Photo Credit: Joan L. Roth
Dr. Phyllis Chesler

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.

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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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email:


  1. Everyone traveling needs to have a copy of the Jewish Press. Drive the TSA crazy. Has this article been sent to all the major Jewish organizations? The JP, or someone, should send it as a press release demanding Jewish organizations respond. There must be push back for this. We are too quiet.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Outrageous! Such irony for someone who has experienced being segregated as a women in an Afghan seraglio as a young American bride of the scion of a wealthy Afghan family and later fought against Ilslam denigrating women's rights including putting them in a virtual isolation chamber such as the Niqab. The incident should basis for filing a complaint with the TSA and get the two security screeners reprimanded. Now we know how deep the DHS has been penetrated by anti-Semites and philo- Islamics. But then who does DHS have as both Assistant Secretary of Policy and a member of their Advisory Council, Arif Alikhan and Mohammed Elibiary. Q.E.D

  5. 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.

  6. 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.)

  7. Sara you are absolutely right! Especially your sentence: 'We are too quiet'. This is at the very knub of our problem. Too afraid to put our heads above the parapet; fear of what, anti-Semitism??? Well, we have it anyway, thinly veiled as anti-Israel/Zionism. So we might as well shout and maybe be heard. I am in the U.K. but I will send the article to as many people as I can. Let's get real and face reality.

  8. That's something many of us, especially non-Jews, don't understand. Many of us treat anti-Semitism as if it's no big deal. It only affects Jews, right? Well, in this case, a couple low-level security agents could have cost hundreds if not thousands of people their lives because of their own racist views. There is no such thing as benign racism and this is just a small example of how ignoring anti-Semitism threatens everybody, not just Jewish people. There is no such thing as a harmless racist.

  9. i think the TSA at JFK and Newark Liberty airport are now trying to listen to lies from Islamic people flying out of airports saying that person is a terrorist or a threat who is jewish is a lie a very big LIE.. that woman who had a naqib cover on face is against security regulations in airports I don't care where it is. they were protecting her and I suspect may be a suicide bomber or a terrorist going on a place to its destination. its time for americans to say stop this is America period

  10. This story is striking because the TSA people could only have been responding to Ms. Chesler's publicly revealed ideology and religion. And their ignorance of a clear security risk is just as striking. All of these comments speak about a woman in a Niqab, but we don't know if it was a woman at all. The only thing we can be sure of is that it was a human being. (Roughly).
    On the other hand, the degree of ignorance among TSA officers is just as surprising. Years ago I was traveling and had my teffilin in one of those hard round cases that IDF soldiers use to carry their teffilin. Not surprisingly it attracted the attention of the guy operating the x-ray machine, and he asked me to open it, which of course I did. I took the teffilin out and explained that I used them when I prayed in the morning. Oh yes, he said, you face Mecca when you do that. I said no, wrong team, those are our cousins. My team faces Jerusalem.
    He was friendly and pleasant and I think a little happier that he was dealing with the Jerusalem team and not the Mecca team. I was a little worried he was going to try to make me open up the teffilin themselves, but he didn't, and then sent me on my way. I don't travel with that kind of case any more.

  11. The only thing more alarming about the rising open hostility to Jews is the denial by educated, sophisticated people around the world, especially in the US, that it is happening… especially as it has already happened once and was brought to a horrific conclusion that shocked the world. In the US, American Indians STILL can't get Americans to face and accept the real truth and horror of what really happened to us, and continued to happen to the children, up to the 1980's in the boarding schools. We all have to keep fighting anti-Semitism as strongly as possible…. put it back in the faces of those who don't want to acknowledge it exists.

  12. I have know doubt that ignorant TSA agents put Phyliss Chesler through a search because of the Jewish Press she was reading. However, I find it difficult to believe another woman wearing a niqab "sailed through" without being checked. I have extensively traveled throughout the world and even in Arab countries any women wearing a niqab was checked and had to raise her covering to make sure she was who she was supposed to be.

