A British airline has removed the word “Palestinian” from the name of a couscous grain salad on its in-flight menu following complaints from pro-Israel customers.
Virgin Atlantic has faced online criticism since December, when a social media user called its staff “terrorist sympathizers” and another called for an Israeli boycott of the airline for using the term “Palestinian couscous salad,” The Independent reported Monday.
The dish has recently been renamed “couscous salad” and the airline has issued a public statement saying it did not intend to “cause offense through the naming or renaming” of the meal, the report said.
The salad in question included maftoul grains, which are a version of couscous popular in the Palestinian territories and popularly known as “Palestinian couscous.” Couscous, originally a North African dish, is also popular in modern Israeli cuisine.
On December 23, Twitter user Dani Williams posted a photo of the in-flight menu and wrote there was “nothing like some BDS and delusion with your salad,” adding that it was the “last time” the airline gets his money and dubbing its personnel “terrorist sympathizers.”
— Dani Williams (@Thedaniwilliams) December 23, 2017
On the same day, Facebook user David Garnelas posted an image of the menu to the Israel Advocacy Movement Facebook group. He wrote: “I thought this was an Israeli salad… obviously [Virgin Group founder Richard] Branson showing his true colors… Israelis must boycott Virgin and Israel must ask for an explanation. When I complained the stewardess tried to take back the menu from me.”
Another online user identifying as Anthony Den tweeted: “Bearing in mind Jews have lived on the land you say they now occupy for over 3,000 years maybe it should be called Jewish Salad.”
“Our customers’ experience on board is a key focus and we are constantly refreshing our food offerings on our flights,” Virgin Atlantic said in a statement following the renaming of the dish. “We recently introduced a maftoul salad on board our flights. It includes a mix of maftoul and other couscous, complemented by tomatoes and cucumber and seasoned with parsley, mint and lemon vinaigrette.
“We were aware that maftoul is not a widely known ingredient – so the dish was listed as a ‘Palestinian couscous salad,’ and later as a ‘couscous salad.’ We’d like to reassure all customers that our sole intention was to bring new flavors on board, and never to cause offense through the naming or renaming of the dish.”
The airline faced a second round of online backlash from pro-Palestinian supporters following the change, with groups furious that it seemed to “apologize” for using the term “Palestinian.”
“So Virgin Atlantic apologizes for using the term ‘Palestinian couscous’ to describe… well… Palestinian couscous on its in-flight menu,” said doctoral researcher Ragnar Weilandt.
“You can’t get more Palestinian cuisine than maftoul (couscous), national Palestinian dish,” Bassam Mansour tweeted. “Virgin should not have caved in to falsification of the name of the Palestinian cuisine to please twisted and hate-filled passengers. Virgin is morally culpable.”
The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign said that “after an orchestrated campaign by Zionist groups, Virgin Atlantic airlines decides that Palestinian food is offensive. Removes the word ‘Palestinian,’ but keeps the food. Shameful.”