Alleged Delta Policy Upsets American Jews

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The airline will be forced to adhere to the kingdom's rules against religious totems, artifacts that do not meet Saudi Arabia's legal threshold. (Published Friday, Jun 24, 2011)

    Delta Airlines is strongly denying its participates in discriminatory practices a day after a report alleged the airline agreed to help bar American Jews and Israeli citizens from Saudi Arabia.

    Thursday a widely circulated story by Religion News Service said the airline had agreed to prohibit Jewish and Israeli passengers from flying on U.S. to Saudia Arabia co-shared flights with the kingdom's national carrier starting in 2012.

    The report stemmed from a January announcement by Delta that Saudi Arabian Airlines would join its Sky Team Network next year.

    Delta currently does not offer any direct flights from the Bay Area to Saudia Arabia. Instead it offers flights to Dubai and Tel Aviv.

    But Friday the airline rejected any claims that it agreed to participate in discriminatory practices and suggested it was the responsibility of individual passengers to comply with international travel restrictions and to obtain visas to sovereign countries.

    "First and foremost, I think one of the most important things to mention here is that Delta does not discriminate nor do we condone discrimination against anyone in regards to age, race, nationality, religion, or gender," the airline said in a statement.

    Delta also said it cannot impact the requirements individual countries uphold to enter their country.

    However Rabbi Irwin Kula, the president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, questioned the authenticity of the report. He told the USA Today that he knows many Jewish professionals who regularly travel to the Arab country.

    The U.S. State Department however says there have been "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," according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

    But the the State Department also cites similar practices in Israel where "U.S. citizens whom Israeli authorities suspect of being of Arab, Middle Eastern or Muslim origin; those who have been involved in missionary or activist activity; and those who ask that Israeli stamps not be entered into their passport may face additional, often time-consuming, and probing questioning by immigration and border authorities, or may even be denied entry into Israel, the West Bank or Gaza."

    Regardless, the Religion News Service report says that the restriction would extend to other religious groups who display obvious non-Islamic items, such as Bibles or crosses.