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Going beyond Ascribed Identities: The Importance of Procedural Justice in Airport Security Screening in Israel

Authors

  • Badi Hasisi,

  • David Weisburd


  • Please address correspondence to Badi Hasisi, The Institute of Criminology Faculty of Law, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem 91905, Israel; e-mail: hasisi@mscc.huji.ac.il.

Abstract

Today, passengers at every major Western airport are subjected to heightened levels of security screening that not only are inconvenient, but also raise important questions about the treatment of members of specific groups that are seen as presenting special security risks. Our study examines the importance of ethnic identity in explaining perceptions of legitimacy in airport screening among a random sample of Jewish and Arab passengers in Israel. The main hypothesis of our study is that ethnicity will play a major role in predicting passengers’ attitudes toward the airport security process. In fact, our survey shows that Israeli Arab passengers are, on average, significantly more negative regarding the legitimacy of security checks than Israeli Jewish passengers are. However, using a multivariate model, we find that ethnicity (Arab versus Jew) disappears as a significant predictor of legitimacy when we included factors of procedural justice and controlled for specific characteristics of the security process. The results of our research indicate that differences in legitimacy perceptions are by and large the result of the processes used in airport screening and not a direct result of ethnic identity. In concluding, we argue that profiling strategies aimed at preventing terrorism, which often include embarrassing public procedures, may actually jeopardize passengers’ trust in airport security. Such security is dependent on the cooperation of citizens, and heightened security procedures focused on particular groups may compromise legitimacy evaluations and thus the cooperation of the public.

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