Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
The American Center for Law and Justice today called on the Federal Aviation Administration and Congress to investigate the relationship between Delta Air Lines and Saudi Arabian Airlines over the government-owned Saudi operation’s discrimination against Jews.
The dispute erupted nearly a week ago when a series of letters became public by a lawyer complaining about the arrangement that apparently would have Delta prevent Jews and possibly others from boarding flights to Jeddah from New York and Washington.
Delta tried as recently as Friday to describe the arrangement as “a standard industry interline agreement,” but travelers challenged that premise on the company’s blog over the weekend with comments including:
“Perhaps you’ll come out with Jandarm outfits for your flight attendants and state that we’re not Nazis but we’ll support their laws,” wrote “Jude.”
“Don’t forget, there are many airlines out there … this is one step closer for you to go out of business,” wrote “newmanparker.”
“Rest assured that I will not [be] boarding another Delta flight until this so-called ‘alliance’ is revoked and a sincere apology is issued,” wrote “riptide100.”
“I sincerely hope this is the beginning of the end for Delta,” wrote “NoMore.”
The airline, while explaining in Friday’s statement that it does not “discriminate nor do we condone discrimination against any of our customers in regards to age, race, nationality, religion, or gender,” had a more glowing tribute to Saudi Arabian Airlines when it issued a special news release in January “in support” of SAA’s effort to joint the “SkyTeam” global airline alliance with Delta.
“We are honored that Saudi Arabian has chosen to link its future growth and success with Delta and our SkyTeam partners,” the airline’s Charlie Pappas, a vice president, said then.
The Washington-based organization, which focuses on rights and constitutional issues, said in a statement it is demanding that Delta Air Lines end its partnership with SAA, which is owned by the Saudi government and “embraces discriminatory policies targeting Jews, Christians and women.”
“For Delta to form a business relationship with a country that has a disturbing record of human rights violations is not only problematic, but warrants further scrutiny from the federal government and Congress,” Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for ACLJ, said in a statement.
“Delta says it does not discriminate in its business practices, but then says it cannot control what other nations do. Delta can’t have it both ways. If you choose to do business with a government that discriminates on the basis of religion, ethnicity, and gender – you simply cannot brush it aside,” he said.
“We’re calling for FAA oversight of this deal and a congressional investigation. Delta can do the right thing – and cancel this business relationship, and it should.”
Delta announced the agreement with Saudi Arabian Airlines in January. Under the agreement, there was “real concern” that American Jews or even non-Jews with an Israeli stamp in their passport could be targeted, the ACLJ said.
“And, of course, U.S. citizens who are Christian are in the danger zone as well, often facing blatant discrimination in Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia where Shariah law is embraced,” the organization said.
“We believe this is issue of the utmost importance and we’re confident members of Congress will want to examine this transaction and relationship very closely, as they should,” Sekulow said.
Sekulow noted that U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illi., last week sent a letter to the FAA requesting a probe into the matter “to determine whether Delta Air Lines violated U.S. law or regulation and to ensure no U.S. citizen is denied their right to fly solely on the basis of their religion.”
The organization said, “Delta is spinning hard” on the concerns, “claiming that it does not discriminate.”
“But this spin falls apart in the face of Delta’s previous statements. On January 10, 2011, Delta issued a press release stating that Saudi Arabian Airlines was joining SkyTeam, a select group of airlines that Delta trumpets as ‘a global airline alliance providing customers from member airlines access to an extensive global network with more destinations, more frequencies and more connectivity.’”
The ACLJ asked, “So why is this a problem? Simply put, Saudi Arabia (in addition to being a hub of terrorist financing and so radical that its religious police force girls to burn to death rather than escape a school fire without their abayas) is known to blatantly discriminate in its visa policies.”
It continued, “Delta can’t control Saudi Arabia’s immigration policy, but it can control whether it does business with Saudi Arabia.”
“It’s incumbent on all Christians, Jews and people who find discrimination abhorrent to make it clear to Delta that they will not fly on the airline,” he told WND, “until Delta withdraws from its alliance with Saudi Arabia.
“You have to wonder where the potential allies on the left such as Jesse Jackson, who have claimed to have experienced similar discrimination … why are they not speaking out. Where is the president, who endorsed the Ground Zero mosque, yet will not stand up for Christians and Jews.”
Kirk wrote to FAA Administrator J. Randolph Babbit requesting an investigation to determine “whether Delta violated American law.”
