El Al, the Israeli national airline which was recently privatized, has been brought to task again. This time it is for allegedly refusing to transport the body of a deceased Arab-Israeli professor.
Dr Lamis K Jarrar, a distinguished psychology lecturer at Howard University who died of cancer last Friday near Washington DC, had expressed in her will a desire to be buried in Acre, her hometown, also known as Akko.
This week her family requested the Knesset member, Azmi Bishara, to express their dismay about El Al's inaction. A casket containing the professor, a dual American and Israeli citizen, was not allowed on board.
A local mortuary on the East Coast claims that it purchased an El Al ticket and asked an Israeli consular officer to be on hand for the transfer of her body. Yet when no official appeared, El Al employees told the company it was a no-go. Under these conditions it would be impossible to transport any Muslim corpse, so Jarrar's family had no other option but to make pricey alternative arrangements.
"Needless to say that, apart from the issue of racism and lack of respect of the dead, this incident has caused great distress to family and acquaintances," Bishara wrote to General Manager Haim Romano, in his demand for clarification.
El Al airline public relations insists that no one from the professor's family approached them and has issued a statement denying "any hint of discrimination between Jews and non-Jews." Many Muslim bloggers reviled the corporate practices that humiliate or at least inconvenience non-Jews flying on the airline.
An El-Al security officer stationed outside Israel, who wishes to remain anonymous, explained that Jewish corpses, which must be accompanied by a designated rabbi until check-in, presented far fewer security risks. Since x-rays or scans of a coffin are deemed intrusive, El Al cannot risk allowing random corpses in the hold. No one openly suggested that such unaccompanied cadavers might be rigged to explode, but that was the unspoken implication.