Published June 24, 2011
An Open Letter to Delta Airlines CEO Richard Anderson:
Pardon me for communicating with you this way, but you fobbed off inquiries by others to your Customer Care e-mail department. Since I represent 400,000 constituent families of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, I thought it would be more appropriate to communicate this way and let the rest of the American people in on an outrageous situation.
What would happen if a leading U.S. carrier voluntarily allows itself to be hijacked by bigots in order to open a new market? For example, what if it entered into an agreement with a foreign airline that would see to it that no blacks or Catholics or gays boarded code-shared flights destined to reach the partner’s home nation?
I think you know the answer.
Yet, that is what Delta Airlines appears to have done when your company announced plans to add Saudi Arabian Airlines to your SkyTeam Alliance. You see, under their rules, they require that Delta ban Jews and holders of Israeli passports from boarding flights from New York or Washington bound for Jeddah.
As a Delta spokesperson Kathy Johnston so elegantly put it to customer Jeffrey Lovitsky:
“Delta must also comply with all applicable laws in every country it serves and by the same token passengers are responsible to obtain the necessary traveldocuments required for entry into another country prior to their day of travel," she wrote. "If a passenger travels without proper documents, the passenger may be denied entry into that country and our airline may be fined. Delta assumes responsibility for ensuring that each passenger boarding our aircraft has the proper documents for travel to their ticketed destination."
We certainly wouldn’t want Delta to be fined for failing to enforce the racist, religious apartheid laws of Saudi Arabia. And our community is certainly deeply appreciative of the advice to contact the U.S. State Department -- which is a polite way of telling us to go away and leave you alone to make your money in peace.
Mr. Anderson, I know that Delta cannot make any sovereign nation change its laws, but did anyone hold a gun to your head to cut this deal? Did you utter a word of protest during your negotiations with your partners over the Judenrein policies of Saudi Arabia? Did you ask Secretary of State Clinton to try to intervene in this matter?
I'll tell you what the Simon Wiesenthal Center is doing. We are drawing a straight line to the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to ask that Congress to check into the deal to see which laws Delta may have broken. But what is already clear is that Delta has broken the trust of American Jewry and degraded the cherished right of Religious freedom.
Mr. Anderson, I will be happy to fly to your Atlanta headquarters to discuss this matter with you but I won’t be flying Delta to get there.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.