Israel Apologizes To Lynsey Addario

Today’s New York Times “The Lede” blog contains this story about Lynsey Addario — a Westport native and Staples graduate:

Israel’s Defense Ministry apologized on Monday for forcing a pregnant New York Times photographer to remove her clothes and submit to a physical search after she had already passed through an X-ray machine three times at a checkpoint in Gaza last month.

The photographer, Lynsey Addario, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning war photographer who was one of four Times journalists subjected to brutal treatment in March after being captured by Libyan government forces and held for six days.

Lynsey Addario

In a letter to the Israeli ministry last month, Ms. Addario wrote that soldiers at the Erez Crossing in northern Gaza had treated her with “blatant cruelty” when she arrived there on Oct. 24 and asked not to have to pass through the X-ray machine. Because she was seven months pregnant at the time, she had been advised by her obstetrician to avoid exposure to radiation.

Ms. Addario had phoned an official at the border crossing in advance to make her request and had been assured that there would be no problem. When she arrived at checkpoint, however, she was told that if she did not pass through the X-ray machine, she would have to remove all of her clothes down to her underwear for a search. To “avoid the humiliation,” Ms. Addario decided to pass through the X-ray machine.

“As I passed through,” she wrote, “a handful of soldiers watched from the glass above the machine smiling triumphantly. They proceeded to say there was a ‘problem’ with the initial scan, and made me pass through two additional times as they watched and laughed from above. I expressed each time that I was concerned with the effect the radiation would have on my pregnancy.”

She added:

After three passes through the X-ray, I was then brought into a room where a woman proceeded to ask me to take off my pants. She [asked me to lift] up my shirt to expose my entire body while I stood in my underwear. I asked if this was necessary after the three machine checks, and she told me it was “procedure” – which I am quite sure it is not. They were unprofessional for soldiers from any nation.

In an e-mail to the head of Israel’s government press office on Monday, the Defense Ministry wrote that, after “a deep and serious investigation into the matter of Ms. Addario’s security check last month,” it had concluded that her request to avoid the machine had not been passed on to the security officials at the checkpoint because of “faulty coordination between the parties involved.”

Lynsey Addario at work

Although the statement said, “We would like to apologize for this particular mishap in coordination and any trouble it may subsequently have caused to those involved,” the ministry dismissed Ms. Addario’s concern about radiation. “The relevant machine is situated at numerous borders and airports across the world and presents no danger for those who use it,” the statement said.

The ministry added that although the search “was carried out according to the accepted security procedure,” officials have “decided to hone the procedure for foreign journalists.”

Ethan Bronner, the Jerusalem bureau chief of The Times, said in response to the statement:

The Times remains shocked at the treatment Lynsey Addario received and shocked at how long the investigation has taken since our complaint was lodged a month ago. The careless and mocking way in which she was handled should not be considered accepted security procedure. We welcome the announcement by the Defense Ministry of plans to hone that procedure.

In a message posted on Twitter on Monday night, Ms. Addario’s husband, Paul de Bendern, referred to the incident as one of “terrible humiliation for my pregnant wife.”

Ms. Addario’s experience came nine months after a pregnant Arab-Israeli journalist working for Al Jazeera was denied entry to a cocktail party hosted by the Israeli government because she agreed to take off some of her clothes for a security check but refused to remove her bra. Before the same event, other journalists, including the bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal, were also strip-searched.

52 responses to “Israel Apologizes To Lynsey Addario

  1. just what Israel needs, more bad press.

  2. I don’t fully believe this story. I travel to Israel just about every year with small and large groups. I have never seen disrespectful behavior by any Israeli soldier or border representative. The security checks utilize incredible technology, superior to those in the United States. Profiling is utilized prior to getting to any x-ray machine. I myself would be suspicious of a very pregnant woman crossing through the terrorist-run Gaza Strip. I take the government at its word that there was a breakdown in communication and they did not expect her there.
    I certainly do not believe that the soldiers were mocking her as she crossed the x-ray machine three times. And I certainly believe that the check she underwent afterwards was due to the machine not giving a conclusive answer.
    Ask any Jewish mother in Westport if her son/daughter would mock a pregnant woman. These soldiers all have Jewish mothers who raise them in the same way we raise our children. This story is sensationalist. Our children, placed in the same capacity as these young Israeli soldiers (ages 18-21) would be respectful, would protect themselves, and would do the right thing.

