Friday, June 24, 2011

Should Delta Airlines create forged Saudi visas?

Recently I read the Dave Winer post No journalism on Facebook and was moved to write a comment that read:

The issue is that Facebook, and Google, and just about every on-line company has to operate in accordance with the requirements of hundreds of governments. While their reactions seem incredibly skittish, is there any other way in which a for-profit concern can continue to do business? Social Media Company X can go tell Government Y to pound sand, but if they do so, Governments Y, Z, and AA all have the power to block Social Media Company X from operating. show more show less

And these issues are not limited to social media firms. Steven Perez recently shared a Hullabaloo post from tristero that began with the words:

Dear Delta Airlines,

Well, I can't print the next words in the post, but suffice it to say that tristero dislikes Delta so much that tristero suggested that Delta perform an impossible anatomical trick that rhymes with "truck Jew."

Which is sort of the point made by an item in the Huffington Post with the title "U.S. Jews Not Able To Fly On Delta Flights To Saudi Arabia."

But if you read the article, you learn two things. First, some (but not all) of the prohibitions not only apply to U.S. Jews, but also to Swiss Christians, Canadian Hindus, and Danish Buddhists - at least those who carry religious items with them. Second, the prohibitions are not enforced by Delta itself.

Saudi Arabia, which is governed by strict Islamic law, requires citizens of almost every country to obtain a visa. People who wish to enter the country must have a sponsor; women, who must be dressed according to Saudi standards of modesty, must be met at the Saudi airport by a man who will act as a chaperone.

Saudi Arabia bans anyone with an Israeli stamp in their passport from entering the country, even in transit. Many Jews believe the kingdom has also withheld visas from travelers with Jewish-sounding names.

Religious items such as Bibles that are not related to Islam may be confiscated at the airport.

Obviously this is not Delta employees doing this, but Saudi officials. In fact, Delta makes the point that if it tried to carry someone to Saudi Arabia who didn't have a valid visa, Delta would be fined. (Now THAT'S a whole new wrinkle on the illegal alien debate.)

So why is Delta being singled out? Because beginning in 2012, Delta and Saudi Arabian Airlines are now part of the same airline network (SkyTeam), which means that you will be able to buy a ticket to Saudi Arabia from a Delta website or ticket counter.

So how could Delta keep everyone happy? Well, for one, they could create forged Saudi visas so that their passengers can get into Israel. And another thing that they could do is to provide passengers with those fake book covers so that we can cover up our Bibles and Books of Mormon or whatever with covers that say "Quran" or whatever.

Seriously, the argument could be advanced that Delta should refuse to do business with Saudi Arabian Airlines in principle. But if you argue that Delta shouldn't fly to location X on principle, there are other valid principles which dictate that Delta should not fly to locations Y or Z. Should Delta refuse to fly to California? After all, we are well known for beating people based upon their sports affiliations. And heaven knows what human rights would be tramped if a Delta passenger were to wave a Confederate flag on an El-Lay street. (Yes, I just waved the bloody shirt. For historical purposes, of course.)

Oh, and for the record, El Al's U.S. partner is American Airlines. Sort of:

Due to a regulatory change by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, American Airlines has suspended its codeshare on flights operated by El Al until further notice.

This regulatory change does not affect El Al's codeshare on flights operated by American Airlines, which continues uninterrupted.

So technically you can't fly American Airlines to Israel, but if you could, guess what? You have to have a valid visa.

Note: International Document requirements and taxes are subject to change without notice.

For U.S. citizens, a passport valid for six months beyond duration of stay, an onward or return ticket, and proof of sufficient funds are required for entry. A no-charge, three-month visa may be issued upon arrival and may be renewed.

All visitors are advised to review documentation requirements for travel to Israel very carefully to determine what documents are required for their situation. These requirements change frequently.

Of course, all of this is lost in a barrage of headlines similar to the Huffington Post one. Let's face it, a headline with the words "no-Jew policy" is more captivating than a headline with the words "Fly Delta, lose your crucifix."
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