(photo credit: STEVE FITZGERALD/WIKIMEDIA)
German diplomats have said accusations of antisemitism against Kuwait Airways for its practice of refusing Israeli passengers are exaggerated, triggering sharp criticism from the Simon Wiesenthal Center and a German lawyer who sued the airline.
The statement defending state-owned Kuwait Airways was first reported by the Düsseldorf-based business daily Handelsblatt on Monday.
A court in Frankfurt ruled in November that Kuwait Airways was within its rights to refuse service to an Israeli citizen. The Israeli in the lawsuit had booked a flight on Kuwait Airways from Frankfurt to Bangkok.
Katharina Ziegler, a German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, declined to comment on the record in response to a query from The Jerusalem Post addressed to Heiko Maas, the new foreign minister. Maas has promised improved German-Israel relations after the anti-Israel policies of his predecessor, Sigmar Gabriel. Germany’s Foreign Ministry is widely viewed as one of the harshest critics of the Jewish state within Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration. The US- and EU-designated terrorist entity Hamas praised Gabriel in January for terming Israel an “apartheid regime.”
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The Handelsblatt article, authored by Moritz Koch and Daniel Delhaes, alleged that there is little understanding within the Transportation Ministry for Scheuer’s threatened sanctions against Kuwait Airways. The criticism of Kuwait Airways, wrote the paper without sourcing, was termed a “complete farce” by anonymous sources within the ministry.
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German “diplomats told Handelsblatt that relations with an important Arab partner country are being jeopardized for an internal domestic campaign.” The diplomats added that it was problematic that Kuwait Airways refuses to serve Israelis.
According to Handelsblatt, unnamed experts in the Transportation Ministry said if Kuwait Airways is penalized by Transportation Minister Andreas Scheuer, then “He will have to cancel the [aviation] agreements with other Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Iran.” Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Arab states deny service to Israelis.
Nathan Gelbart, the Lawfare Project’s German counsel and the attorney for the Israeli plaintiff suing Kuwait Airways, told the Post
on Saturday that “Handelsblatt is quoting anonymous German diplomats who criticize Minister Andreas Scheuer‘s pressure on Kuwait Airlines as exaggerated, and this quote completely lacks minimal journalistic standards and is not appropriate for comment.”
Gelbart said, “Three federal governmental ministries have clearly condemned Kuwait Airways’ policy of boycotting Israeli passengers departing from German airports, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
He added that “Kuwait Airways is the only airline boycotting passengers in Germany from only one country, even though they’re booked on destinations they hold valid travel documents for: Israelis. Singling out Israelis as a target of discrimination and boycott meets all definitions of antisemitism. Letting this happen in Germany has an especially bitter taste, and fighting this phenomenon is just and right and definitely not exaggerated.”
When asked about the German diplomat’s comment, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the head of the Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Post
“This is clearly a case of a policy rooted in antisemitism. It has already been widely acknowledged that anti-Zionism is a form of antisemitism, and the stance adopted by Kuwait Airlines is clearly another example of this phenomenon.”
Kuwait Airways dropped service between New York and London in 2015 after the US Department of Transportation ordered the airline to cease refusing to transport Israeli citizens between the US and any third country where they are allowed to disembark.
Volker Beck, a Green Party politician, said on Friday, “Anyone who excludes citizens of the Jewish and democratic state from transportation violates anti-discrimination law and transportation law. Anyone who does not recognize this is a part of the problem.”