    • Not at all surprised

      Why in the world would such a well respected reporter lie about such a thing? Plus, it is clear that other reporters from other agencies have endured similar humiliation. Having travelled to Israel and been hassled recently myself, I’m not surprised at all. I had my bags searched piece by piece, thrown carelessly back in, and my toiletries confiscated. I’ve seen soldiers aiming guns at 10 year old boys for no reason, so to imagine this treatment of a pregnant woman isn’t a far stretch. It’s very disturbing, disrespectful behavior, and terrible for Israel’s PR.

    • Avi, your refusal to believe this story is just plain bizarre. We’re talking about the behavior of individuals here. The fact that your experience does not match Ms. Addario’s claims means nothing whatsoever.

      • I said I don’t “fully” believe the story. I believe she had to go through the x-ray machine and that she was searched. I do not believe she was mocked by the soldiers. I also do believe the search was done following guidelines, and by a woman. This is not the Canadian-US border. This is the Gaza Strip, source of numerous suicide bombings. I invite you and “not surprised” to join me this March when I’m co-chairing a trip to Israel. we already have 18 mostly-Westport men signed up. If interested, please drop me an email.

        • Blind support of Israel from American Jews (of which I am one) is not good for Israel nor American Jews.

          • Anonymous – I am not giving blind support. I’m expressing my skepticism based on my experiences. I have no doubt she felt humiliated. I am questioning her assertion that she was being intentionally mocked – although she felt that way. The young soldiers were following standard procedure at a very dangerous border with previous suicide bombings. The soldiers probably aren’t even familiar with the New York Times and they’re certainly unaware of who this photographer was. I absolutely fault the army for the bad communication, but not for the conduct of the individual young soldiers. It truly is unfortunate. I hope she visits Israel again and gets to know the wonderful people.

  3. It certainly is unfortunate when people need to undergo humilitation. What the story is missing is why the need for such extreme precaution. There are multiple attempts daily to infiltrate the borders in Israel and we’re not talking about illegal workers – we’re talking suicide bombers who are looking to cause the greatest brutality possible.

  4. Keep this in mind the next time you go through our TSA procedure which many believe to be less safe than other similar procedures.

  5. i don’t know this reporter but, given her credentials, it’s very doubtful that she would embellish such an obviously humiliating experience. I’m impressed by NYTimes standing behind her so blatantly because other employers might prefer to handle the issue less obviously, i.e., so as to keep up good working relations with the government of the soldiers.

  6. No mention of the baby?

  7. Heading to Gaza 7 mos pregnant?
    Sorry but come on…brighten up journalist lady.

  8. Total clusterfuck in that area of the world. Stay home and have your baby, Lynsey and I am sure your father would agree.

  9. Pete, Z & CAS:

    you do realize that there are pregnant women and babies born from those women in Gaza, right?

    • “Those women?” I am not sure I get your point. Lynsey lives in Turkey. Time to go home and take care of herself/baby.

  10. This girl is ridiculous. She continues to put herself in harm’s way and then we’re supposed to all rally around her when the world doesn’t cooperate with her.

  11. as unfortunate as this experience had been for this pregnant reporter, I can’t help but think about the dangers that people of Israel are facing on the daily basis. There were too many incidents of little boys and pregnant women who trapped the suicide belts to their bodies and blew themselves up on crowded streets inside Israel or on checkpoints just like the one described in the article. Let’s not forget who is in charge of GAZA, Hamas government, which is on the US government terrorist list. I would strongly suggest that NY Times would not send pregnant women in the terrorist zone. And if the reporters choose to assume the risk of traveling into the war zone, let’s blame the terrorists who have used their own kids and pregnant woman in the past as suicide bombers, and not the soldiers, who at the risk of their own lives need to utilize unfortunately more invasive tactics to protect themselves and the rest of the Israel civilians

  12. Princeton '82

    I think we have enough problems at home to worry about instead of the continuing saga of discontent and strife in the Middle East which seems never ending and without resolve.

  13. Dear Princeton ’82, I would agree with you 100 percent, however, in the eyes of the terrorist , we are in the US , are the great SATAN. Israel is just the first step in their battle against infidels. So, the idea that if we don’t pay attention to the Middle East, and leave Israel alone to fight against militant Islam, somehow will isolate us from terrorist acts perpetrated in our country, is very much flawed. If Israel was not there to help us strategically , we would have to keep our military in that part of the world to protect our interests there and here at home.

