Delta airlines no longer allowing Jewish passengers on flights to Saudi Arabia?

Utter madness if true. Is it?

Delta Airlines, in its new alliance with Saudi Arabian Airlines, might wind up making a bargain shocking Jews and Christians — no Jews, no Bibles on board to the desert kingdom.

Delta doesn’t currently fly to Saudi Arabia, but next year it will have a new code-sharing agreement with the Saudi airlines through the SkyTeam network. That means folks may be booking through Delta but still flying a Saudi airline…

Jewish leader Rabbi Irwin Kula was wary about inflaming concerns on this, saying he knows many Jewish professionals who are very open about their religious identity who fly to Saudi Arabia all the time for business.

World Net Daily has a copy of a letter from a Delta spokesperson insisting that the airline doesn’t discriminate but noting that “Delta must also comply with all applicable laws in every country it serves” and that “If a passenger travels without proper documents, the passenger may be denied entry into that country and our airline may be fined.” In other words, if the Kingdom has a “no Jews allowed” policy then Delta, however reluctantly, has a “no Jews allowed” policy. And in fact, the Kingdom does have a policy like that — or rather, it did. Any old-school blog readers out there remember back in 2004 when the Saudi tourism website listed “Jewish People” as one of the four groups to whom visas wouldn’t be granted? That language was eventually scrubbed from the website after the media noticed and pressure was brought to bear by, er, Rep. Anthony Weiner. But as noted in the USA Today piece quoted above, Jews apparently do enter the Kingdom sometimes. In fact, via Dave Kopel, Joshua Muravchik received a visa in 2007 despite listing his religion as “Jewish.” So there may not be any hard-and-fast “no Jews allowed” rule. More likely, there’s an unofficial, arbitrary “few Jews allowed” policy, with Saudi authorities admitting Jewish visitors only if they think it’s somehow in their interest to do so.

But back to Delta. Here’s what they’ve posted on their website in response to the outcry:

First and foremost, I think one of the most important things to mention here is that Delta does not discriminate nor do we condone discrimination against anyone in regards to age, race, nationality, religion, or gender.

That said, some have raised questions about whether Saudi Arabian Airlines’ membership in SkyTeam means Delta is adopting any type of policies that could present barriers to travel for some passengers, including Jewish customers. For this particular concern, it’s important to realize that visa requirements to enter any country are dictated by that nation’s government, not the airlines, and they apply to anyone entering the country regardless of whether it’s by plane, bus or train.

We, like all international airlines, are required to comply with all applicable laws governing entry into every country we serve. You as passengers are responsible for obtaining the necessary travel documents, such as visas and certification of required vaccinations, and we’re responsible for making sure that you have the proper documentation before you board.

Same response as in the letter obtained by WND. They don’t condone discrimination against any religion — unless the price is right, I guess. Two points, then. First, needless to say, this will end in utter disaster for Delta. I doubt we’ll even need to get to the boycott stage before they reverse course. The PR damage will be such that they’ll either pull the plug on their partnership with the Kingdom or the Kingdom itself will issue reassurances that Jewish tourists from America are always welcome (even though they really aren’t). The royals have enough to worry about these days in Bahrain and Yemen, and their relationship with the Obama White House is already strained. The last thing they need is a surge of anti-Saudi anger in the U.S. suddenly complicating their “alliance” with America. Second, it’s amazing to think how much the Saudis get away with when they’re not indulging their worst Nazi-ish tendencies. We all know how women there are treated; as we speak, the Kingdom’s locked in a fierce public debate over whether it should be legal for them merely to drive. And yet it’s hard to imagine boycott calls getting any traction over something like institutional misogyny. Only when they throw something at us that’s so sickening in its echoes of Third Reich policy that it can’t be ignored do they pay a real price. Given that standard, I’m not surprised that they thought they could get away with this too.

Exit question one: What do other airlines do about their own flights to the Kingdom? United flies there, for instance. Is there some special “no Jews allowed” policy for their flights? Exit question two: Is there any other form of discrimination that Delta would tolerate in a business partner? People on Twitter are wondering whether they’d continue flights to South Africa if somehow apartheid were brought back. There must be some level of disgust at which the company’s directors would say the profits aren’t worth it. Why doesn’t the Saudis’ policy rise to that level?

Update: A Twitter friend notes that neither Delta nor any arm of the Saudi government has firmly said that Jewish passengers will have a problem obtaining visas or boarding a flight. Right, but as noted above, the Saudis once went so far as to single out Jews for nonadmittance to the Kingdom on their own tourism website. And it’s surpassingly strange that Delta has repeatedly refused to debunk this story despite multiple opportunities. If this is a big bunch of nothing, they could have issued a simple statement: “There’s nothing to these reports. Jewish tourists should have no trouble getting Saudi visas, and if they do have trouble, we’ll end our partnership with Saudi Arabia immediately.” They haven’t said that. Why?

I do think it’s unfair, though, to single out Delta if other U.S./western airlines have this same policy in effect. As I said above, United flies to the Kingdom too. Presumably they’re subject to the same boarding restrictions that Delta is vis-a-vis passengers who lack visas for whatever reason. All of which is to say, the problem here isn’t whether Delta or United will fly a passenger to Riyadh who can’t get a visa because he’s Jewish. The problem is that there are some passengers who can’t get a visa because they’re Jewish, and Delta and presumably United are nonetheless happy to continue to do business with the Kingdom.

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