Kuwait Airways and Saudi Arabian Airlines have a “no Israelis” rule. That’s right — citizens of the Jewish state are not allowed to fly on these airlines, even if they just want to buy tickets on connecting flights between countries that welcome Israeli passports. Their anti-Semitism is so strong that they would rather cancel prominent flight routes and lose millions of dollars than allow Israelis to fly on their reportedly decrepit planes.
The Lawfare Project, a Jewish civil rights group, has been actively fighting Kuwait’s discrimination in the U.S., Switzerland, and throughout the EU. As a result of our work, Kuwait Airways was forced to cancel its New York – London flight and shut down its entire inter-European route network.
Just a few years ago, then-New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio investigated similarly discriminatory behavior by Saudia. In the years since, de Blasio has run two successful campaigns for Mayor of New York City – and an unsuccessful campaign for President of the United States – but he seems to have forgotten about this issue. To this day, planes flying to Kuwait City and Riyadh – and then onwards to third party destinations – take off and land at New York’s JFK airport with impunity. This is Islamist discrimination in our own backyard.
This all goes back to the Arab League Boycott, which is based on classic anti-Semitism. The boycott was intended to isolate Israel and prevent the fledgling Jewish state from reaching its full economic potential. It failed, and nearly all countries and companies in the Arab world have moved on and ended their participation, either formally or practically. These two airlines, however, are still living in 1973 – and we’re not just talking about their aircraft.
Refusing to fly Israelis is more than just a stupid business decision – it’s illegal. Specifically, the Airline Deregulation Act prohibits foreign air carriers from engaging in unreasonable discrimination, and U.S. federal anti-boycott law forbids refusals to do business with Israelis in furtherance of the Arab League boycott. American companies like Expedia help enforce this illicit policy by selling tickets and then cancelling them if a customer provides an Israeli passport number, at times having the chutzpah to tack on a cancellation fee. The Lawfare Project recently sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross urging him to swiftly enforce the law to address these airlines’ unlawful and racist policies.
As a lawyer who runs a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting civil and human rights, I can’t recall a more clear-cut example of religious and national-origin discrimination. Students may read about this in law school textbooks one day. It’s a great opportunity for any of our elected representatives – from President Donald Trump to Governor Andrew Cuomo, or even Mayor de Blasio himself – to show leadership, enforce the laws of the land, and force these airlines to make a choice. They can either discriminate against Jews or they can do business in the United States – but they cannot do both.