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Sun 21 Jul 2013 11:00 AM

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Saudia defends anti-Israel policy

Airline has been threatened with expulsion from US airports over discriminatory policy

Saudia defends anti-Israel policy
Saudi airline

The director general of Saudi Arabian Airlines has defended his company’s decision to discriminate against Israeli citizens by refusing to fly them from US airports, according to Arabic media.

The New York City Public Advocate, who acts as an ombudsman, last week threatened to expel the airline from New York’s John F Kennedy Airport because it refuses to sell tickets to Israeli-passport holders.

Bill de Blasio said the discrimination breached US federal law.

The airline’s director general, Khalid al-Melhem, said the discrimination policy was acceptable because Saudi Arabia does not recognise Israel as a country.

“If there is an absence of political relations between [Saudi Arabia] and any other country, we will not allow that country’s citizens into the kingdom,” Melhem told the Saudi Al-Watan newspaper.

“[Diplomatic relations] also apply to transit passengers. In case the plane is delayed, the passenger will have to enter the country, and at that point it would be very difficult to let him into [Saudi Arabia] if there are no diplomatic relations.”

De Blasio said he had formally written to the airline warning that unless it changed its policy he would move to have it banned from US airports.

“Saudi Arabian Airlines uses US airports and yet bans Israeli citizens from being able to fly on their airline,” Bill de Blasio was quoted as saying in the New York Post.

“[If the airline does not change its policy] we will act to make sure they’re excluded from United States airports, starting with JFK.”

US federal law states that an “air carrier or foreign air carrier may not subject a person in air transportation to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex or ancestry”.

It is the second time Saudia’s policy towards Israelis has caused anger in the US, which is the Jewish state’s closest ally.

In 2011, the American Jewish community protested against the alliance between Saudia and American carrier Delta based on its rumoured policy not to allow Israeli passport holders on board.

De Blasio said while the discriminatory policy was only a rumour in 2011, it was now clearly official.

“It’s quite formal now. You can see with your own eyes on their website,” he told The Algemeiner newspaper.

“And by now making it official they violate our laws. We need to make sure they are excluded from the American market or they change their policy and act according to our laws.”

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jack 6 years ago

This is just ridiculous, thy should be banned even if thy change back the policy, just for the taught alone...

Srikrish 6 years ago

Saudia is right to ban stateless people from boarding its aircraft.

Otherwise, it will open a can of tricky constitutional issues - like treaty limits, diplomatic immunity, etc.

YouNeedANewDictionary 6 years ago

The only stateless people in this region are the bedouins. That some people refuse to recognize a state does not make it non existent.

It is a difficult concept I understand, sorry I left my muppets and my crayons at home.

jonjon 6 years ago

ksa should ban all american airlines from its airports as well

Syed 6 years ago

@YouNeedANewDictionary, seriously you need to get a lesson or two in history of Palestine, Arabs and the formation of Israel in 1947.
Israel was literally carved out of existing arab lands especially Arab state of Palestine by the Sykes-Picot Agreement.
Orthodox jews still beleive that jews should be stateless as God has forbid jews to hold any lands.

Saamir 6 years ago

I think it is best chance for Saudi Arabia to treat US. Saudi should ban all Americans to enter his country. And should stop all relationship with US. Best of Luck Saudi Arabia.

Mick 6 years ago


How many Saudis want to travel to the U.S. compared with Americans that actually want to travel to KSA?? I don't think they would lose any sleep over it. How many Saudis go to the U.S. for education? How many Americans come to Saudi for education. Think about what you are saying. I don't think that America would actually care even a little bit about not being able to enter KSA.
When the U.S. becomes a leader in hydrocarbon export, they won't need them for that, either. There is only one card that Saudi is holding (petroleum) and even that is now becoming more and more irrelevant. I agree with you. They should stop all relationship with U.S. and I am thinking from the U.S. best interest.

Doug 6 years ago

Actually it doesn't create any constitutional issues at all, because the airports in question are located in the United States, which recognises the existence of Israel.

Regardless of whether KSA recognises Israel, and regardless of the moral rights or wrongs surrounding the existence of Israel, the fact remains that passengers buying tickets to fly from a US airport should not expect to be labelled stateless when they have a passport from a country recognised by the US.

As we are all told, if you are not prepared to follow the laws of the country in which you find yourself, there's always the airport - and in this case, Saudia should leave it if they're not prepared to comply with the business regulations.

Derek 6 years ago

US law bans "subject(ing) a person in air transportation to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex or ancestry". The fact is this is done all time through racial profiling and other means at US airports. The Israeli national airlines (El Al) strip searches Arab Palestinian passengers before boarding its flights. While this is not a ban on travel it clearly falls within the intent and meaning of "discrimination". So why the double standard?