A German court has ruled that Kuwait Airways can refuse to transport Israeli citizens without running afoul of German anti-discrimination law.
The case involved a man who had purchased a ticket from Frankfurt to Bangkok via Kuwait City on Kuwait Airways in 2016. Upon learning that he intended to travel with an Israeli passport, Kuwait Airways refused him transport on its own aircraft, but offered to get him to Bangkok on another airline.
The man sued for discrimination.
Court Rules for Kuwait Airways
While carefully stressing it was not evaluation the logic of the Kuwaiti law, the Frankfurt-based court held:
- Their evaluation did not consider “whether the law of a foreign country … makes sense” from a German legal view
- The Israeli could not be compensated for the airline’s action because it was not discriminatory under German law
- “Germany’s anti-discrimination law prohibits, among other things, discrimination because of race, ethnicity or confession. Discrimination because of citizenship is, by contrast, not covered by the law.
Put simply, the court held that German anti-discrimatinon law does not protect people based upon citizenship. Because a Jewish or Israeli person could travel on a German or U.S. passport and because a Kuwait Airways’ employees faced severe repercussions for allowing a passenger traveling on an Israeli passport to fly, refusing to transport the plaintiff was reasonable.
Several news sources refer to a “stopover” in Kuwait, while others suggest the man was merely connecting in Kuwait. That’s absolutely key in my mind, though I don’t think it would have altered the German court’s ruling. It’s one thing to connect in a country while quite another to try to enter it. In the case of Kuwait, however, it does not recognize Israel and therefore does not recognize an Israeli passport as a valid travel document.
Nathan Gelbart, lawyer for the Israeli, condemned the court’s ruling–
This is a shameful verdict for democracy and for Germany in general. This verdict cannot stand.
Uwe Becker, the mayor of Frankfurt, also criticized the decision–
An airline that practices discrimination and anti-Semitism by refusing to fly Israeli passengers should not be allowed to take off or land in Frankfurt.
This is a different case than the Fifth Freedom case in the USA. In that case, the U.S. Department of Transportation sided with an Israeli passport holder after Kuwait Airways denied him transport on a New York to London flight operated by Kuwait Airways.
I know politics and statecraft are complicated. Even so, it just strikes me as pathetic that a willing customer would not be able to secure passage on an airline that is struggling financially. Entering Kuwait is a whole different matter, but transiting–it seems to me–is hardly a threat to Kuwaiti national security.