June 29, 2011
Dear Mr. Richard H. Anderson:
We write on behalf of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), the oldest and one of the largest pro-Israel organizations in the U.S., regarding Delta Air Lines decision to add Saudi Arabian Airlines to its SkyTeam in 2012. As you surely know, Delta has been severely criticized for this decision, because Saudi Arabia engages in abhorrent and unacceptable discriminatory practices against Israel, Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims, women and others. Understandably, the public was outraged at the prospect that Deltas partnership with Saudi Arabian Airlines would mean that Delta would have to adhere to and enforce these discriminatory policies and practices when it flies to Saudi Arabia.
We were heartened to see that after insensitively dismissing the legitimate concerns raised about Deltas alliance with Saudi Arabian Airlines, Delta finally issued an appropriate statement today, making it clear that Delta Air Lines does not discriminate nor do we condone discrimination against any of our customers in regards to age, race, nationality, religion, or gender. The statement also clarifies that Delta does not operate service to Saudi Arabia and does not codeshare with any airline on flights to that country. Delta does not intend to codeshare or share reciprocal benefits, such as frequent flier benefits, with Saudi Arabian Airlines . . . . According to the statement, Deltas agreement with the Saudi airline will simply allow passengers to book tickets on multiple carriers.
While we welcome this clarification, we nevertheless urge Delta to retract its decision to add Saudi Arabian Airlines to its SkyTeam because, quite simply, it is the moral, ethical and right thing to do.
The U.S. Department of State notes reports by U.S. citizens that they were refused a Saudi visa because their passports reflected travel to Israel or indicated that they were born in Israel. (See http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1012.html.) Jews are also not welcome in Saudi Arabia. In February 2004, the official Web site of the Saudi Supreme Commission for Tourism reflected that it was the policy of the Saudi Arabian government to deny visas to, among others, (1) anyone holding an Israeli passport or holding a passport with an Israeli arrival or departure stamp; and (2) Jewish People. After the anti-Semitic reference to Jewish People was discovered and publicized, the Saudi government removed it from the Commission for Tourisms Web site. But that has not changed the fact that Saudi Arabia is hostile to Jews and Israel, and that anyone Jewish and/or with any connection to Israel is not welcome there. It is our understanding that when Saudi Arabia is seeking to hire personnel from outside the country, it will not permit Jews to be hired.
In its most recent report on international religious freedom, issued last November, the U.S. Department of State provided an abysmal picture of Saudi Arabia, noting that [f]reedom of religion is neither recognized nor protected under the law and is severely restricted in practice. (See http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2010/148843.htm.) Saudi Arabia prohibits public, non-Muslim religious activities and thus churches and synagogues are banned. As the State Department noted, non-Muslim groups have been detained and harassed even for worshipping privately. Items that Saudi Arabia considers contrary to the tenets of Islam are banned and may subject the owner to penalties and fines. (See http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1012.html.) Saudi Arabia defines this prohibition broadly, according to the State Department, so that even Christmas decorations would be banned from entering Saudi Arabia. The public display of a Bible is prohibited. Even when the U.S. was trying to protect Saudi Arabia from invasion and takeover during the war in Iraq, Saudi Arabia prohibited U.S. troops who were Christian from wearing crosses, and troops who were Jewish from wearing Stars of David. Surely an individual wearing a kippah or a Star of David, or anything else that identified the individual as Jewish, would be prohibited from entering the country. Indeed, an American wearing a cross or a priests collar would not be welcome in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia also discriminates against women. According to the State Department, women visitors must be met by an authorized sponsor upon arriving in Saudi Arabia. A married woman must have her husbands permission to leave Saudi Arabia even if she is a U.S. citizen and even if her husband does not have Saudi nationality. In addition, homosexuals are not welcome in Saudi Arabia. They have been imprisoned and even executed in Saudi Arabia.
Given Saudi Arabian Airlines abhorrent and unacceptable record of discrimination, bigotry and anti-Semitism, Delta should never have agreed to add the airline to Deltas SkyTeam in 2012. The fact that other airlines may already have such an alliance with the Saudi airline does not make it right. Indeed, we call on those other airlines to no longer team with Saudi Arabian Airlines, or any other airline whose policies and practices are bigoted and anti-Semitic. If Delta is truly committed to not condoning discrimination against any of its customers many of whom are Jewish, Israeli, Christian, non-Muslim, female and homosexual then Delta should stand behind that commitment and rescind the decision to partner with an airline run by Saudi Arabia. Once again, it is the moral, ethical and right thing to do. Delta will then have set a standard for other airlines to follow.
We look forward to your prompt response.
Very truly yours,
Morton A. Klein .
Susan B. Tuchman, Esq
Director, Center for Law and Justice