A group of British pro-Israel attorneys says it has forced Kuwait Airways to agree to compensate an Israeli woman it refused to allow on its flight from London to Bangkok last November on the grounds of her nationality.
Mandy Blumenthal’s experience at the Heathrow ticket counter for Kuwait Airways was captured on video, and showed an airline representative insist repeatedly that the airline could not sell her a ticket because she was Israeli.
Refusing a public service to an individual because of their nationality is forbidden under British law. Blumenthal, a longtime pro-Israel activist, is also a UK citizen.
“Kuwait Airways has agreed to pay substantial damages plus costs to an Israeli National who was refused a ticket on a Kuwait Airways flight from London to Bangkok on the grounds of her nationality,” the advocacy group UK Lawyers for Israel said in a statement on its website Tuesday.
UKLFI helped Blumenthal sue Kuwait Airways over the refusal.
The company has nevertheless not acknowledged any liability, despite offering an unspecified amount of money in compensation.
The incident in question took place in November 2017, when Blumenthal approached the Kuwait Airways counter to purchase a ticket from Heathrow to Thailand on a flight that had a stopover in Kuwait.
The clerk at the ticket counter informed her “Kuwait Airways does not accept any Israeli passport holders…. It’s a general rule everywhere on Kuwait Airways.”
The airline is in a bind, as it must comply with a Kuwaiti law that prohibits it from engaging in any commercial transactions with “entities or persons residing in Israel, or with Israeli citizenship.”
The law has cost the airline several lucrative routes as officials in the US and Switzerland ruled for previous Israeli plaintiffs.
It canceled its New York-London route in 2015 after the US government ordered it to stop barring Israelis from the flight, and then canceled all intra-European flights in 2016 after a court case in Switzerland.
A German court last November surprised critics by ruling in favor of the airline, arguing it was “not reasonable” to demand that it violate the laws of its country, regardless of the reasonableness of those laws. That decision is being appealed, and may yet cost Kuwait Airways its flights out of Frankfurt.
David Berens, an attorney who represented Blumenthal, said the lawsuit could force the airline to either start carrying Israelis or abandon its London routes.
“The law is clear: direct discrimination on grounds of nationality in the provision of a service to the public is illegal. Ms Blumenthal has done a service in showing up Kuwait Airways’ illegal policy. Kuwait Airways is now legally obliged to end this policy or end its services from the UK altogether,” he said.
Last October, the airline drew fire from an unexpected source: Arab Israeli Facebook star Nuseir Yassin, also known as Nas.
After he was refused boarding on a New York-India flight via Kuwait, he posted a Facebook video slamming Kuwait’s anti-Israel policy, saying it did not help the Palestinians. He said the boycott only benefited the leaders, “not the Muslims and not the Jews.” Furthermore, Yassin argued, it was hypocritical for the country to profess to boycott Israel while using many Israeli products.
This is not okay.I said my two cents in the video. Here is the rest of the story: This is not the airline's fault. Don't blame Kuwait Airways. The people that work there were nothing but nice to me and my girlfriend. In fact, they even helped us with our visa to India. They also paid up to put me in a different airline just so I can get to my final destination. Alyne got on their flight with no problems. I didn't lose money here. They just have to work by the laws of the country. And the laws of their country, Kuwait, are what pissed me off. Not the airline.The laws of Israel do not explicitly ban anyone from entering Israel, but they also make it hard enough to get a visa if you're coming from Kuwait. That's also not okay. I am sick of being in the middle of a never ending conflict. Some Arab countries don't like me because I am Israeli, and some Israelis don't like me because I am also Palestinian. It's a lose-lose situation. The only win in my life was to move to the US….LIKE Nas Daily on Facebook!@NasDaily on Instagram! Music: Skyline by Meizong
Posted by Nas Daily on Sunday, 1 October 2017
“Dear Kuwait. If you want to boycott Israel, be my guest. Refuse me service,” Yassin said in the video. “But also give me your USB flash drives, your phones, your safe driving cars, your Viber, your Waze or your anti-virus. This is also Israel.”
In his video, since viewed over 880,000 times, he accused Kuwait of not caring about the Palestinians.
“If you want to boycott Israel because of Palestine, I don’t think you actually care,” he said. “Because you’re also boycotting 2 million Muslim Palestinian Israelis, like me.”