Two Palestinian Israelis pressured to leave flight by Jewish Israelis

The removal of two Arab Israelis from an Athens to Tel Aviv flight at the weekend triggered protests Wednesday by Palestinians.

Jewish Israeli passengers on board the Aegean Airlines flight Sunday night said they felt threatened by the two Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and demanded they get off the plane.

They stood in the aisle and refused to sit down, preventing the pilot from taking off. The two Arab Israelis eventually agreed to take a later flight.

Aegean Airlines said it regretted the incident and thanked the two for their cooperation.

But Saeb Erekat, a top aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said, "We are outraged by how two Palestinians were treated with discrimination and prejudice at the hands of the Aegean cabin crew."

"The crew succumbed to pressure from Israeli passengers who stood up and did not allow the flight to depart," he said.

He condemned the incident as "unjust, "disgraceful" and "racist," demanding a response by the Greek government.

He also called the behaviour of the Israeli passengers "appalling" and "reminiscent of the worst years of the South African apartheid."

A Jewish Israeli passenger, who agreed to give only his first name, Nissim, denied that he and other passengers had racist motives.

The fear and suspicion felt by a "large group" of passengers was not related to the Arab Israelis' race or origin, he insisted.

One of the two "wore a jacket zipped up completely" and "seemed weird and strange. His body language was threatening and he really had a very penetrating and scary look in his eyes."

"A very large part of passengers reached a very high level of anxiety," he told Israel Army Radio, claiming some were even "crying." 

The incident comes amid a three-month wave of violence in Israel and the Palestinian areas. 

Last update: Wed, 06/01/2016 - 17:56

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