Air France-KLM rapped for in-flight menu’s cover

October 18, 2010

PARIS (JTA) -- The Paris-based Simon Wiesenthal Center wants an Air France-KLM affiliate to apologize for printing a French magazine cover on an in-flight food menu that the center says targets Israel.

The image of a featured story on the front page of the Le Point weekly "targets Israel, the Jews of France and the Holocaust," the Wiesenthal Center's director for international relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, wrote in a letter to Air France-KLM last week.

The magazine cover headline reads "Gaza, Shoah, Jews of France -- Debray’s Accusation against Israel." An Israeli flag and a pensive portrait of the French philosopher Regis Debray are pictured.

Samuels asked Air France-KLM to take disciplinary measures and apologize for choosing the Le Point magazine as an example of the magazine's material for flights to and from North Africa by its low-cost affiliate Transavia.

Samuels says damage is done by simply showing what he calls an inflammatory magazine cover, printed on an in-flight menu, where “it has no place.”

The article, published originally in May and no longer for sale on the flight, reviews a book by Debray that includes excerpts of the author’s work in which he claims that Israel has "never stopped colonizing and expropriating and uprooting" its Palestinian neighbors. Debray says refugees in Gaza have been victims of "brutality," and that Israel has humiliated its neighbor while being "blinded" by the Holocaust.

It notes Debray’s criticism of French Jewish leaders for joining political protests in favor of Israel and mixing religion with politics.

The issue also provides follow-up criticism of Debray’s book.

Samuels says the Wiesenthal Center has no objections to the free speech right to sell the magazine in kiosks, but forcing passengers to read the magazine cover while ordering their meals could "add to prejudice."

"It concerns me that Air France chose that cover,” Samuels told JTA. “In this case it isn’t the content [of the magazine article], it’s the subliminal message."

The center works particularly hard to “assuage tensions” between French Jews and North Africans, Samuels said, and using that particular magazine issue to sell other in-flight reading “undermines what we’re trying to do.”

“It is like showing a movie of a plane crash during a flight,” he said.