May 29, 2018 | The Jerusalem Post

Austrian government may bar Kuwait Airways because of anti-Israel bias

Kuwait Airways is slated to start flights in and out of Vienna in June.

However, Austrian Economics Minister Margarete Schramböck said on Wednesday she could not rule out denying landing rights to the state-owned airline in response to allegations of antisemitism for its refusal to serve Israeli passengers.

The Austrian Press Agency and the daily Der Standard first reported that Austria’s government will consider punitive measures against Kuwait Airways. Nathan Gelbart, the Lawfare Project’s German counsel representing an Israeli passenger who sued Kuwait Airways for denying him service because of his nationality, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday: “I welcome that the government in Vienna is obviously considering sanctions against Kuwait Airways because of their discriminatory transportation policy. The most effective way to fight antisemitism is to fight antisemites. I am confident Berlin will join these considerations very soon.”

Schramböck, a member of the Austrian People’s Party, said she explicitly rejects antisemitic conduct.

Oskar Deutsch, the president of the Jewish community in Vienna, told Der Standard on Wednesday that the conduct of Kuwait Airways is clearly antisemitic and unacceptable. “The Republic of Austria should not accept when companies use antisemitic laws to discriminate against Jews. Perhaps it would be best when the Austrian government jointly with the German government and the EU commission applies pressure on this airline and Kuwait. The best would be not when Kuwait Airways is not allowed to fly to Vienna, but when Kuwait changes its antisemitic law.” 

The Kuwaiti monarchy passed a law that forbids Kuwait from doing business with Israelis. Kuwait Airways is slated to start its flights in Vienna in June.

 A spokesman for Israel’s embassy in Vienna told Der Standard, “The official policy of Kuwait Airways does not correspond to the values of the Western world. We regret the fact that this airline will also now start flights from Vienna’s airport and hope that responsible authorities will take the necessary measures.”

The Kuwait Airways case is viewed as a test for Germany’s declared fight against antisemitism. Germany’s Transportation Minister Andreas Scheuer announced this year that Kuwait Airways will face “negative consequences” if the airline does not change its behavior. However, Scheuer has not penalized the airline. It is unclear if the German government wants to allow the conflict to fizzle out to avoid sanctioning Kuwait Airways.

Benjamin Weinthal reports on human rights in the Middle East and is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal.

Follow the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on Twitter @FDD. FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.