A pregnant Arab-Israeli journalist protested earlier this week after she was asked to take her bra off in a security search for a government cocktail party. The Israeli government press office has apologized for what's being called (awkwardly) Bra-Gate.
At a government event for press on Tuesday night where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in attendance, attendees had already provided in advance names and identity details for clearance. Al-Jazeera news producer Najwan Simri Diab walked out after a long ordeal that included stripping down to her "undershirt and trousers," according to Israeli paper Yediot Achronot:
But the extensive security check did not end here, and she was later asked to remove her bra. "After she examined the bra under my undershirt, she asked me to take it off as well. I asked why, but she insisted. Her supervisor came over later and insisted as well. I refused, and she said, 'Everyone removed it and so will you.' I said, 'I'm not taking it off even if I can't go in.' And she said, 'So you won't go in.'"
Her male colleagues from other national origins also complained of the process — the Wall Street Journal's Charles Levinson was asked to strip, and a veteran Israeli press photographer, Menahem Kahana, was asked to take off his pants. "I refused and told them I was going to leave, but the security man said I was in the middle of 'a security process' and could not leave. They simply went crazy."
Security searches — to enter just about any public institution and lots of private ones — are a part of daily life for everyone in Israel, though Arabs who live or work in the country are often subjected to particularly invasive searches. Simri Diab told Haaretz she believed she had been singled out for being Arab and working for Al Jazeera, and that there was a separate line for Arab journalists and all others.
Writing on an Al Jazeera blog, Simri Diab's co-worker Sherine Tadros noted one twisted irony: "As female journalists working in this region we constantly find ourselves putting clothes on to please Hamas and taking them off to please the Israelis." She added that this case, while high-profile, was not atypical. "So I say well done Najwan, for –- at least once -– rejecting this notion and pointing out that underwire is not a threat to Israel's national security."
Israeli Press Office Apologizes For Bra-Gate [NYT]
After Reporter Made To Remove Bra For Security Check, Foreign Press Threatens To Boycott Israel [Haaretz]
GPO Apologizes For Bra-Gate Incident [JPost]
Shin Bet Says Everyone Removes Bra [Yediot]