After rejecting Israeli passenger, could Kuwait Airways lose flights to Germany? | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 27.03.2018
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After rejecting Israeli passenger, could Kuwait Airways lose flights to Germany?

Kuwait Airways has come under fire in Germany after the carrier stopped an Israeli passenger from boarding its flight in Frankfurt. Critics have called on Berlin to pressure the airline into changing its practices.

In 2016, an Israeli passenger was scheduled to fly from Frankfurt Airport to Thailand with a layover in Kuwait. The individual was traveling on national carrier Kuwait Airways. When the airline learned about the individual's nationality, it canceled the booking. The decision was based on a 1964 Kuwaiti law that doesn't allow any form of agreement between Kuwaiti companies and Israeli  citizens. The passenger filed a lawsuit with a court in Frankfurt, which ultimately defended the Kuwaiti airline's decision in a November 2017 ruling.

German Federal Transportation Minister Andreas Scheuer, in an interview with the German tabloid Bild on Monday, called on his country's government to put political pressure on Kuwait Airways in retaliation for turning away the Israeli passenger. The German government has been in talks with Kuwaiti officials on the matter. "If the discussions that have begun with the Kuwaiti side lead to no result, there will be negative repercussions for this airline in Germany," Scheuer said. 

Barring Israeli passengers 'unacceptable' in Germany

Oliver Luksic Bundestag FDP (Bundestag)

Luksic called Kuwaiti Airways' behavior 'shameful'

Oliver Luksic, a German parliamentarian from the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), has suggested that if Kuwait Airways refuses to allow Israeli passengers to board its flights on German territory, Frankfurt Airport should be allowed to take away its landing slots for the airline.

"It is completely unacceptable and shameful that the German government has tolerated such blatant discrimination while its members still speak of the fight against anti-Semitism in their Sunday speeches," he said in a statement.

"I welcome the announcement of the transportation mnister to address the issue. I think it is unacceptable as a German citizen that Jewish people are not allowed to board airplanes in Germany. It is a shame for Germany," Luksic told DW.

If Frankfurt Airport were to take away landing slots from Kuwait Airways, the FDP politician believes it would be a big financial blow for the company, as the heavily-trafficked airport is a gateway for business not only in Germany, but the entire the Euopean Union. Luksic added that Germany could put pressure on Kuwait by renegotiating its trade agreements with the country.

Kuwaiti view

Although Kuwait has signed onto the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative that aims to end the Arab-Israeli conflict, Kuwait has no diplomatic relations with Israel. Other countries that have no diplomatic ties to the country, such as Saudi Arabia, prevent Israeli passenger planes from flying over their airspace, meaning they have to spend more time in the air to reach certain destinations in Asia.

In an interview with DW, Fayez al-Nashwan, a professor of international relations at Kuwait University, said that Kuwait Airways is not allowed to violate the laws of its home country and allow Israeli passengers to fly. For instance, alcohol is banned in Kuwait and thus cannot be served on the airline. He also said that Kuwait is not being anti-Semitic in its policy, as it has to do with his country's foreign relations with Israel, rather than the Jewish people. 

The Central Council of Jews in Germany strongly disagrees with this argument, however. In a statement to German press agency KNA, the organization said that it is "unbearable" for a foreign company to be allowed to operate in Germany on the basis such of such "deeply anti-Semitic" laws. The Council called on the German government to do more to prevent such cases in the future and said the Kuwaiti law recalls "the worst times of Jewish persecution under the National Socialists." The German and Kuwaiti government are aiming to reach an agreement on the issue within the next few weeks.

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