Iris Eliazarov, an Israeli who lives in Queens, has filed a lawsuit against Kuwait Airways after she was barred from boarding its flight out of JFK Airport because she’s an Israeli citizen, the New York Daily News reported on February 6.
Eliazarov and her husband David Nektalov bought tickets from a travel agent to fly from New York to London with the flagship Kuwaiti airline. While Nektalov was allowed on the flight with his US passport, Eliazarov was stopped when she presented her Israeli passport and was forced to buy a ticket on another airline.
The airline cited a Kuwaiti law that prohibits Israeli citizens from flying on Kuwait Airways.
Attorney John Maggio, who represents the airline, said that the discrimination suit has no merit because the airline’s policy is based on citizenship rather than religion, claiming that a Muslim with an Israeli passport would also not be allowed on the plane.
Meanwhile, the couple’s lawyer, Paul Kerson, argued that the airline’s policy was in violation of both state and federal civil rights laws.
Federal Judge Roslynn Mauskopf ordered top federal and state law enforcement officials—Brooklyn US Attorney Loretta Lynch and State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman—to weigh in on the suit.
Eliazarov, who was born in Israel and moved to the US at the age of 11 on a green card, said that she drew her inspiration from Rosa Parks.
“I take strength from the experience of Rosa Parks,” Eliazarov was quoted by the Daily News as saying. “She became famous for her principled stand. This experience has awakened the nightmare of the experience of the Jewish people in Europe in the last century. That was a time of the wrongful splitting of families, often at transportation facilities.”
Her husband Nektalov told the Daily News that he “didn’t think a discrimination like this could exist in America, in JFK (Airport), in New York City. If they want to operate here, they have to obey our laws. Sixty years ago blacks weren’t allowed to ride buses. This is not about money. You have to make a stand.”