But that does not make sense if you know that with very high probability the danger comes from a given group.
        In other words, what you should compare is inconveniencing eveyone vs inconveniencing a smaller group. In both cases many innocent people suffer and that is very bad, but in the second case a smaller number suffers. What is the logical alternative?

        • Simon says:

          Re: So what do you suggest?
          If a person wants to be a suicide bomber, then there is absolutely nothing that you or I (or anyone else, for that matter) can possibly do to stop that person. All we can do is to make living a more pleasant option. Subjecting people to extensive searches certainly doesn’t make life pleasant. In particular, subjecting certain people but not others to such searches makes life less valuable than it might be otherwise.
          I do not want to be subjected to these extensive searches. However, I would rather that everyone (or at least a truly random sample) or people were subjected to them. It is simply stupid and counterproductive to subject certain people to these searches over and over again.
          Incidentally, even short searches can be quite effective. My father accidentally brought a pair of scissors in his carry-on in a recent flight, and it was discovered in the X-ray. That’s simple enough and probably effective enough.
          At some point, it is necessary to balance security with personal rights. Recently, personal rights have been banished in favor of security, and I would say that it is taking its toll.

          • Anonymous says:

            Re: So what do you suggest?
            Random searches make no logical sense if there exists strong prior knowledge about the level of danger associated with different groups of people. Given limited resources, it makes more sense to concentrate these resources where they will do most good, rather than spread them evenly around to satisfy your idealistic and unfortunately unrealistic view of how the world works. I completely agree with you in principle, but at the same time I can recognize what works in practice …

  4. Complain is right and that’s not right! 😦 Then again, damn people for being racists and stereotypical.

  5. confuted says:

    My dad once said “let’s kill all them arabs.” He meant it, too. I fail to see the logic.
    You’re right, though, about doing something. It’s certainly time. I saw Jason Allen today – I could have struck up a conversation – he’s a senator. I could have asked him if he knew what was going on in the Sudan. I could have asked if he was going to do something about it. I wish I had. Tomorrow, I will. I’m sick of the people dying because of our ignorance and arrogance.

  6. z9r4c3 says:

    i dunno. perhaps precautions would prevent SOME terrorists, and while it IS impossible to get them all, the searches are worthwhile coz they DO stop some…

  7. i saw smaller but similar versions of the same thing when flying out of washington dc a few weeks ago.
    youd think a single passenger flying alone, one way, cross country, with hardley any baggage (me) would be more suspicious then an americanized looking family of four of arab decent,
    but then again, im a white woman
    so i guess not.

    • z9r4c3 says:

      lol. that wouldn’t be the case in japan. apparently, only the people who are going to kill themselves travel alone, so if you show up by yourself at a inn or something, the innkeeper will come check up on you every 5 minutes…

  8. Anonymous says:

    I think it’s time you wrote a new journal entry. For example, some of your experiences in Israel.
    Love, Mummy

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