Study: Arab Airlines Cater to Anti-Israel, Anti-Semitic Customers

A Qatar Airways plane. (Qatar Airways/Handout via Reuters)

Airlines in Middle Eastern countries that do not include Israel in their route maps are not just anti-Israel – they are anti-Semitic, two researchers from the University of Minnesota argue in a new paper. “With data on over 100 airlines, we then document that Israel map denial is more likely for airlines with likely customers from countries exhibiting greater anti-Semitism,” researchers Joel Waldfogel and Paul Vaaler claim. The paper confirms, with metrics, something that many Israelis and Jews have long suspected.

That airlines such as Qatar Airways, Etihad and Kuwait Airways, among others, would shun Israel is not news, but what is, according to the paper, is that they are also anti-Jewish. “Denial [of Israel’s existence] is more likely for state-owned airlines in countries that do not recognize Israel,” the paper says. “Kosher meal options on online menus follow similar patterns, suggesting anti-Semitic rather than anti-Zionist motivations.”

Among airlines that have hubs in Arab countries, none list Israel as an entity. The only exceptions are Royal Jordanian, which has flights to Ben Gurion Airport, and EgyptAir, which operates flights to Israel under a special subsidiary. In all other regions, Israel was either listed on a map along with all other countries, even if an airline did not fly there, or was not included, along with all the other countries an airline did not fly to. Nearly all airlines that served meals had options to order kosher meals. Only among Middle Eastern airlines was Israel consistently ignored, and was no kosher food available. According to the Economist, which reported on the paper, the report showed that “a correlation emerged between an airline’s removal of Israel from maps, its lack of a kosher food option for passengers, and the likely prevalence of anti-Semitism among its customers.”

According to the researchers, “while product differentiation is generally benign, it can be employed to discriminate against customer groups, either to enhance profitability by appealing to discriminatory customers or in unprofitable ways that indulge owners’ tastes for discrimination.” In the case of Israel, that discrimination is evidenced “by omitting Israel from its maps, or failing to include kosher meal options.”

Despite this, the international alliances that Western airlines run in order to extend their routes tolerate the situation, the study showed. Any airline that wants to serve the Arab world has no choice but to partner with the available parties, nearly all of whom engage in this behavior. “Israel denial does not reduce the probability of alliance membership with alliance leaders having few airline alternatives to choose from in the Middle East,” the researchers said.

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