  14. Princeton '82

    We have armed Isreal to the hilt, EG. I am not sure, either, who the terrorists are anymore? The Taliban sure doesn’t want to invade the US and Al Qaeda jumps from country to country. Our best security is to have a prosperous economy which we do not have. Time to focus on the home base.

  15. Princeton ’82 is more right than not but our US economy requires international relations, i.e, if you were suggesting (I don’t think that you were suggesting classic isolationism) we focus on home base more than our strategic international partnerships, it’s not that simple anymore.

    As for the people here suggesting this reporter stay home: I recommend you applaud her contributions to society; If more people were as intelligently involved as she is, international relations would be far improved. She is amazing, and, in this regard, so is her employer.

  16. According to the Haaretz newspaper in addition to the apology , the ministry also said that “the strict security measures that are in place at the Gaza Border are in place to prevent terrorists from entering Israel and harming civilians” . (loose translation by my Israeli friend) You can’t blame the soldiers that they do what they need to do in order to prevent their country”s civilians. Look at the measures we go through in our airports to protect our people, and we have not experienced Intifada to the extent that Israel does every day. As for the reporter, she is amazing, but she also assumes the risk by entering the dangerous zones of the world. The border between Gaza and Israel is that zone. And people do what they need to do in order to protect themselves in the time of war. In discussing the “awful” behavior on behalf of Israeli soldiers, we are forgetting that she was kidnapped and almost killed in Lybia. The difference is that there will be no appology coming from that side, nor do we even expect one.

  17. i’m sure this reporter doesn’t usually complain about soldiers doing rigorous security checks. For her to complain it’s probable that they acted inappropriately. That probability can be presumed even greater knowing that her employer continues to take umbrage in regard to her treatment. no professionals working in conflict zones make complaints easily because complaining tends to inhibits their ability to get additional similarly interesting posts.

  18. Stupid is as stupid does. Both the Israeli commuications and security apparatchiks for not getting it right and Ms Addarioi for putting her unborn child in harm’s way in a war-like zone.

  19. Maybe she should read “Til Tuesday”, a book recently published by an American soldier who guarded the border between Iraq and Syria to understand what it means to dish out abuse at a crossing, as the Americans do…and to be more understanding of the constant stress those soldiers face and the toll it takes on them, mentally and physically. So easy to be an American traipsing through, demanding of rights…

  20. Maybe it would be helpful if the various people posting as Anonymous at least had numbers…you know, Anonymous 2, Anonymous 98.6, something like that. Can’t tell the players as is.

  21. It is absolutely typical of the New York Times and people such as Lynsey Addario to demand an apology from Israeli soldiers doing their job at a border crossing protecting their citizens from Hamas riddled Gaza. Rather, Lynsey and the New York Times should be focused on demanding an apology from the Lybians who subjected her to brutal treatment, punched her in the face, calling her a dog and a donkey. Knowing that the Israelis have to put every person through an x ray machine to confirm that the person is not concealing explosives, why would she expect different treatment and if she did expect them not to have her go through the x ray machine, was she expecting a pat down or a thorough body search? In my view, this woman simply wanted to put the Isaraeli soldiers in a no win situation in order for her to write venemous untruths about Israeli soldiers doing their job effectively and to once again find a way to make Isarael and its Jewish citizenz look like the the bad guy. Lynsey knew precisely what she was doing and what to expect when she walked toward the Eretz border crossing and she did this while 7 months pregnant…she should be ashamed of herself for knowingly putting her child in harms way in order for her to gain notoriety

  22. Jake,
    Great idea. Count me in.
    I have mixed feelings on this one. Pregnant or concealing a bomb? If I’m the border guard, I’m going for certainty. Did our heroine cop an attitude? “Don’t you know who I am? I’m a famous NYT reporter.” Her photo could make her look like a middle easterner, so caution is the best path. I’m going with the border guards on this one. Better safe than sorry.

  23. SP,
    this reporter can expect different treatement at a border she called in to in advance because the government is personally familiar with her and the NYTimes in the area; she and NYTimes have working relations with different governments, and that is what can provide her with different treatment. that’s how it usually works. this time the process didn’t turn out at all well, but usually it does.

    you are fortunate that she and the NYTimes called attention to this behaviour so that it can be remedied before the vulgarity of this behaviour escalates.

