This is a particularly odious case of religious/ethnic discrimination (against Jews), made doubly odious because it’s from the German airline Lufthansa. It’s recounted in this article in the Washington Post, but you can find supplementary details elsewhere, like the Times of Israel.
In short, a flight from New York to Budapest, with a layover in Frankfurt, was carrying a bunch of Jewish passengers. Some were Orthodox in their usual black regalia, others were dressed in street clothing. Some were traveling in a group and others independently. The reason for the exodus: an annual memorial service to the grave of a “wonder-working rabbi,” Yeshayah Steiner (died 1925) in a Hungarian village.
An estimated 135-170 Jews were on the flight, 80% of whom wore Hasidic clothing. A few of the latter (just three were reprimanded by flight attendants) caused trouble by refusing to wear masks (required by Lufthansa) and praying in the aisle (see photo below). Needless to say, I think this religious stuff is nonsense, and those few who violated the regulations should have been sanctioned.
Instead, every visible Jew on the plane was punished, and by “visible” I mean those who wore Hasidic clothing (including the big majority who worse masks) and those who had Jewish names and wore other Jewish regalia, including yarmulkes (skullcaps). The punishment consisted on their being kicked off the connecting flight and banning them from all Lufthansa flights for 24 hours. Remember the vast majority of these people did nothing wrong—except be “visible Jews.”
After the plane arrived in Frankfurt, the trouble began, and was compounded by a meshugga Lufthansa gate agent (my emphasis):
Passengers who spoke with The Post said that when they arrived at their gate in Frankfurt, they noticed about two dozen police officers. The Federal Police at Frankfurt Airport said in an email that their presence was “preventative” and that no one was arrested from the original flight because the officers weren’t able to identify the travelers who flouted the rules. Lufthansa spokesman Tal Muscal said he does not know who made the decision to bar passengers from their connecting flight.
A video posted online by travel blog DansDeals captures the explanation a Lufthansa gate agent provided in an announcement when the flight departed without three-quarters of its passengers: “Due to an operational reason coming from the flight from New York, all passengers here, we have to cancel you on this flight,” the agent says. “You know why it was.”
Another video shared by DansDeals shows passenger Yitzy Halpern speaking with a Lufthansa employee in customer service. Halpern is wearing a dark long-sleeve polo shirt with a yarmulke, or skullcap, on his head.
“I was wearing a mask the whole time,” Halpern says in the video. “Why am I lumped in with them?”
“Everybody has to pay for a couple” who didn’t comply with mask rules, the unidentified Lufthansa representative says. “It was Jewish people who were the mess, who made the problems.”
Halpern, a 45-year-old from Long Island whose grandparents were Holocaust survivors, told the woman that picking out all Jews was “gruesome” and antisemitic.
“It would have been [the same] if you were African or Polander,” she says.
That last sentence doesn’t make it any better! Here’s the second video, which was originally on YouTube and then removed for (get this) violating “hate speech” regulations. It has since been restored. (Caption of video below: A video hared by DansDeals shows passenger Yitzy Halpern speaking with a Lufthansa employee in customer service. Video: DansDeals.)
Some passengers were called to the service desk one by one, and those who wore Hasidic clothing or other Jewish regalia were told they would not be on the connecting flight, and were in fact banned from the airline for 24 hours. (Many took trains and buses to Hungary, but were too late for the ceremony.) Only 20 passengers were allowed on the onward flight, in a plane that held 190. In other words, the vast majority of rule-compliant Jewish passengers were punished simply because they were identifiably Jewish, and could not get to their destination in time.
Is this anti-Semitism? I’m not going to bandy about accusations here, but the order to detain the Jewish passengers came from higher up, and the order that the passengers could not take the next flight out came from an airline captain. Whatever this is, it’s really bad optics for Lufthansa.
To their credit, Lufthansa has apologized, but of course it would have to given the copious photographic and video documentation:
Lufthansa released a statement Tuesday saying the flight ban should have been limited to noncompliant passengers. “We apologize to all the passengers unable to travel on this flight, not only for the inconvenience, but also for the offense caused and personal impact,” the statement said. The airline says it is “reviewing the facts and circumstances of that day” and “will be engaging with the affected passengers to better understand their concerns.”
“What transpired is not consistent with Lufthansa’s policies or values,” the statement said. “We have zero tolerance for racism, antisemitism and discrimination of any type.”
I wrote a tweet to Lufthansa telling them that I thought their staff’s behavior was shameful and they should apologize publicly in a major venue (like the NYT), as well as to the individual passengers, but I have not had a response from them.
Here are two photos of the Rumble in Frankfurt with captions, both from the Times of Israel (all quotes above are from the Washington Post):
Crikey! Look at those guns!