Israel airline won’t let Arab board with violin

Israel airline won’t let Arab board with violin


norman lebrecht

July 08, 2016

An Israeli-Arab student at the Barenboim-Said Academy was refused permission to take his violin as carry-on to an El Al flight when he boarded yesterday at Berlin’s Schoenefeld Airport.

Hisham Khoury, 25, says he was told he would have to check in both his backpack and his violin. Neither could be brought into the cabin.

Hisham, an Israeli Arab citizen whose family lives in Haifa, told Haaretz: ‘What order forbids taking a violin on the plane? It’s clear that such an order wouldn’t be given to a non-Arab passenger.’

hisham khoury

Hisham added on his Facebook page:

‘I am writing this post while I am being yet again humiliated by El Al and being deprived from going home like a normal human being.

‘I was first questioned for an hour by a security officer where I had to specify every single action I had done for the past 2 year and asked for my purpose of VISIT as if I don’t live there or don’t have anything with where I’m going to.

‘After a while I asked the officer whether he thought it was just the way I’m being treated just for being an Arab . He said so politely like a well trained puppet “I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but these are the security instructions”.’




  • John Borstlap says:

    A very unpleasant and unjust experience, no doubt. But there are sound reasons for such treatment, as also this student should contemplate. Exactly for these reasons, the Barenboim-Said East-West Divan Orchestra orchestra was set-up.

  • Mark says:

    Is this the first time he has been through El Al security. If so, then he does not know that ElAl’s security is the most intrusive of any in the airline industry … for very good reason. I’m a secular Jew from Brooklyn and I’ve been taken aside for a battery of questions which last at least 10 minutes. Not every trip, but definitely on a few. I think that security was familiar with Crown Heights and disbelieved that there were any secular Jews living there. As to the violin, I guess this musician has not read of any the news stories in the past few years about musicians, their instruments, and air travel.

    It sounds like Hisham has lots of problems with Israel in general. Some of this may have to do with the influence of Barenboim who never passes up the chance to criticize Israel and Israeli policies. He’s most probably transmitting both a sense of entitlement as well as a chip on every shoulder for the student musicians in his orchestra.

    • Robert Holmén says:

      “Is this the first time he has been through El Al security…”

      He makes it clear that this is not his first time and yet you still lead with that?

    • John says:

      The second paragraph of your post is disturbing. You don’t know this man and you weren’t there when this happened. Maybe a good idea to keep those thoughts to yourself.

  • George King says:

    I’m pretty sure he has lots of problems with Israel in general. Who wouldn’t? Read the fine print in his complaint — an hour of questioning (not just 10 minutes), an explanation of his activities over the past 2 years, and questioning the purpose of his ‘visit’ to his home.

  • Neil van der Linden says:

    Whatever Israeli citizens think about their country, Jews or Arabs, or Christian, Jewish, Muslim or secular, the treatment should be equal. This is a case of harassing, it seems, which as it seems would not be the case if the passenger would have been a Jewish Israeli. There are a lot of musicians traveling to and from Israel. That is the bottomline, and I think that is what Norman wants to convey by posting this item.

  • Anon says:

    The numerous complaints published on this blog alone show that he is completely wrong in suggesting that “It’s clear that such an order wouldn’t be given to a non-Arab passenger.”, however.

    • Neil van der Linden says:

      Always reassuring that prople from the outside know better than the person himself, and Haaretz..l

      • George King says:

        I happen to know a few (educated) Palestinian refugees living outside Israel, and their stories about trying to get ‘permission’ from the Israeli authorities to visit their relatives (often parents) in Palestine are horrifying. It’s inhumane, and the whining about terrorism (which is obviously a concern, though through whose fault and perpetrated by whom are other questions) doesn’t provide any comfort to those many law-abiding Palestinians.

