Air France accused of racism after banning non-Jew from flight
French activists participating in the Welcome to Palestine campaign over the weekend accused Air France of racism on Tuesday after the airline asked passengers if they were Jewish as part of a strategy to prevent the activists from boarding.
“The racism of Israel and Air France was brought in plain light on Sunday…It was proven that one had to declare themselves Jewish or holder of an Israeli passport to have the right to travel,” the French contingent of Welcome to Palestine 2012 said in a press release on their website.
The activists noted the case of a passenger named as Horia, who had successfully boarded the plane, but was then asked by an air hostess whether she was Jewish before the flight had taken off.
An Air France employee signed Horia’s response on an official document (see below), and was then allegedly told by Air France personnel that she was prohibited to travel to Tel Aviv, according to activists.
Coordinator for the French chapter of Welcome to Palestine 2012, Maximilien Shahshahani, told Al-Akhbar that Air France was colluding with Israel’s secret service, Shin Bet, in determining which activists were not permitted to board Sunday’s flight to Tel Aviv.
“Shin Bit shared a blacklist of names with Air France, but told the airline to double check [others not blacklisted] with a series of questions,” he said.
The questions were also asked of other passengers, Shahshahani said, who were not participating in the Welcome to Palestine campaign.
“We saw another passenger, to which the same questions were asked. The response to the second question was that they were Jewish. The passenger was extremely shocked by the nature of the questions,” he said.
Air France in a statement issued on its website said Israeli authorities demanded that the airline question one of the passengers, without detailing what kind of questions were asked.
“The Israeli authorities requested that one of the passengers be questioned. The answers did not satisfy the Israeli authorities, the passenger had to disembark the flight at their demand,” Air France said.
Hundreds of activists, mostly from Europe, were due to fly into Tel Aviv international airport on Sunday as part of a global campaign to raise awareness of the restriction of movement and travel for Palestinians brought by Israel’s military occupation.
But, as in 2011, Israel threatened airlines that they faced sanctions if they did not prevent activists from boarding their flights, providing them with a list of names.
“You are ordered not to board them [activists] on your flights to Israel. Failure to comply with this directive will result in sanctions against the airlines,” a stern statement from Israel’s Ministry of Interior to airlines, obtained by activists, read.
Dozens still managed to board flights to Israel, with the official website for the French contingent of Welcome to Palestine saying that 40 French activists were detained upon arrival.
Preparations for legal proceedings against Air France are underway, Shahshahani said.
Welcome to Palestine has become an annual campaign, which is part of a growing international movement to highlight the continued suffering of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation and Israel’s apartheid policies.
An alleged Air France document showing questions asked of a passenger boarding a flight to Israel on Sunday 15 April 2012. (Photo: Handout – Welcome to Palestine 2012)
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