LAWFARE PROJECT WINS AGAIN! Kuwait Airways shamefully grounds US-London flights at substantial revenue loss rather than fly Israelis

The Lawfare Project has secured another huge victory in the battle to hold Kuwait Airways Corporation (KAC) accountable for its refusal to fly Israeli nationals out of U.S. airports. On Tuesday, Department of Transportation spokeswoman Namrata Kolachalam announced that KAC had cancelled all its flights from JFK to London instead of complying with a DOT ruling requiring the airline to allow Israelis on flights to non-Arab League destinations or risk termination of its U.S. operations. The loss of revenue KAC will suffer from the cancellation of this lucrative flight path demonstrates the vehemence with which Arab League countries comply with the boycott of Israeli nationals, products and businesses.

DOT’s announcement comes on the heels of The Lawfare Project’s visit to JFK on Sunday evening, during which time KAC representatives refused to sell a ticket to an Israeli woman hoping to fly to London on the next KAC flight.After first telling LP attorneys and the Israeli woman that a flight was operating on Tuesday evening, the KAC representative retracted the statement and said that “all flights to London from JFK have been suspended.” When LP attorneys pressed the matter and requested more information on the suspended flights, the representative became belligerent, demanding that they tell her their names and “who they work for.” She then requested the support of a KAC manager and threatened to call JFK terminal authorities.

Although at this time KAC’s violations of federal anti-discrimination laws may no longer be actionable, the airline is not off the hook. As The Lawfare Project’s legal analysis explains in detail, there are a host of state and federal laws that KAC has violated in its refusal to fly Israelis, and The Lawfare Project will continue to work closely with Eldad Gatt and his attorney, Jeffrey Lovitky, to ensure that KAC is punished for its actions.

The Lawfare Project has requested an investigation by the Department of Commerce’s Office of Anti-Boycott Compliance, which is responsible for the enforcement of federal anti-boycott laws and regulations promulgated precisely to penalize and prohibit commercial activities undertaken in compliance with the Arab League boycott of Israel. We sent a letter with our legal analysis to Secretary Penny Pritzker, and received a response from the Director of the Office of Anti-Boycott Compliance indicating that the Department has “closely followed” the situation but that it could not “confirm nor deny the existence of any ongoing investigation”.

As DOT told The Lawfare Project in its communication announcing the finding of discrimination, “Kuwait’s refusal to sell air transportation to Israeli citizens on a route between the U.S. and another point may also be in violation of U.S. anti-boycott laws and regulations, which are designed to prohibit and/or penalize cooperation with international economic boycotts in which the U.S. does not participate. The Kuwait law at issue here was enacted pursuant to the Arab League’s boycott against persons doing business with Israel. U.S. policy ha opposed such economic boycotts. Sec. 3 of the U.S. Export Administration Act of 1979, Pub. L. 96-72, 93 Stat. 503, describes the policy of the Unites States to ‘oppose restrictive trade practices or boycotts fostered or imposed by foreign countries against other countries friendly to the United States…” 50 App. U.S.C. 2402(5)(A). The Department of Commerce’s Office of Anti-Boycott Compliance has promulgated regulations in this area. See 15 C.F.R. 760 (outlining Department of Commerce’s anti-boycott regulations). These regulations include provisions specifically prohibiting entities, including offices or branches of foreign concerns in the U.S. from refusing to do business with nationals or residents of a boycotted country when such refusal is pursuant to a requirement of the boycotting country. See 15 CFR 760.2(a)(1). As such, we find KAC’s actions, which are inconsistent with and possibly in violation of U.S. anti-boycott laws, to be unreasonable as a matter of U.S. policy.”

The Lawfare Project sincerely hopes that the Department of Commerce will undertake a serious investigation and be more forthcoming with its findings as to violations of federal anti-boycott laws and regulations. We call on state and federal lawmakers to demand transparency and accountability on this critically important matter, and hope that KAC–and any other airline operating in violation of the law–will be denied the privilege of doing business in the United States.

Individuals and corporations engaging in discriminatory commercial practices are hereby forewarned that the legal and financial risks of refusing to deal with Israelis will be disproportionately painful for the boycotters. The Lawfare Project will continue to combat the Arab League boycott and its protégé, the BDS movement, in all their pernicious manifestations.

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