This story is breaking as I write this, and some of the details are in dispute. But the facts appear to be these:
1. Delta Airlines is entering into a partnership with Saudi Arabian Airlines through SkyTeam, a group of "code-sharing" airlines.
2. Saudi Arabian Airlines, owned and controlled by the Saudi government, enforces a number of the Saudi government's restrictions on travelers. One of these is a prohibition on non-Islamic religious materials:
Items and articles belonging to religions other than Islam are also prohibited. These may include Bibles, crucifixes, statues, carvings, items with religious symbols such as the Star of David, and others. Makkah and Medina hold special religious significance and only persons of the Islamic faith are allowed entry.
3. Saudi Arabian Airlines also enforces Saudi Arabia's ban on entry by citizens of Israel or people who have Israeli stamps in their passports (that is, people who have traveled to Israel).
4. Today USA Today reported, and then withdrew, claims that Saudi Arabian Airlines sometimes prevents Jews — or people it believes to be Jews — from flying. A USA Today blog later printed claims that some Jews have been able to travel to Saudi Arabia without incident. Though some sources continue to assert that Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabian Airlines have some kind of "no Jews" policy, I submit there is grounds to ask for proof on this issue.
5. Delta's response to date has been to say that it is bound by the travel restrictions of the countries to which it flies, but not to clarify what it understands Saudi Arabian Airlines' rules are or will be.
Based on that, I have some questions for Delta Airlines, an American company, to determine my position on its policy, and whether it merits a boycott:
1. Is it your understanding that Saudi Arabian Airlines does not permit Israelis, or people with Israeli passport stamps, to fly with them?
2. Have you conducted any due diligence to determine whether there is cause to believe that Saudi Arabian Airlines excludes fliers it believes are Jewish?
3. When you are partnered with Saudi Arabian Airlines through SkyTeam, what (if anything) will be your role in connection with travelers attempting to book flights to Saudi Arabia?
(a) Will customers be able to book travel on Saudi Arabian Airlines through your web site or other facilities?
(b) Will Delta advertisements include information about flights on Saudi Arabian Airlines?
(c) Will any Saudi Arabian Airlines flights be branded as Delta flights, or vice-versa?
(d) Will any Delta web sites, advertisements, phone systems, or information materials include warnings regarding restrictions on Israelis or people with Israeli passports, or about non-Islamic religious materials?
(e) Will any Delta employees have any role in inspecting passports to prevent Israelis, or people with Israeli stamps on their passports, from checking in, clearing security, or boarding Saudi Arabian Airlines flights?
(f) Will any Delta employees have any role in preventing people from boarding with non-Islamic religious materials?
4. Does Delta partner with any other airline that prohibits nationals of a particular country from flying? Does Delta partner with any other airline that offers flights to a destination country that prohibits nationals of a particular country from flying?
5. If someone provides Delta with credible evidence that, at least on some occasions, Saudi Arabian Airlines prohibits people from flying because it believes those people are Jewish, will Delta continue its partnership with them?
6. Is Delta proud of its partnership with Saudi Arabian Airlines?
Answering these questions might help defuse this public relations crisis.
Or not . . . .
Edited to add: to be a little less coy, I think that if the whole "Jews can't fly" thing is an internet hoax — certainly possible — then there's no reason for Delta not to come out strongly and say so immediately. Even if that part is a hoax, though, I think the other questions — about what role Delta will take, if any, in Saudi Arabian Airlines policy of excluding Israelis and religious materials — are apt.
Edited again: At Volokh Conspiracy, David Kopel has thoughts about the evidence of any anti-Jewish policy and the role of Delta. Also at Hot Air.
Edited a third time: If Delta merely checked whether passengers have a visa from Saudi Arabia (which would necessarily involve Saudi Arabia checking to see if they had an Israeli passport, or an Israeli stamp on their passport), that would be different; I leave it to you to discuss how different.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
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