Following Supreme Court petition: Israeli security guards to halt use of racial profiling to pull Arab passengers off public bus at hospital entrance

During Supreme Court hearing, Israeli authorities revealed official police procedure included checking passengers for 'suspicious indicators', which apparently included ethnic and racial indicators associated with Arabs.


Security guards will halt their practice of pulling Arab passengers off public buses at the entrance to a major Israeli medical center in the south of the country, following a 27 January 2020 Israeli Supreme Court hearing on a petition against the discriminatory and racially-motivated practice filed by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, and the Israel Religious Action Center’s Racism Crisis Center.


Security guards at Barzilay Medical Center in Ashkelon were stopping the public No. 18 buses at the entrance to the hospital and demanding that passengers with an “Arab appearance” present their identification cards. If the passengers were not citizens of Israel, they were forced to get off the bus and wait outside until the bus completed its route through the hospital grounds.


A security guard questioning an Arab passenger on the #18 bus at the entrance to Barzilay Medical Center in Ashkelon. (Video screengrab courtesy of ACRI)


The Supreme Court petition, filed when the discriminatory practice was revealed, argued that racial profiling based on Arab passengers’ ethnicity creates a degrading and insulting experience, and labels individuals as dangerous simply because of their national and ethnic identity.


A security guard questioning an Arab passenger on the #18 bus at the entrance to Barzilay Medical Center in Ashkelon. (Video screengrab courtesy of ACRI)


The Supreme Court justices, presided over by Chief Justice Esther Hayut, criticized the hospital's conduct.


"How did they create such a situation?" Justice Uzi Vogelman wondered during the hearing.


After Israeli state representatives presented the justices with an alternative confidential temporary procedure, Justice Hayut stated that "the suspicious indicator that caused the difficulties has been removed from the previous procedure" and the suspicious indicators are now "neutral."


Justice Hayut noted that the procedure did not specifically include the word "Arab", but there is more than an indication that the security guards' practice did include elements of racial profiling.


Adalah Attorney Sari Arraf and ACRI Attorney Anne Suciu issued a statement following the Supreme Court's decision:


"Alongside putting a halt to the specific practice conducted at Barzilay Hospital, the court is expected to consider secret procedures in order to confirm that racial profiling has ceased. The fight against profiling will continue so long as there are no definitive norms under which Israeli state authorities or any of their affiliates are permitted to differentiate between people according to their racial or ethnic origins."


Adalah Attorney Sari Arraf (center) at the Israeli Supreme Court hearing on the bus #18 case on 27 January 2020. (Photo by Adalah)


The Israeli Supreme Court has obligated state authorities to update them within 90 days regarding progress in formulating a permanent procedure that will not include racial profiling.


CLICK HERE to read the Supreme Court petition [Hebrew]

CLICK HERE to read the Supreme Court decision [Hebrew]


Case Citation: HCJ6097/19, Adalah et al. v. Barzilay Medical Center et al.