Abdur-Rahim Jackson is an American dancer, touring with the Alvin Ailey dance troupe. He's also black, and engaged to a woman in the troupe who's Jewish and has family in Israel.
They made a stop in Israel: Ben Gurion airport. A security officer had a problem with Mr. Jackson's name.
Not "Jackson." The Abdur-Rahim part.
That's a Muslim name, you see. Apparently the Israeli security officer didn't believe Mr. Jackson's story: that he was a dancer and traveling with the Alvin Ailey dance troupe.
The situation in brief:
- Trying to get into Israel:
- A black man from America
- Traveling with a dance troupe
- Whose members insisted that he was a dancer and a member of their troupe
- And had programs and photos to prove it
- Protecting Israel from guys with funny names:
- A security officer proving that no system is fool-proof
Mr. Jackson danced.
Then another security officer came along. She wanted to see Mr. Jackson dance, too.
Eventually, Mr. Jackson was allowed into Israel.
Airport officials didn't apologize: they said that they didn't have to, because they hadn't gotten a formal complaint.
Abdur-Rahim Jackson's Israeli hosts apologized: as I would have, if a guest of mine had encountered a deranged customs agent on the way here, or been forced to perform a Charlie Chan imitation.
American dignitaries apologized to him, too. I'm not quite sure why.
Mr. Jackson said that the apologies he received, from people who had nothing to do with the airport Keystone Cops nincompoopery, were "enough for me."
Hats off to Mr. Jackson and his hosts. It's nice to read about people who have class.
As for the nitwits at Ben Gurion airport, I sincerely hope that they are re-assigned to positions better suited to their abilities.
Mr. Jackson's been through this sort of thing before, in the Dominican Republic.
Here's a Radical Idea: Watch Out for Real TerroristsI understand Israel's need to be very careful. About people who want to kill Jews.
That's one reason why I'm so upset about this fiasco.
While those incredible security officers were making some black guy with a funny name dance, a real terrorist might be trying to get in through Ben Gurion international airport.
And, with two of Israel's security officers obsessing over some black American dancer's well-documented claim to be a black American dancer, the odds of a real terrorist getting through were just a little better.
Not, I fear, that having those two acting like real security people would probably make much difference.
'Profiling' Isn't the Problem: Fools in Responsible Positions is the ProblemI don't fault Israeli security for being particularly aware of people with Arabic names. Like it or not, from Osama bin Laden, Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif, and Ayman Al-Zawahiri, to Abdullah Azzam, Abdulla Ali, Samir Kantar, and lesser functionaries, the most active terrorists these days tend to have Arabic names.
It's called 'profiling,' and some regard it as horrific: but it does make some sense. If the world was threatened by bomb-throwing, radical Lutherans, it would make sense to be on the lookout for tall, blue-eyed people with blond hair and names like "Johnson."
On the other hand, what those two dunderheads at Ben Gurion airport did was worse than ridiculous. It was dangerous.
It's one thing to be particularly vigilant, when someone who might cause trouble tries to get past a checkpoint. Think of it this way: wouldn't you be a little extra-careful about someone trying to get into an NAACP convention: named Bubba; with "white power" tattooed on his neck; even if he didn't have a bulge under his jacket?
It's quite another matter to ignore documentation and testimony, wasting time with two dance performances. Particularly when real terrorists may have been at work while that priceless pair of security officers made a black guy dance.
I sincerely hope that whoever is in charge of security at Ben Gurion deals with those two alternatively-capable security officers. Then, find out how they got their jobs in the first place: and try to keep blunders like that from happening again.
In the news:
- "U.S. artist 'made to dance' by Israeli security"
Reuters (September 10, 2008)
- "Renowned U.S. Dancer Ordered to Perform at Israeli Airport to Prove Identity"
FOXNews (September 9, 2008)
- "American performer: Israeli security made me dance"
Associated Press (September 9, 2008) "Black Performer: Israeli Security Made Me Dance"
- "Dancer hops to it in Tel Aviv to prove he's with troupe, not terrorists"
New York Daily News (September 9, 2008)
- "If you want to enter Israel, dance"
Yedioth Internet (September 8, 2008)
Time.com (September 9, 2008)