A member of Estonia’s Eurovision delegation has claimed that he was mistreated while departing Israel at Ben Gurion Airport, and that his was not the only such case.
Liam Clark, an Australian and the spokesman of the Estonian delegation, told Channel 12 news that he was “questioned for 70 minutes” at the departure hall, according to a Hebrew translation of his comments, which were not made available in the original English.
“Then they took me to the security area and went over all my bags. They confiscated my laptop and then questioned me right up to the time I was supposed to board my plane.”
Clark added: “It seemed they were upset that I was an Australian working with the Estonian delegation. And that on my contract, the name of the TV station was written in English, but on my badge it was written in Estonian.”
Clark said that he had heard of a Maltese journalist who was also questioned at length.
“We had the time of our lives in Israel. It was one of the Eurovision events where I had the most fun working — the weather, the people and the food were amazing. It turned from a wonderful trip into never wanting to come back here,” he said.
The Israel Airports Authority said in response that “Over 1,200 official and unofficial Eurovision guests got in and out of Israel in an expedited security screening process…However a suspicious finding in the laptop required an additional security check to rule out any risk to the passengers.”
Security procedures at Ben Gurion have seen rising criticism amid repeated allegations by passengers who say they were subjected to humiliating treatment.
In April, a US activist said she suffered ill treatment and was prevented from boarding her plane with her personal belongings, due to her work in a Jewish-Arab coexistence group.
A number of high-profile cases of Jewish and non-Jewish Israel critics and others being detained and interrogated at the airport over their political views have drawn condemnation.
The attorney general’s office investigated the allegations and has since acknowledged that some Shin Bet and border officials at the borders behaved in ways that did not conform to the legal and policy restrictions.
Channel 12 also reported that BBC reporter Neil Smith, who covered the contest, complained to the Tel Aviv municipality after a local taxi driver charged him NIS 80 ($22) for a short trip, twice the amount he had paid on previous trips.
In a letter, he asked that officials direct him to “the party or authority to whom I can make an official complaint.” He warned that “If I do not hear back from you, I fear I will have no option but to caution my readers against visiting Tel Aviv.”
Smith said that aside from the overpriced cab ride, he had “a very enjoyable and productive visit.”