Sad Day for Germany: Frankfurt District Court Rules in Favor of Kuwait Airways’ Anti-Israeli Discrimination

In response to the decision for Kuwait Airways, Frankfurt Mayor Uwe Becker stated, “An airline that practices discrimination and anti-Semitism by refusing to fly Israeli passengers should not be allowed to takeoff or land in Frankfurt”

FRANKFURT, GERMANY—Today, The Frankfurt District Court ruled in favor of Kuwait Airways in a lawsuit against the airline. The case was brought by an Israeli passenger, represented by The Lawfare Project’s German counsel, Nathan Gelbart, who bought a ticket from Frankfurt to Bangkok last summer but, on attempting to board his flight, was barred from doing so because of his nationality.

Kuwait bans all its citizens and companies from doing any business with the Jewish State or its citizens. Kuwait Airways enforces this policy strictly, banning Israelis from its flights. It has faced similar actions in Switzerland and the United States, where legal pressure led to the airline cancelling its popular NYC-London flights, and all its inter-European flights, rather than compromise its racist policy.

The Mayor and City Treasurer of Frankfurt, Uwe Becker, has expressed his disapproval of the ruling in the following statement:

“To my mind, an airline that practices discrimination and anti-Semitism by refusing to fly Israeli passengers should not be allowed to takeoff or land in Frankfurt, or at any other airport in Germany. This Kuwaiti law, that is deeply anti-Semitic and that forbids the transport of Israelis cannot be legal grounds for the violation of international standards.”

The Judge’s explanation for today’s decision has not yet been made public. Counsel for the Israeli passenger who brought the case have said that correspondence from the judge make it seem likely that Kuwait Airways was able to get away with their systematic, institutional racism towards Israelis because it offered to purchase a flight for the Israeli on a different airline.

Brooke Goldstein, the Executive Director of The Lawfare Project, which provided counsel to the litigant, commented:

“If a restaurant refused to provide service to someone because they were black, we would rightly be outraged and appalled. We wouldn’t stop being appalled if, upon kicking him out, the restaurant offered him a voucher for the restaurant next door. That is the legal reasoning the judge seems to have used in this case.”

Goldstein continued, “This is a clear-cut case of bigoted, anti-Semitic discrimination. To see a Jewish person banned from exercising his freedoms in Germany in 2017 is chilling enough. To see that discrimination whitewashed and legitimized by a German judge is grotesque. By any measure, this verdict is ludicrous and we will be appealing.”

Nathan Gelbart, the Lawfare Project’s German counsel, said:

“I am deeply shocked that a German Court has so obviously allowed a totalitarian regime’s discriminatory legislation to overrule both German National Law and Germany’s democratic values. The statement by the court that my client was supposed to accept transportation on other airlines is nothing more than capitulating to anti-Semitic discrimination by Kuwait Airways. This is a shameful verdict for democracy and for Germany in general. It must be corrected.”

Outside of the courts, Kuwait Airways has come under political pressure to cease its discriminatory commercial practice. Last month, the German Federal Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, Alexander Dobrindt, ordered a Federal Transport Ministry investigation into whether the airline’s current policy of refusing service to Israeli nationals violates existing air traffic laws. The investigation is ongoing, and is independent of the lawsuit and today’s troubling decision.

Volker Beck, a former Bundestag member of the Green Party, made clear the choice facing Kuwait Airways. “Stop the discrimination or stop doing business in Germany,” he said in comments to the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper.

Mayor and Treasurer of Frankfurt, Uwe Becker, has added to the pressure against Kuwait Airways in Germany. That pressure is expected to increase as a result of the litigant signaling his intention to appeal the judge’s decision.

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