        • Ellingtonia says:

          Well I suggest you tell your”educated” Palestinian refugees to advise Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel, abandon the paragraphs in the Hamas Charter which say a) Israel has no right to exist b) all jews should be hunted down and killed. By the way, how many Jewish or Christian suicide bombers have there been in the last 10 years? Now tell me how many Islamic suicide bombers there have been in the last 10 years.
          I once passed through Ben Gurion airport and got the third degree after having spent 3 months in the country teaching, it took some time, systematic questioning but I expected it.
          It seems to me he is doing a needless bit of whining because they won’t let him take his backpack or violin on to the plane.
          And the plight of the Palestinians is in their own hands, but they refuse to negotiate.

          • Neil van der Linden says:

            FYI: the family name Khoury, a staunchly Christian family name, suggests that Hicham Khoury is an Israeli-Arab Christian.

          • V.Lind says:

            Why is his “whining” “needless” while every other violinist who has problems is treated on this blog with sympathy and support? Posts usually criticise the airline or ground staff for officiousness or worse. Is a violin belonging to an Arab orchestral musician presumed by some of you to be made of tougher stuff than those of all other musicians travelling with theirs?

            Of all the airlines in the world, I would have thought El Al would have been capable of checking through a violin case to see that is was, so to speak, kosher.

            The young man was a citizen of their own country, presumably born there, and engaged in an activity that ought to be well-known to them. His complaints were at least as justified as those of other travelling musicians reported here.

        • Dave T says:

          Those annoying Jews, always whining about terrorism (and bitchin’ about stabbings, whinging about shootings and tunnels and rockets, etc.). They need to just get over it and take a couple. It’s a “concern,” sure, but after all there are more important things at stake, like music.

  • Mon coeur s'oeuvre a ta voix says:

    It is clear that everybody has been watching too many American gangster movies. Everybody knows that violin cases only carry machine guns. (Of course, there was also “Yidl mitn Fidl”, starring Molly Picon, posing dangerously as a man . . . )

  • Neil van der Linden says:

    It is predictable, but reassuring to see that whenever Israel is mentioned and there is a hint of criticism somewhere, the Hasbara army catches on and will justify whatever, with the usual mantra, including Hamas, suicide bombers, whatever. People, this guy is an Israeli Arab, and given the family name Khoury a Christian Arab, which should not matter that much by itself, but it indicates that his family probably has been living in the area for centuries, probably before the ascent of Islam. Meanwhile all that the guy asks, and what the Israeli newspaper Haaretz (‘leftist’ as it may be suggests), is to be treated reasonably when traveling with a violin. Anyone traveling with a violin, which can easily be checked, should have that right, but the questioning authorities should so the more be convinced of making things easy, as the violinist is just going home, in Haifa, and is participant in the Barenboim-Said project. Unless one of the reasons behind this all is that officially Israeli politics more and more object to the Barenboim-Said projects, which, given the stances of several members of the Israeli cabinet against peace projects, could very well be the case.

  • Neil van der Linden says:

    Good chance that this blog is being followed by some paid Israeli students? From the Huffington Post: ‘Israel has announced it will pay university students to circulate pro-Israeli information on social media networks, without having to identify themselves as working for the government.’

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Neil, there may be some paid propagandists for all I know. But they are vastly outnumbered by the unpaid ones on the other side.

      • Neil van der Linden says:

        Dear Norman, I was not suggesting yiu are a paid student. However I notice thar every time somerhing appears here that might hint at Israel not acting completely infallible, an amount of people stands up invoking Hamas, suicide bombers, whatever. Including in this case of a fully Israeli citizen wanting ti travel with his violin and being prevented from doing so, for unmotivated reasons.

    • Dave T says:

      So what are you suggesting: that the only way anybody would support Israel is if they are getting paid to do so? that Jews are such money-grubbers?
      Please explain your thinking.

      Note to Norman: have you sent out the checks yet?

