A New York woman filed a discrimination lawsuit against Kuwait Airways because she could not get onto a flight as an Israeli citizen.
Iris Eliazrov, a native Israeli who moved to the U.S. 15 years ago at age 11, was not able to fly out of John F. Kennedy International Airport because of a Kuwait Airways policy that bars Israeli citizens from its airlines.
In November 2014, Eliazrov and her husband, David Nektalov, were supposed to fly to London. While she could not get on the plane and had to re-book her flight with another airline, her husband, who flies with a U.S. passport, went ahead.
Kuwait does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, and a law in Kuwait forbids its airlines from serving Israeli travelers.
Nektalov said the couple decided to file the suit because they thought it was similar to policies before the Civil Rights movement.
“I didn’t think a discrimination like this could exist in America, in JFK (Airport), in New York City,” Nektalov said. “Sixty years ago blacks weren’t allowed to ride buses. This is not about money.”
Politicians in New York said they think U.S. law should supersede Kuwait’s law while on U.S. soil.
"And to say they will not fly Israeli passengers means that we should seriously consider removing some of their privileges here in this country," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).
While the incident occurred in November, federal officials are putting pressure on the New York attorney general’s office to investigate the case.
Federal Judge Roslynn Mauskopf told Brooklyn U.S. attorney general Loretta Lynch and state attorney general Eric Scheiderman to consider the merits of the case.
Lawyers representing Kuwait Airways, however, said the suit would not have traction in court because the policy was based on citizenship.
John Maggio, a lawyer representing the airline, said if a Muslim flew with an Israeli passport, the company would still not allow that person to fly.
He added he thinks this policy is similar to an embargo on a specific country, like the U.S. forbidding companies to engage in business with Iran.
Kuwait Airways have not commented about the suit.