Kuwait Air slapped with fresh Israel discrimination suit in Germany
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Kuwait Air slapped with fresh Israel discrimination suit in Germany

Legal group files second case against national carrier for refusing service to Israelis; 2017 suit challenging airline’s ban on Israeli student was upheld by German courts

This March 18, 2012, photo shows a view of empty Kuwait Airways check-in counters at Kuwait Airport. (AP Photo/Gustavo Ferrari)
This March 18, 2012, photo shows a view of empty Kuwait Airways check-in counters at Kuwait Airport. (AP Photo/Gustavo Ferrari)

A pro-Israel legal nonprofit group said it has filed a second discrimination lawsuit against Kuwait Airways on behalf of an Israeli passenger who was refused service on the airline on the grounds of his nationality.

The Lawfare Project said on Monday a suit was filed in a German district court on behalf of Shmuel M., a Frankfurt-based Israeli businessman who bought a ticket to Sri Lanka two years ago but was barred from taking the flight.

The businessman’s last name is protected by German court rules.

According to the suit, airline representatives told him that he would not be allowed to board his November 2017 flight from Munich to Colombo after they learned that he was Israeli.

The state-owned airline has previously canceled tickets purchased by Israeli passengers, each time citing the Kuwaiti law that prohibits all commercial relations with Israelis and Israeli companies.

The law has cost the airline several lucrative routes as officials in the US and Switzerland ruled for previous Israeli plaintiffs. In Germany, however, the Kuwaiti ban on Israeli passengers has been upheld.

A 2017 discrimination suit filed by the New York-based Lawfare Project on behalf of an Israeli student in 2017 was struck down by a German court which ruled it was “unreasonable” to demand that the airline violate the laws of its country, regardless of the reasonableness of those laws.

A Kuwait Airways airplane approaching Heathrow Airport in London, England. (Wikimedia Commons via JTA)

The group appealed the decision to a higher regional court in Frankfurt, but in November 2018, it upheld the ruling. The court called the boycott “unacceptable,” but said that because the flight in question required a stopover in Kuwait City, which is under Kuwaiti jurisdiction, it was “factually impossible” for the airline to have fulfilled its contract.

In the ruling, the judges slammed Kuwait’s Israel boycott as discriminatory and “incompatible with German values,” but said changing it was a matter for politicians.

The new case also involves a flight with a layover in Kuwait.

Nonetheless, the Lawfare Project’s legal counsel in Germany, Nathan Gelbart, said that a court ruling against the airline ban would set an important precedent in combating discrimination.

“As long as we permit an airline to advertise flights for everyone except Israelis it is a stain on the moral fabric of our country,” he said on Monday. “If Kuwait Airways wishes to continue operating in Germany then the message should be clear: carry everyone or carry no one.”

The Lawfare Project said Kuwait Airways did not immediately respond to its suit, but it expects an initial hearing to be held in the case later this year.

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