  • Mick says:

    It would be tempting to point out that people like the honorable gentleman with a Dutch name posting above used to be on the Kremlin payroll back in the 30s-80s, lending themselves to being useful idiots in the service of Soviet propaganda, and that some of them (or their successors) have since moved on to using the “funds” generously provided for their various activities by the likes of Saudi government for the purpose of promoting islam all over the world, antisemitic venom being spewed as a byproduct in the process. The funny thing about the loony left junk, of which the person in question is such a typical specimen, is however, that it is often enough for them just to have what they imagine to be the “moral high ground”, allowing them to feel good about themselves and look down on anyone else who might differ. Somehow they always manage to take the wrong side, being irresistibly drawn to every imaginable kind of scum. This is of course not to suggest that those folks are above any mercantile interest either, as it varies from case to case.

  • George King says:

    So what’s worse: ‘loony left junk’ or right-wing racism and fascism? This kind of black and white talk (in the sense of clearly defined opposing issues) is been helpful. The fact remains that this musician appears to have been treated unfairly (as Neil van der Linde reminds us) and is entitled to the same treatment — no more nor less — than other, non-Arab, passengers. Otherwise it’s pure discrimination.

    • Mick says:

      Opening your eyes to reality is best, whatever it might be labelled under the circumstances. As has been pointed out numerous times (not on this blog), if we here in the West took a bit more trouble to learn from the way they handle security in Israel, much fewer human lives would have been lost to muslim terrorists.

      • Mon coeur s'oeuvre a ta voix says:

        Problem is, the much-praised Israeli method seems not to have been applied in the present case. The standard test for suspect appliances is to turn them on and see if they work. A check of the case and the playing of a phrase or two from the standard repertory are sufficient to demonstrate that there was no dubious material concealed within either. And they should have known that the man was a Christian, if they were really Israeli-trained security officers. Even Shakespeare knew the difference between Cinna the conspirator and Cinna the poet — it was the mob that didn’t.

      • Mon coeur s'oeuvre a ta voix says:

        Problem is, the much-praised Israeli method seems not to have been applied in the present case. The standard test for suspect appliances is to turn them on and see if they work. A check of the case and the playing of a phrase or two from the standard repertory are sufficient to demonstrate that there was no dubious material concealed within either. And they should have known that the man was a Christian, if they were really Israeli-trained security officers. Shakespeare knew the difference between Cinna the conspirator and Cinna the poet — it was the mob that didn’t.

        • Mick says:

          There has been much talk lately on this blog of people in several countries being denied their musical instruments taken on board with them, involving several different airlines. Yet only in the case of El Al it is being treated as an instance of “racial discrimination” and connections are drawn, as usual, to the Middle East conflict in general. The only info we have on the case is the FB post quoted here and the Haaretz article, written by someone with the same family name (no relation? yeah right…). I don’t find either of them credible enough to be even mentioned here in the first place.

  • George King says:

    Precisely, Mon coeur s’oeuvre a ta voix. Agree totally.

  • esfir ross says:

    Even the Palestinian would convert to Judaism-nothing changed. He’ll be discriminated as Arab race.

  • Jack says:

    After seven years of studying the conflict from abroad, I spent 13 months living in Jerusalem for work in 2002-2003, in the middle of the second intifada (Palestinian uprising). That was the time when busses were blown up very often and Israel would bomb Gaza in response. I wasn’t stuck in a hotel or an office. I was out on the street doing interviews with everyday people from Kiryat Shmona to Eilat and from Jericho to Gaza City, and with leaders like Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Barghouti, Shimon Peres and Ehud Olmert. If I learnt anything from that experience it is that anybody that chooses sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is either misinformed or dishonest. There are good and bad people on both sides. And there are also people with embarrassing amounts of blood on their hands on both sides. Most Israelis and Palestinians can be rather cynical about imposing their own narrative and dehumanising the other side.

    That said, being an Arab in Israel (even one from a Christian family) can be a real nightmare. I saw people stuck for hours in a road block because the Israel military didn’t feel like letting them through, only because they were Arabs. Dealing with El Al is a nightmare for Westerners – I remember a Bolivian reporter that was not allowed to board on two consecutive days in Madrid, apparently because he ‘looked Arab’ to the airline security. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult travelling with them would be for an Israeli Arab.