  24. Lyle Gunn, M.D.

    “Usually” works doesn’t always work. I wonder what the readership is on these matters? The NYTimes could probably save some of their dire money by NOT sending Lynsey and her colleagues to this God foresaken territory.

  25. Anonymous, this reporter cannot and must not expect different treatment…period. Especially when entering Israel from Gaza..Sorry, but Israeli’s are simply not that naive

  26. SP,

    it’s because of the reporters receiving special treatment that reporting is able to take place from there. you wouldn’t want the world who isn’t immediately familiar with the area to become unaware of what is going on there, would you?

    • The “reporter” works for commercial enterprise. The reporter is not doing charity work, she is trying to sell advertising. Why should one commercial enterprise be favored over another? If the reporter worked for Walmart, would she deserve special treatment?

      • You do know about the ongoing exchange of information between governments & media? The ad dollars help to finance that.

        • Maybe, but we do know that the ad dollars end up in the pockets of the families that own and control the New York Times, as well as their employess, including Addario.

  27. Equal time: let’s see some critiques about the behavior of Israel’s enemies, too. (That can include how they treat people who have an Israeli visa on their passports.) Then we can have a better context in which to measure what Israel does to protect itself against those who would gladly wipe her off the map. Because if they ever get to Israel, you know we’re not far from next.

    • The initial story was about mistreatment by Israeli soldiers; this isnt a playground where everyone necessarily every day gets equal time with the kickball.

      I’m sure that another article about soldiers acting inappropriately in/from another country will post and then the criticism will be of that country’s soldiers.

  28. Anonymous, While I hope that you’re right about sunshine being brought to bear on inappropriate behavior in other countries in the same way and tone that it is directed towards Israel, I tend to doubt that. If my doubts are proven unfounded, I will of course be very pleased.

    • i hope your doubts are proven unfounded in this regard as well. i know that the media, including the NYTimes, also reports on abuses by American soldiers at home and abroad. hopefully this reporter’s experience and it’s publication will remind all governments covered by NYTimes that their soldiers need rest, real time to recuperate, and that all teams within their miliarty need a senior member present at all times. the ‘errors’ that this reporter endured were/are ‘avoidable’.

      • What I would really like to see more of from the NYT and other mainstream media is the same kind of critical attention that they focus on the USA and Israel and other Western countries, focused on places that are unfriendly to us.

        • Palestinians are not unfriendly towards the USA; Palestinians are unfriendly towards USA support of Israel only in so far as it opposes their rights. in meetings that i have attended in which the speaker(s) is israeli and where the attendees are mostly israeli-americans, i have seen the latter completely ignore their alleigance to the USA in favour of their alleigance to israel.

          so please do not group ‘USA and Israel and other Western countries’ in order to draw a coalition in which Palestinians are ‘unfriendly’ towards ‘us’ because aside from USA support of Israeli efforts to subordinate the rights of the palestinians, Israeli-Americans are not in support of USA interests, i.e., Israel is not in support of USA; the current Israel Government is in support of Israel.

          before i get pegged as anti-israeli, let me say that i count one of my closest friends and confidantes as being pro-israel, and her efforts in this regard I provide funding to as well as any other form of support she requests. i would protect her children with my own life.

          that said, she is rigorously criticized by USA-israelis for incessantly championing israel while championing peace and respect between israelis and palestinians. her loyalty to israel actually being questioned because she questions israeli actions versus the palestinians and if they are humane.

          • Maybe it wasn’t, but I thought it was pretty clear that I did not name any one place in particular. You brought up the subject of the Palestinians. As to the Palestinians (or anyone) being unfriendly towards our alliance with Israel, all I can say is, why shouldn’t we be friendly with Israel? They are our allies and friends, for a number of reasons. They also have a right to exist and to defend themselves. Regarding the original incident, Ms. Addario’s experience, it should not have happened and she received an official apology for the incident. As to there being a media bias, a double standard by which the mainstream media judges Israel more frequently and more harshly than most any other country, if you do not see it, I will respect that on this point we simply will not agree.

  29. We can all agree that Lynsey Addario is a stupid bitch then? Great..let’s move on.

  30. Looks like people didn’t follow my advice to add Numbers to their Anonymous tags. Oh well

  31. Brenna Theis

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