    There have been cases throughout the United States where women wearing niqab were required to have pictures taken for drivers licenses and passports and it has been legally ruled on they must comply. If Phyliss Chesler or anyone else saw the women wearing the niqab sail right through they should have said something. I certainly would not have boarded a flight that the woman was on until she was checked!

  13. Those of us in the Counter Jihad movement are not surprised. This administration has shredded any reference to Islamic terrorism in all of their training manuels at the FBI, CIA, military, and local law enforcement. That is why the Ft. Hood shooting was described as "workplace violence:. The new enemy for this administration are Jews, Christians, and Conservatives. We now have a target on our back.

  14. Dear Professor Chesler, what do you think is the most important issue of a Jewish woman? The answer is MODESTY. Why? Because if you are not, men look at you and you have to pay in heaven for each look times 70 years.

  15. If a Muslim wanted to bring something deadly onto an airplane would he be more likely to succeed carrying a Koran and wearing a keffiyeh or wearing a kipa and carrying the Jewish Press? The security agents obviously understand this. I am not sure if I am serious or not. I think not, but who knows?

  16. Don't feel too bad – – I know just how you do feel though.

    I am a Christian that reads the Jewish Press here in Florida and I also read the Jerusalem Post in Ivreet. … I do this at my local McDonalds lunchtime as I want to learn Ivreet so I can come visit Israel soon. … I have had local JEWISH people report me to the police and have been questioned about my 'weird habit.' – – Other people here just see a foreign alphabet and assume I am a Muslim terrorist

  17. I love Sylvia Schapira's comment – – right on the mark!

    Jews get pushed around because they let people do it to them and they try to 'hide' from the hatred by keeping a low-profile.

    If I were a Jew I would wear a bright yellow star of David. … And carry a fully loaded AK-47 (or perhaps an Uzi would be better)? . . . Take my Chai? Over my dead body!

    Stand UP and be proud that you are Gods Chosen people – – Amen!

  18. If simply possessing JEWISH might, according to the Author, cause not providing a service paid in advance for, what income-creating job opportunities would expect Jewish in the modern US?

    In Australia, one is definitely immune to such news for the Americans.

    Michael Kerjman

  19. Haha no, I've got more. I just don't waste too much time on stuff like this. You see, it only took me a second to read 2 words into your comment to realize your ignorance.

  20. I think it was the water bottle was the red herring, that really brought Ms. Cheslerr to their attention.
    They probably thought that the Jewish newspaper was just a ruse.
    When they saw the water bottle after scanning her suitcase, she was most likely immediately under their intense scrutiny.
    Everybody is really uptight about Sochi.
    There was a security bulletin about bombs in toothpaste tubes.
    For the record, I'm not a big fan of the TSA.

  21. Kennon Breeding perhaps I was correct when I said you were an ignorant idiot, after all Ha Ha is 2 words and not 1. I have a strong feeling that you troll the internet trying to point out mistakes just so it makes the very little kennon stand up!

  22. I use to be a FA…….there is NO WAY that I would let the on MY plane looking like that with that garb on and no way to view if they have weapons or whatever……this is absurd…..and you are right…..We have a Muslim in the WH who is letting the terrorists inside the WH and America……that is who we start with!

  23. You are exactly right. She caused the incident by trying to bring a bottle of water into the airport, which is not allowed for many years. Then she says it's because of all sorts of other things.

  24. TSA will conduct a thorough investigation to any complaint, and respond including video. If this happened, why didn't she file a complaint? That's right, because this is a convoluted story mixing different incidents and conjecture.

  25. A worse thing happened to the author of Thomas The Tank Engine. When he made a quip after a woman in full face vail sailed through security in front of him without being checked, the muslim security agent took him to a room and abused him until his flight was about to board. The fact that these incidents happen at airports, the most known target of terrorists, is not coincedental.

