Kuwait now ‘at war’ with Israel


(Photo: Cultural Office of the Embassy of the State of Kuwait)

(Photo: Cultural Office of the Embassy of the State of Kuwait)

Kuwait, the nation rescued from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s thuggery by the United States in the first Gulf war some 25 years ago, is itself now “at war” with America’s major Middle East ally, Israel.

The stunning statement is included in a filing in a court case that developed when an Israeli citizen tried to fly Kuwait Airways from New York to London, and the airline refused to sell the ticket.

The U.S. Department of Transportation found that the airline illegally discriminated against the prospective passenger and issued a cease and desist notice to the airline, which has indicated it will refuse to comply.

“Kuwait and Israel are in a state of war, lack diplomatic relations and the state of Kuwait does not and cannot recognize Israeli passports as legal documents,” says a document submitted to the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in the fight.

In a footnote, the legal brief explains, “In times of war, the laws and customs that prevail during peacetime are terminated or suspended, and the existence of a state of war typically terminates diplomatic and commercial relations between the parties.”

How long such a status has been claimed by Kuwait was not defined, but it does mention an Arab boycott of Israel and its citizens that has been long-running.

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The specific claim came in a petition of Kuwait Airways to the U.S. Department of Transportation for a review of its staff action that concluded the company, owned by the nation of Kuwait, violated U.S. nondiscrimination law by refusing to sell the holder of an Israeli passport an airline ticket from New York to London.

That petition itself was submitted to the court as part of a motion by Anthony Foxx, secretary of transportation, to dismiss a legal case over his agency’s determination that Kuwait Airways did not discriminate, because that later was overturned and the conclusion was that it did discriminate.

The CIA reports Kuwait is nearly 77 percent Muslim. It was rescued by the U.S.-led coalition after being overrun by Iraq early in August in 1990.

“Following several weeks of aerial bombardment, a U.S.-led, UN coalition began a ground assault on 23 February 1991 that liberated Kuwait in four days,” the CIA said.

Currently, it is, according to the same source, “a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor and, to a lesser degree, forced prostitution.”

The U.S. agency explains, “Kuwait does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making sufficient efforts to do so; no efforts were made to prosecute or convict trafficking offenders using the 2013 anti-trafficking law or other laws addressing trafficking crimes; victim protection measures remained weak particularly due to a lack of proactive victim identification procedures and non-enforcement of the law prohibiting sponsors from withholding workers’ passports; no system was developed to refer victims to protective services; the government initiated investigations of companies that brought in large numbers of unskilled foreign workers under false promises of work and that illegally sold visas.”

WND reported earlier that Kuwait Airways is continuing its rejection of Israeli passport holders on U.S. soil for its New York-London flights even though the U.S. government has ordered the company to halt.

Lawyer Jeffrey A. Lovitky, who several years ago had exposed a similar practice by Delta Airlines due to a code-sharing arrangement with Saudi Arabian Airlines, told WND that Kuwait Airways’ permission to use American airports should be terminated.

“Kuwait Airways is acting at the explicit direction of the government of Kuwait in excluding Israeli citizens from its flights between New York and London,” he told WND.

“The Kuwaiti government’s embrace of the Arab boycott of Israel is a manifestation of its deep hostility toward the Jewish people. I call upon the Congress to make it a crime for any company to boycott Israeli citizens, when such boycott is at the direction of a foreign government.

“And I call upon the Secretary of Transportation to emphatically reject this manifestation of bigotry against the Jewish people, by immediately terminating Kuwait Airways permit to fly between the United States and the United Kingdom,” he said.

Lovitky said he filed a formal complaint with the Department of Transportation in 2013 alleging illegal discrimination.

It was rejected because Kuwait Airways “was required to follow Kuwait law.”

But he said when he filed a lawsuit on behalf of Eldad Gatt of Jerusalem against the federal agency, the decision ultimately was reversed.

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In the new filing, Foxx said he wanted the petition to review his agency’s initial rejection of the discrimination complaint dismissed. The plaintiff, Eldad Gett, represented by attorney Lovitky, wants the case kept alive because while the DOD has issued a cease and desist order against Kuwait Airways, that has not been enforced.

Included in that submission was a document from Evelyn D. Sahr, Edward Longosz and Drew Derco, who represent the airline in the United States.

It explains that because of Kuwaiti law, the airline “cannot accept passengers traveling on an Israeli passport.”

“KAC is wholly owned by the government of Kuwait and, as such, can be viewed as an instrument of the government tin its international commerce and foreign policy. KAC therefore has procedures in place to ensure compliance with all applicable restrictions for doing business with Israeli passport holders, including those at issue in this proceeding,” the argument explained.

It said the result of the fight could have “broad implications” for air travel with the United States and “16 nations including Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” who all currently are in the Arab League Boycott of Isreal.

The underlying court case alleges federal law holds that “an air carrier or foreign air carrier may not subject a person, place, port, or type of traffic in foreign air transportation to unreasonable discrimination.”

Kuwait Airways did, the government found.

“After a thorough review of the information provided by the parties, we find that KAC unreasonably discriminated against Mr. Gatt in violation of 48 U.S.C. [Paragraph] 41310 by refusing to sell him a ticket on its flight from JFK to LHR. Our conclusion that KAC unreasonably discriminated against Mr. Gatt is based on the history and intent of … case law, and the permit authority granted to KAC to engage in scheduled foreign air transportation,” the agency’s ruling said.

The crux of the dispute is that the airline wishes to impose the restrictions that are authorized inside Kuwait to its business activity in the United States, which has far different requirements and regulations.

The DOT letter said, “A common carrier is ‘obliged to carry all persons who apply for passage, if the accommodations are sufficient, unless there is a proper excuse for refusal.’”

The instructions continued, “In cases interpreting the common law non-discrimination duty of common carriers, the Supreme Court has upheld the common carrier duty not to discriminate on the basis of race using the unreasonable discrimination standard under the Interstate Commerce Act.”

The letter said: “We have applied these principles to determine whether KAC’s refusal to sell a ticket to Mr. Gatt from JFK to LHR on the basis of his Israeli citizenship is unreasonable discrimination. KAC contends that its denial …. is reasonable because Kuwaiti law prohibits the carrier from selling a ticket to an Israeli passport holder. KAC emphasizes that the statutory penalties for violation of the Kuwaiti law include imprisonment with hard labor, in addition to a fine, as evidence that it cannot comply with U.S. law.

“This is not a proper justification for the denial of transportation as the penalties that allegedly have compelled KAC’s conduct are part of a discriminatory statutory scheme. … Moreover, this complaint does not involve travel to a country where the complainant is not allowed to disembark based on the laws of that country.”

WND’s calls to the airline and its legal representation did not generate a requested comment.

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Lovitky argued an Israeli legally can be in New York and London, and, therefore, there’s no reason to discriminate against them in flight services between those cities.

Especially when the discrimination is going on in New York.

WND reported several years ago, after Lovitky had fought for access by Israelis to Saudi Arabian Airlines, that Bill de Blasio, then a candidate for mayor, blasted the airline for its position.

Lovitky also challenged Delta Airlines when it was working under a cooperative agreement with Saudi Arabia to feature flights directly to the kingdom. Delta was asking passengers about their religious affiliation, since Saudi Arabia does not allow Jews to enter.

Eventually, Delta agreed not to ask the questions.