UK probing complaint after Israelis ‘harassed’ by staff at Heathrow Airport

According to claim, El Al passengers were forced into separate room where officers checked bags; one officer quoted as telling them: ‘I can do whatever I want’

Illustrative: People arrive at Heathrow's Terminal 5 in west London on November 30, 2021. (Adrian DENNIS / AFP)
Illustrative: People arrive at Heathrow's Terminal 5 in west London on November 30, 2021. (Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

The UK’s Home Office is investigating a complaint against Heathrow Airport Border Force staff which alleges that Israeli passengers were “harassed” upon their arrival to the United Kingdom, British media reported Saturday.

According to the complaint filed by UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI), the passengers, who arrived on an El Al flight on Monday, were made to undergo additional baggage checks at customs due to an Israeli flag on a passenger’s luggage, The Telegraph reported.

UKFLI said that after a member of the Border Force noticed the Israeli flag, the group was made to undergo luggage checks in a separate room, leading them to feel “harassed” and subjected to “degrading treatment.”

The passengers had entered the nothing-to-declare lane, the report said.

A passenger told The Telegraph that after the customs official noticed the Israeli flag, he yelled at everyone to “go to the room to the left.”

“One traveler said, ‘Why us?’ The official didn’t reply.  Another traveler said: ‘We are Jewish, why are you doing this to us?’ The official said: ‘I am a customs officer and I can do whatever I want,” the passenger told the daily, adding it was a “horrible feeling” being placed in a separate room.

Passengers walk at Heathrow Airport, in London, May 27, 2023. (AP/Kin Cheung)

“We had to take our luggage off our trolleys and another official put everyone’s cases through the machine. Then we were allowed to leave.”

The Telegraph reported that the Home Office is investigating the incident after the complaint alleged that it was in breach of the Equality Act.

“This matter has been passed to the Home Office professional standards unit and an investigating officer will now investigate the matters you raised about the incident on 10 June 2024, in accordance with the Home Office’s formal complaint procedures,” the Telegraph quoted the Home Office as saying.

Earlier this year, British authorities launched a probe over the treatment of two Israeli brothers, survivors of the Supernova music festival massacre on October 7, after they were detained at Manchester Airport.

The two traveled to England to share their experiences of rescuing other rave-goers and raise awareness for a nonprofit established to help survivors of the October 7 onslaught by Hamas, according to the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Region.

A screenshot of a video clip in which a member of the UK Border Force allegedly harasses two Israeli brothers at Manchester Airport, March 24, 2024. (X video screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The two were questioned for two hours, and upon being released, a Border Force officer told them, “They had to make sure that you are not going to do what you are doing in Gaza over here,” referring to the military offensive Israel launched against Hamas following the October 7 atrocities, according to the council’s complaint over the incident.

Over 360 men and women partying at the Supernova Festival rave close to Kibbutz Re’im near the Gaza border were murdered by Hamas terrorists who invaded Israel on October 7, and dozens of hostages were seized and taken to Gaza.

The terror group killed some 1,200 people in southern Israel, overwhelmingly civilians, and abducted 251 that day in the worst terror attack ever against the country.

British Jews say they have been subject to verbal abuse by some pro-Palestinian supporters since October 7, and there have been recorded incidents of physical violence as well against Israelis displaying posters of hostages held in Gaza.

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