Israel: Air France removes passenger for not being Jewish

April 23, 2012

Air France demanded to know the religion of a passenger on an April 15 flight from Nice to Tel Aviv and removed her because she was not Jewish.

The incident, confirmed by an Air France official, may violate international and European law by subjecting prospective passengers to illegal religious discrimination.

In recent days, Israeli authorities reacted to an effort by hundreds of European travellers to visit the occupied West Bank at the invitation of Palestinians by stationing hundreds of armed police and soldiers at the main international airport at Lydd.

Israeli authorities detained and expelled travellers, and ordered European airlines to prevent the boarding of travellers that Israel has placed on a political blacklist.

Several European airlines meekly complied with these Israeli orders, cancelling the tickets of those arbitrarily blacklisted by Israel.

The revelation that passengers are being subjected to religious tests takes this complicity with Israel’s apartheid policies to shocking new levels.

The passenger’s account was published by the website of CAPJPO-Euro-Palestine. A section of the published account read: “A young woman, Horia A., was allowed to check-in normally and then board the aircraft. But a few minutes before take off, a flight attendant arrived at Horia’s seat and asked Horia to come with her.

“Isolated in a corner of the aircraft, the embarrassed flight attendant asked her a first question: 'Madame, do you have an Israeli passport?'

“Horia: 'No.'

“'She said no,' said the flight attendant into her walkie-talkie to the ground crew.

“Flight attendant: 'And now, are you of Israe... um, are you Jewish?'

“Horia: 'no'

“Flight attendant into walkie-talkie: 'Also, no'

“During the next few minutes, Horia could see interactions and comings and goings among Air France personnel, before the flight attendant confirmed to her that she was forbidden to fly, citing 'a very complex situation'.

“Horia had the presence of mind to ask for a written statement, signed by the Air France employee, who was an accomplice despite herself in her bosses’ dirty tricks.”

CAPJPO-Euro-Palestine provided a copy of the document on its website, noting that it had redacted the family name of the passenger and the name of the Air France employee.

In handwriting, the form said: “Customer boarded and then subjected to questioning on demand of Israeli authorities and then disembarked because not admissable to Israel.

“Questions: Do you have an Israeli passport? Are you Jewish?

“Answers: No to the two questions.”

Alain Gresh, a renowned journalist for Le Monde Diplomatique, picked up the story on his blog: “Let’s leave aside the political and diplomatic aspects of this affair to address another point: if Air France is applying the Chicago Convention [on Civil Aviation], can it do it while violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and French law?”

It is forbidden to discriminate against a person because of their colour or religion. But that is what happened in particular in Nice, where the company refused to board a passenger, arguing that the person was neither Israeli nor Jewish.

The note presented to Horia A. is signed “CEP AF” which appears to stand for “Chef d’Escale de Permanence ― Air France” or Air France station chief.

Air France has confirmed the incident described in Horia A.’s account.

Gresh wrote: “This is no mere blunder, because Jean Charles Trean, General Manager for Corporate Communications [at Air France], specifies in response to a question I asked him: 'It is in this context that the station chief in Nice for Air France flight 4384 of 15 April 2012, did, on demand from Israeli authorities and in their name, ask the two questions cited. This allowed the identification of the fact that the passenger concerned was not permitted on Israeli territory.'

“We are in the presence of a case of flagrant discrimination that ought to be brought before the courts.”

Gresh could not be more right. Just imagine if a country demanded that Air France question passengers about their religion in order to exclude Jews. And imagine if Air France willingly complied.

[Reprinted from Electronic Intifada.]

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