Paris, 28 March 2011
In a letter to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) President Roberto Kobeh Gonzalez, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, expressed its members grave concern at Egypt Air's deletion of Tel Aviv from its online flight map.
Samuels noted that "as a United Nations Specialised Agency, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) sets its prime objective as "the safe and orderly development of international civil aviation", thus highlighting the requirement for respect and cooperation between national airlines."
The letter lamented that "when Egypt's flag carrier virtually wipes its neighbour, Israel, off the map in the current context of Middle East uncertainty, this raises questions regarding radical Islamist influence and the possible rupture of the Egypt-Israel Treaty."
Samuels pointed out that "the map shows Aleppo, Beirut, Damascus and Amman as destinations and traces the territory from the Iraq border to the Mediterranean as superimposed over Jordan and Israel. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and its Hamas progeny in Gaza have no love for the Hashemite monarchy and aim, ultimately, to replace both States with a Palestinian theocracy."
He emphasized that "This scenario cannot serve the airline stability sought by the ICAO."
The letter added that "Egypt Air's rationalisation for its disfigured flight maps is a specious claim that it does not fly to Israel. Yet, the Cairo - Tel Aviv route is serviced regularly by Air Sinai - a company that has no independent corporate persona other than its registration as 100% owned and managed by Egypt Air. Incidentally, this traffic increased by 27% in 2010, ensuring significant revenues for its mother company."
Samuels argued that "The signal from Egypt Air implicitly violates the ICAO's Third and Fourth Freedoms: "the rights to carry passengers or cargo from one's own country to another another (and) from another country to one's country. As an exercise "to withhold, remote, suspend, limit or impose conditions on the operating authorisation of an airline, Egypt Air similarly obstruct the broader application of the Multicultural Agreement on the Liberalization of International Air Transportation (MALIAT, 2001) to which the ICAO is linked."
The Centre urged the ICAO to condemn Egypt Air's rewriting of sovereign geography and to persuade the company to correct their route-map to include all its destinations.
"Inaction can only encourage extremism, threaten the delicate fabric of global airline stability and regional peace," concluded Samuels.
The letter was shared with Mohamed R.M.Khonji, Regional Director of the ICAO Middle East Office in Cairo.