  26. I am sorry to say this , but many of the Jewish Organizations would be me upset if this happened to a Muslin than a Jew. where were the Jewish organizations 20 years ago in Crown Heights.? Self preservation is not one of the strengths of the Jewish people.

  27. As a former law enforcement officer, I've conducted research on how terrorists and criminals alike dress like Muslim women to escape manhunts, escape from prisons, and commit crimes. This is a very well documented tactic and we almost routinely see more cases popping up at far too regular intervals. I've heard of Muslims not being checked at airports in the UK but this is the first time I've heard about it here in America. If you want to prevent terrorist problems at airports, just ask the experts-the Israeli's

  28. Thank you Adam C. Sieracki. Some people aren't able to realize that the world isn't perfect and YES some airport securities aren't the same. Some airports are more afraid of being racist and actually let these women walk on through without checking them as thorough as others because they don't want to profile Muslims or get accused of segregation. Sad but true! Thanks for sharing this Adam C. Sieracki.

  29. Wow Edward, read my comment a few more times and maybe your old ass will finally understand. I said 2 words into YOUR comment, not mine! Ha ha was part of my comment. My reason to stick up for this woman in the article stems from my experience in 8 years of Army service during this "war on terror". I know first hand how these Muslim women are treated. Were so afraid to mess with their culture knowing the women have to cover up and they don't want men to touch them. Were so afraid of being the bad guys. Hearts and minds, hearts and minds!

  30. And no I don't troll the internet. This is the first time commenting on a site like this. I just got out of the army and only now have I found the time to comment like this. Your my elder and I normally respect old people like you. In this case, I see that you are too quick to call this woman a liar and I found that offensive. I have personally dealt with Muslim women and for the most part they are very good people but I do know that they do get a free pass in a lot of situations because of there cultural beliefs.

  31. If this INTERROGATION had happen with me I probably would be in jail. I can not stand most of TSA personal in several big airports across the country. The only good ones I found so far are at the TULSA, OK airport.

  32. "The woman who sailed through without being stopped was dressed in a niqab."

    Yet more proof that our 'security' apparatus is not about security at all. It is about control and domination. The very people we were so worried about that we spent billions of dollars, millions of man-hours and loss of personal freedom on sail through as though they are not the threat. Dismantle the American Stasioso immediately – they are of no value in a free country.

  33. Edward Lobel – Well Edward, you've just called three other people 'ignorant' because you don't agree with them, illustrating beyond a shadow of a doubt why Kieth's statement, " The Politics of the Man in the White house, is the basis of all the OTHER problems in our Nation today," is correct. If left to folks like you, those of us who disagree with your Marxist/socialist/humanist philosophy would be shipped off to 're-education' camps where we would be trained to also love your 'enlightened' world-view. I don't want some… and neither do many of your neighbors and countrymen.

  34. William Powell When you are wrong and make a truly ignorant statement like the President of the United States is a terrorist, of course it will be pointed out. If you think otherwise than you too are an ignorant fool. Thing is now everyone will know just how ignorant you are.

    Furthermore just because you say something is correct does not make it so. I think it is people like you who make things really bad in the United States and Israel because you simply do not know what you are saying and what you say has no basis in fact, Face it you are simply hate the Man in the White House and will agree to anything that you think will make him look bad, and you have the nerve to say bad things about the people who disagree with you? So now who is an ignorant idiot? Perhaps you should think about what you say before you say it and then some one, may believe something that comes out of your bigoted mouth! It is extremely obvious that you have no idea of what a maxist or a socialist or a humanist is as marism and socialism are mortal enemies and have very little in common. You think you can throw terms around and people will think you know what you are talking about, but it just continues to show how ignorant you really are!
    For you to say that many of my neighbors and countrymen do not believe in what I say is only more evidence of just how ignorant and do not believe in the truth. Remember President Obama won too elections to the Presidency and the second one in a LANDSLIDE, so just keep on thinking you know what you are talking about and anyone who believes in the real facts will simply continue to refer to you as exactly what you are: AN IGNORANT IDIOT!

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