Australian Eurovision delegate held by Israeli security

May 27, 2019 by J-Wire
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An Australian who was part of the Estonian delegation at Eurovision was held by and questioned by security for 70 minutes at Ben Gurion airport as he was about to head home to Melbourne.

Liam Clark at an official party in Tel Aviv. Photo by Anni Rahula

The authorities retained his laptop before he was permitted to leave the country and questioned as to why he had visited Qatar for a day in 2016.

Liam Clark was pulled out of the line checking in to leave Israel to head home to Australia.
He was taken to the side and asked dozens of questions such as why wasn’t he with anyone? Who was he with? Why was he with Estonia? Who was he representing?
Liam is the head of press for Estonian Public Broadcasting and he believes he was stopped by Israeli security leaving Israel for a number of reasons. During the initial 70 minutes of questioning which Liam says was not harsh stating the security who checked his bags seemed both apologetic and sympathetic.
Liam visited Qatar in 2016 after flying on Qatar Air and made a brief visit with a friend from the Netherlands. “It’s a super uneventful story”, Liam said.
Liam chose flights to Israel with Air Jordan to and from Amman and he did not feel that either of those incidences was why he was stopped by Israeli security.
During the 70 minutes of questioning, Liam had all sorts of proof, documentation, press packs, photos and other evidence that he was working with Estonia. He felt tired and emotionally fragile and felt that “it didn’t seem to be enough proof.”
When he was finally taken to the check-in counter, three staff members at the check-in recognised him asking questions about Eurovision, Estonia and they all talked about Eurovision while security checked his bags. “It still didn’t feel like there was enough proof”, Liam stated
During the questioning Liam still had his phone and officials from Estonia know what was happening.
During the second round of questioning, Liam felt intimidated by a young woman drilling him.. He was questioned about everything including about Qatar and then they took his laptop. Liam later found out that his laptop would be sent back to him the following morning after passing an examination. “I was very relieved when I received the tracking number.”
This was all at midnight in Israel, and he was exhausted. He said: “I had a brilliant time in Israel and was not treated like this when I entered the country.
It was more about how rude and intimidating the girl was to me. I was not mad that the security had to happen, it was how they did it and again reiterated the one girl in question, while the others had seemed to be both apologetic and sympathetic. “
Since then journalists from Israel have been in touch with Liam and have let him know that while they understand that security was a necessity, it did not have to be like that.
Tomi Rahula,  Head of Delegation for Estonia to the European Broadcasting Union, has sent an official letter of complaint.
“A lot of people have reached out to me to apologise. I’m a weird nerd basically. It seemed odd that I was a target and that it was so prolonged, Liam said. “However I feel that Israel did a pretty good job at the Eurovision and I loved the felafel it was the best and it was so cheap.”
Liam works as Head of Press for the Estonian Public Broadcasting for Eurovision and he has been asked back for next year where he believes it will be held in Rotterdam.
Liam studies in Estonia, and wrote a blog reporting on countries in Eurovision, and fell in love with Estonia. He has a Masters in Journalism.
Israel’s financial The Globes newspaper reported: “‘Instead of writing a post about a wonderful two weeks that I had in Tel Aviv, I’m writing about a terrible experience that I had at the airport on the way home.’ This is what the head of the Estonian delegation to the Eurovision Song Contest, Liam Clark from Australia, wrote to Channel 13 correspondent Amir Kotler on his way home.”
The paper published a long piece questioning Israel’s treatment of passengers by security at Ben Gurion.
The paper stated that other participants in Eurovision including one of Madonna’s dancers were also held up for lengthy questioning even though they were carrying Eurovision insignia.
The paper wrote: “The insult is taken personally and cuts deep and compels people to express their frustration. This includes people here on vacation who happened to have visited a neighbouring country, business passengers who as part of their jobs have visited an ‘enemy’ country, or just a tourist who arouses suspicion for this or that reason – either when entering or especially when leaving. Some of them decide, “we won’t come back to Israel.”Experts believe that it is very difficult to repair the damage to Israel’s image created by the impression left on such tourists who had a great time until they came to the airport to leave. Are the security procedures at Ben Gurion airport spoiling the tourist industry for everybody or are they a source of pride for a small country forced to cope with the uncompromising threats, which surround it?”

Israel Security Association CEO Pini Israel Schiff said: “We cannot compromise on security issues, and yes even if somebody gets insulted on the way.”

Comments

One Response to “Australian Eurovision delegate held by Israeli security”
  1. Liat Kirby says:

    Still, it’s the rudeness and attitude of the young woman he mentions (during second bout of questioning) that’s the point here. Completely unnecessary. Totally understand the need for caution, but not rudeness. I’ve experienced it myself, under very different circumstances, and it was a woman who was offensive.

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