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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Flying while Jewish

Noted Author Reading The Jewish Press Detained at JFK

Had the situation been reversed, had a Muslim woman been stopped and her luggage searched simply because she was reading Islamic materials, it would be front page news and the subject of civil rights rallies.

Author and scholar Phyllis Chesler was stopped by security at JFK because she was reading The Jewish Press.

Author and scholar Phyllis Chesler was stopped by security at JFK because she was reading The Jewish Press.
Photo Credit: Joan L. Roth (on Facebook)

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Perhaps it is a coincidence that it happened to be The Jewish Press that caught the attention of security officials at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 5, but that fact certainly caught the attention of The Jewish Press reporters.

Phyllis Chesler, one of the doyennes of the feminist movement, professor emerita of psychology and women’s studies at CUNY, ardent Zionist, and author, most recently of An American Bride in Kabul, which won the National Jewish Book Award for memoir this year, was traveling from New York to Florida Wednesday afternoon.

Chesler’s flight was delayed due to the ice storm. Still, she felt somewhat lucky, as most of the flights were cancelled.

As she waited, Chesler pulled out the latest edition of The Jewish Press, which she had with her.

Chesler noticed that as soon as she took out the paper, one of the security agents looked at her sharply. He came over and asked to see her newspaper. After looking at the cover, the agent then took The Jewish Press and brought it over to another security agent. The two agents then had a discussion, apparently about the newspaper and about Chesler. She was then told to open her luggage, which the agents proceeded to search.

While Chesler’s luggage was being rifled through and she was being interrogated, she noticed another woman stride unmolested past her and the security agents, and disappear on through to her destination.

The woman who sailed through without being stopped was dressed in a niqab. The niqab is an Islamic head covering which covers a woman’s entire face except for the eyes.

niqab.jpg Chesler recounted that she saw no one in security ask this other woman – whose face was impossible to see – to lift her veil so that they might check her facial features against her identifying documents. The unidentifiable woman went right past security, no questions asked.

Chesler’s interrogation ended after the security agents found nothing more dangerous than a water bottle.

The episode was relatively brief, but it reveals a great deal about who security agents at JFK airport think is dangerous and from what they are protecting Americans.

The issue is not that the Jew was the one who was stopped and the Muslim was the one who sailed through security.

The issue is that merely the word Jewish on a newspaper was sufficient to draw the agents’ attention and suspicion, while someone whose identity was impossible to discern, who could be hiding who knows what, was ignored by security – security! professionals.

Had the situation been reversed, there is little question that the Committee on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), would be up in arms. So would the American Civil Liberties Union and probably half a dozen Jewish organizations. But in this real life situation, a Jewish woman was stopped as a potential security threat in an airport in New York because she was reading a Jewish newspaper.

Will anyone be up in arms?

 

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About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.


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106 Responses to “Noted Author Reading The Jewish Press Detained at JFK”

  1. Beth Wright says:

    Lol, some people are just dummies. She is no political threat…

  2. Things are getting way out of hand….klkc

  3. H Fragman Abramson says:

    1938 Redux? Where is the overpaid Abe Foxman or the other leaders of Jewish orgs paid to speak on our behalf?

  4. She supports women of the wall Hashem is sending the wait up calls to those who need it.

  5. @Avroham: Interesting theory. She also supports Israel, the right of Jews to build and live in Yesha, and the right of Jews to daven on Har HaBayit. Maybe Allah is punishing her.

  6. Doris Jaffe says:

    One TSA agent asked me if my husband "is an engineer or something" as he quizzically opened up my husband's Gemorrah and scanned each page. He wasn't sure which way to hold the book. I knew the agent was embarrassed about not recognizing the Hebrew language. What was most unnerving was another TSA agent or Marine held a long rifle facing us. The incident occurred shortly after the tragedy of Sept. 11th.

  7. Phyllis must have kept her cool if this was a short incident. Me! I would have exploded and most likely been arrested. JFK is the worst. I refuse to fly through there on the rare times I return to the US from Israel. I give every TSA agent a piece of my mind if they even look at me funny. They might roll their eyes at me, but I am not remaining quiet to this insanity.

  8. Chris Taylor says:

    War is not far away folks. I expect to see obummer hanging upside down from a lamppost in DC.

  9. The Jewish America Community had better wake up and see that Obama is NOT your friend.

  10. This is absolutely outrageous! If I hear another person deny history is repeating itself I'm going to scream!

  11. John Kinory says:

    I do hope she takes action against them for discrimination. And then have them dismissed for falling down on the job.

  12. John Kinory says:

    A Zionist professor at CUNY? She must feel very lonely there.

  13. and now it starts-Jews being singled out, what next yellow star’s of David? And if you ask the TSA, they’ll tell you that they are just following orders-sound familiar

  14. The woman in the niquab could very well have been carrying explosives.

  15. here we go- hang on to your talisim!!

  16. unbelievable and disgusting

  17. Carole Rubin says:

    Definitely outrageous, Jerry!!!!

  18. Time to head home people xx

  19. Gil Gilman says:

    Locally the TSA is known as the Terrorist Scissors Assistants. This was told to me by one of their employees. The U. S. Diplomatic policy is seen in this microcosm. In addition, the brightest bulbs on the planet do not illuminate their thinking apparatus.

  20. JB Cat says:

    I've read JP many times in airports … in Charlotte, Atlanta, and Europe, and nobody has bothered me. Must be one of those New York things. JP endorsed the marxist De Blasio for mayor, and it looks like your chickens are starting to come home to roost. (I won't be reading JP anywhere but online now because I did not renew my subscription to the print version after that foolhardy endorsement.)

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