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ADL blasts Lufthansa's "non-apology" after Jewish passengers blocked from flight

Fallout over end of travel mask mandate
Fallout over end of travel mask mandate 02:53

The Anti-Defamation League is calling out Lufthansa after the German carrier blocked a large group of travelers — seemingly because they were Jewish — from boarding a flight in Frankfurt, Germany.

The carrier apologized for last week's incident, calling it inconsistent with its policies and values. "We have zero tolerance for racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination of any type," Lufthansa said Tuesday in a statement.  

Lufthansa also said it should have limited its flight ban to passengers who refused to follow its rules. 

"While Lufthansa is still reviewing the facts and circumstances of that day, we regret that the large group was denied boarding rather than limiting it to the non-compliant guests," the airline added. "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 ADL, a leading anti-hate organization, dismissed Lufthansa's statement as insufficient and vague.

"This non-apology fails to admit fault or identify the banned passengers as Jews. It also refers to them as a group, even though many were strangers. They had one commonality — being visibly Jewish," the group stated in a tweet. "In addition to investigating, ensuring accountability and taking steps to repair the harm, including compensating the victims to the extent possible, Lufthansa, as a German company, has a special responsibility to educate its staff." 

Yad Vashem director Dani Dayan, the former Consul General of Israel in New York and the director of Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, also weighed in. Lufthansa's statement "is not an apology," he tweeted. "We expect you to do better. Not too late." 

Rabbi David Zwiebel of Agudath Israel of America, which represents the Haredi Orthodox community, called on Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr to investigate "disturbing accounts" about the flight in a letter on Monday.

"Excluding Jews from a flight because they were recognizable as Jewish is a scandal. I expect German companies in particular to be aware of antisemitism," tweeted Marlene Schoenberger, a member of the German Greens party tasked with fighting antisemitism.

The American Center for Law & Justice, a conservative, Christian-based activist group, plans to sue Lufthansa on behalf of at least 26 people it contends were victimized by "the unconscionable antisemitic incident," according to a notice emailed to the carrier and sent to CBS MoneyWatch. 

"Jews coming from JFK"

Lufthansa on April 4 stopped more than 100 people from getting on a connecting flight to Budapest, Hungary, after a smaller number allegedly misbehaved while traveling from New York to Frankfurt. About 30 others were allowed to board. 

The excluded passengers included many wearing the garb of ultra-Orthodox Jews or those who had Jewish-sounding names, according to multiple accounts and video posted on social media.

"If you feel you have to punish individuals who didn't comply, that's fine, passenger Usher Schik told New York Jewish Week. "But you can't punish an entire race just because we look alike." 

One video first reported and shared by discount travel website DansDeals was posted to YouTube and Instagram, but was taken down from both for violating hate speech policies. 

Still available on Twitter, the video is blurred because it is illegal in Germany to record someone without their consent. The video shows a Lufthansa supervisor explaining that "everyone has to pay" for a couple that had apparently violated the carrier's masking rules, and that "it's Jews coming from JFK," she said. "Jewish people who were the mess, who made the problems ... just for this flight," she added.

Another video posted online by DansDeals appears to show a Lufthansa gate agent explaining why the flight had taken off with only a quarter of its passengers. 

"Due to an operational reason coming from the flight from New York, all passengers here, we have to cancel you on the flight, the agent said. "You know why it was."

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