Paris, 20 April 2010
In a letter to Club Med President, Henri Giscard d’Estaing, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels expressed amazement at the French tourism company’s travel advisory:
“The Bodrum-Valletta cruise of 16-28 September 2010 will be stopping in Lebanon. The Lebanese authorities will not admit on their territory, or on the ‘Club Med II’, passportholders with a visa or Israeli stamp. These will be prohibited to board the ‘Club Med II’. Failure to follow these provisions are the responsibility of the client, who will be denied access to the boat on the day of its embarkment from Bodrum on 16 September, and will bear the subsequent costs. Club Med will not incur any liability for any omission, fault or negligence by the passportholder".
Samuels noted that “the company’s Communications Director, Thierry Orsini, has rationalized this offensive language by claiming that Club Med is innocent, as the instigator of these measures is Lebanon.”
The letter retorted: “far from it, Mr. Giscard, for the message is sadly reminiscent of the exclusion policy of World War II Vichy France – then it was the yellow star, now it is the Israeli stamp”, adding that “the advisory is irrational for it bars Gentiles and Jews, whether pilgrims or guests, who have visited the Holy Land through Club Med or its hotel in Eilat, as their passports are surely branded with an Israeli visa.”
The Centre emphasized that “above all, your company has declared itself complicit in boycott – an act of war, smacking of racism – certainly in violation of EU, OSCE and World Trade Organization provisions against discrimination based on religious or national origin.”
Samuels insisted that “voyagers on the French vessel, 'Club Med II', by international law enjoy the sovereign protection of France. Thus kowtowing to so-called 'Lebanese measures' is an insult to the French Republic, impugning its national responsibility to guests on its ‘soil’”. The letter pointed to “a press comment hinting that the indignation of our Centre, and of concerned Frenchmen, have led you to drop Lebanon from the itinerary. Yet, until today, the Byblos visit is still listed on the route. Interestingly, Libyan ports are also included. Perhaps Colonel Khaddafi is less worried about Israeli visa stamps than is Club Med?”
The Centre urged Club Med “to issue an apology for the offense to world Jewry of your travel advisory. Moreover, we expect Club Med to make an unambiguous public statement, on its website, that it rejects the Lebanese boycott and that the 'Club Med II' will not enter its waters due to the evident threat to its passengers.”
“These measures may well lead to our own members boarding in Bodrum on 16 September, with their Israeli-stamped passports, to celebrate Club Med’s anti-boycott cruise”, concluded Samuels.