“I request your investigation into this matter to determine whether Delta Air Lines violated U.S. law or regulation and to ensure no U.S. citizen is denied their right to fly solely on the basis of their religion,” Kirk told the agency. “Since a core mission of the FAA is to promote civil aviation, I would expect the FAA to use its full statutory and regulatory power to ensure that America’s civil airways are not restricted for persons regardless of faith.”
Klayman said he was looking at legal options for bring a challenge to Delta.
“This is outrageous, repugnant and illegal,” he said. He said Delta has joined President Obama in “kowtowing” to “nefarious Muslims.”
The dispute even pulled the Saudi government into the fray.
“Rumors being circulated via the Internet regarding passenger flight restrictions on Saudi Arabian Airlines are completely false. The government of Saudi Arabia does not deny visas to U.S. citizens based on their religion,” the government said on PRNewswire.
“Liars,” said Pamela Geller on her Atlas Shrugs blog. She noted that on Delta’s own website is the statement, “The government of Saudi Arabia refuses admission and transit to nationals of Israel.”
Delta’s website also states, “Visitors holding passports containing any Israeli visa or stamp could be refused entry.”
At Jihad Watch, the dispute was spelled out in a statement attributed to Detroit rabbi Jason Miller: “The issue here is one of principle. Delta isn’t being forced to include Saudi Arabian Airlines into its SkyTeam Alliance. In fact, Delta could stand on principle and refuse to include Saudi Arabian.”
According to a Fox News radio report, Michael Salberg, chief of international affairs for the Anti-Defamation League, said Delta should not “be enabling” discrimination.
“Creeping Shariah? Now [it is] jetspeed Shariah. Hat’s off to Delta. It looks like Delta will be the first Shariah-compliant airline in the United States,” Catherine Grandy said.
Katz noted, “As a Jewish man, I might not be able to fly on Delta Air Lines in the future.”
Fred Grandy told Katz that he spent time in Washington briefing members of Congress and other policy makers “on this kind of threat.”
“This creeping Shariah, economic jihad, gets you everywhere you turn,” Catherine Grandy said. “This is just not right. I’m sure this will be tested.”
Fred Grandy said there were several questions raised by the controversy, including would passengers continue to fly on Delta, what should the government do and the advance of Shariah in the United States.
“If this isn’t one landing strip at a time, I don’t know what is,” he said.
The challenge to Delta was raised by Washington attorney Jeffrey Lovitky, who told WND that he personally brought up the issue with the Delta CEO Richard Anderson when he discovered the plan while making travel arrangements. He said Anderson didn’t respond, but Kathy M. Johnston, a coordinator for the airline’s “Customer Care” did write a letter.
She blamed the plan to discriminate on Saudi Arabian requirements and said Lovitky should consult the State Department.
“Delta must also comply with all applicable laws in every country it serves and by the same token passengers are responsible to obtain the necessary travel documents required for entry into another country prior to their day of travel,” she wrote. “If a passenger travels without proper documents, the passenger may be denied entry into that country and our airline may be fined. Delta assumes responsibility for ensuring that each passenger boarding our aircraft has the proper documents for travel to their ticketed destination.”
Lovitky told WND that whatever discrimination the Saudis choose to enforce in their nation, it becomes a problem when Delta applies it to American citizens on American soil.
“Delta Air Lines acted in a purely voluntary manner in agreeing to this alliance with Saudi Airlines,” he wrote in a letter asking the Delta board to act on the matter. “Accordingly, Delta has made itself responsible for ensuring that passengers on any flight jointly operated with Saudi Airlines will not be subject to discrimination on the basis of their gender, religion, or any other inappropriate grounds.”
He told WND he has not yet heard back from the board members he contacted, nor have specific action plans been adopted by the ACLJ. But he noted the other restrictions that could be forced on Americans at Washington’s Dulles airport and New York’s JFK.
The restrictions could include clothing requirements for women and banning passengers from “carrying and reading religious literature of their choice.”
“This includes, but is not limited to, both Christian and Jewish sacred texts, such as the Old Testament and the New Testament, as well as any objects that reflect their religion, such as a cross necklace,” Lovitky said.
“You can imagine how foreign it is to our values as Americans,” he told WND. “To adhere to restrictions of this nature is extremely burdensome.
“This needs to be addressed in a way which is consistent with our Western values,” he said.
“I urge Delta to shun any reciprocal travel arrangements with Saudi Arabian Airlines until the government of Saudi Arabia provides assurances that persons who acknowledge being Jewish on their visa applications will be granted visas.”
He also was upset that Delta’s response to a followup letter was to say, “we respectfully consider this matter closed and we will not be responding to this matter again.”