Straight from the annals of the wildly absurd, we have this lovely tale of a American student named Lily Sussman who had her laptop shot – not once, not twice, but three times – by Israeli Border Police as she attempted to enter the country from Egypt. Who knew that Israel had such a warm welcoming committee at the Taba crossing?
Now in fairness, Israel absolutely has severe security concerns along its borders. And while some may accuse its customs officials of downright draconian behavior, as I imagine Lily "suddenly thrilled it's gifting season" Sussman might, there are real and demonstrable security benefits from the occasional customs inconvenience. Surprisingly, I've almost learned to enjoy these experiences during my various trips to Israel: Guessing which items officials might be drawn toward (Israeli security is notorious for its highly personalized probing); trying to anticipate how their line of inquiry will progress in response to a particular answer; observing the scene to try and predict who among us wary travelers the customs official will choose to delay (my bet is always on the middle-aged single traveler in a suit – probably because I find myself wondering, "why the hell would anyone wear a damn suit to Israel?"); perhaps most fun of all, waiting a good while before divulging my Jewish heritage, and then watching the relief that spreads over the customs official's face once I do (it's one of their most common profiling methods).
Well, maybe "fun" is a bit strong, but you've got to entertain yourself somehow after a 9+ hour flight.
With that said, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how ridiculous and utterly insane it is to shoot a 21-year-old American's laptop! Three times! First of all, I'm no expert on munitions and explosives, but if security officials are afraid that a bomb may be hidden inside a laptop…why wouldn't they simply use one of their fancy, gazillion-dollar scanning machines that they have at every single border crossing? Maybe, you know, also check to see if the laptop even works? The officials reportedly didn't even ask Lily for her password. If there was an explosive inside, it presumably wouldn't have left room for much else, including everything that makes a computer functional. Even more mystifying, they allowed Lily to recover her hard drive, which means that if Israeli security was afraid of dangerous, terrorist information hidden within the laptop's bowels, they displayed a pretty weak effort to "eliminate" the threat.
A deeply strange story all around. Apparently Lily did have photos of the destruction in Gaza from last winter's bombing, as well as passport stamps from several Arab countries, so who knows what the motivation may have been. But I've got a feeling that the picture of her mutilated laptop would be perfect for one of those hard-hitting PC vs. Mac commercials – though I say that with a heavy heart, because I own the very same Mac as the one above that now has a permanent bowling ball grip. God, the horror.
(hat tip: Matt Yglesias)Border Security, Israel, Macintosh, Tourism