I've mentioned before that I have a Persian uncle. He immigrated here more than forty years ago, went through the process of getting his citizenship and has been a testament of the benefits of a strong immigration program can be for the nation. He has multiple degrees, owns his own business, has never even gotten so much as a traffic ticket and is loved in his community.
He also cannot fly anywhere without being harassed simply because he is a Muslim with an identifiably Middle Eastern name. A 24 hour turnaround to Las Vegas during the Christmas holidays turned into being detained, strip searched on both ends of the trip and hours of humiliation, because my uncle didn't think to bring luggage for such a quick trip. This is the reality for many Muslims in the US.
So when stories came forward that Palestinian filmmaker Emad Burnat was detained at LAX when he arrived for the Academy Awards, I wasn't particularly surprised. This is what we do in a post-9/11 world:
My wife and I had seen that look before -- on the faces of our kids, mostly. After all, like all Palestinian children living in the West Bank, ours have grown accustomed to the humiliation of ID checks and interrogations.
But we had never seen our youngest son, Gibreel, as disappointed as he was on Tuesday, when American immigration officials threatened to deny us entry to the United States and to the 85th Academy Awards for which we had traveled two days to attend.
As my friend and fellow filmmaker Michael Moore, who intervened to help secure my entry, tweeted after the episode: "Apparently the Immigration & Customs officers couldn't understand how a Palestinian could be an Oscar nominee."
Well, I am an Oscar nominee. But more to the point, my film, 5 Broken Cameras -- which chronicles my village Bil'in's nonviolent struggle to resist Israeli occupation -- is about precisely the kind of humiliation my family and I experienced at Los Angeles International Airport. The only difference is that the victims where I come from number in the millions, and our stories have become so routine that what happened to my family and me yesterday pales by comparison.
This is a sad statement on our own ridiculous notions of Homeland Security, a worthy subject for any journalistic enterprise. But that's not the lede that Buzzfeed's Ben Smith wanted to take. Rather than look at racial profiling and how we're devolving as a country for a faux sense of security, Smith decided the better headline was to make fun of fellow filmmaker Michael Moore, who Burnat contacted for assistance. And even then, his reporter Tessa Stuart couldn't get the story right:
In statements made exclusively to The Atlantic Wire, Michael Moore and Emad Burnat say the Palestinian filmmaker's detainment by LAX customs officials on his way to the Oscars was anything but a "publicity stunt," as a deeply flawed BuzzFeed report based on a single anonymous source characterized the incident. "BuzzFeed is trying to spin their way out of this," Moore said in an interview on Tuesday evening, "and they're just running the talking points from the customs officials there at LAX." [..]