How Did USA Today Publish a Story that Delta Would Not Fly Jews to Saudi Arabia?

Last Thursday USA Today ran a story on their website with the headline, “U.S. Jews not able to fly on Delta flights to Saudi Arabia.” That story was written and published by a news service called RNS (Religion News Service) that was syndicated and re-published on USA Today’s website. The piece suggested that Delta, because of its SkyTeam alliance with Saudi Arabian Airlines (which is owned by the government), would not be permitted to fly Jews (the story said “U.S. Jews”) nor bibles to Saudi Arabia because of that country’s (ridiculous, obviously) restrictions on Jews and bringing non-Islamic religious items into the country. The article took Delta to task for putting up with such anti-semitism, etc etc etc,

Then the blogosphere (of course) went nuts, and when the blogosphere goes nuts, it does not fact check.
USA Today did fact check it soon after the piece was published, and pulled it, instead adding a corrected version in its place. This being 2011 and the Internet being what it is, that was too late and Delta has had to deal with cries of anti-semitism.

The actual story is that Delta will have an interline agreement (which allows airlines to seamlessly transfer baggage between airlines), not a codeshare agreement (which would permit tickets to be sold on another carrier).
That fact got mixed up with the incorrect notion that Saudi Arabia does not allow Jews to enter the country. That is not correct. That said, it does not allow people with an Israeli passport to enter the country, as the Saudi Arabia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

That didn’t get everyone to calm down, though, as many were wondering why Delta would have an agreement with any country that is as restrictive as Saudi Arabia.

However, that is really an unfair burden to put on Delta. How do we determine where it’s acceptable that they fly? China isn’t exactly known for their open attitude toward dissent in the country and Delta flies there. Hell, if it’s religion that should drive this there are plenty of Arabs who take issue with Israel. Or should they fly to New York? They just passed gay marriage which was opposed on religious grounds by no small number of people.
Meanwhile, and I won’t get into this, it’s not as if the U.S. doesn’t have a pretty tight relationship with Saudi Arabia. I’ll leave that for someone else to get into, though.

The only other note here is that in USA Today’s follow-up article about this uproar, they quote Henry Harteveldt, a travel analyst at Forrester Research, saying that Delta has been unfairly singled out. I mention this, though, because he is referred to as “Henry Harteveldt, a Jewish American and a vice president of Forrester Research.” Why was his religion included? Are we supposed to read it and say, “Well, if this Jewish guy is OK with it, so am I?” If he were Muslim, would they have mentioned that? What if he had been beaten up on the playground when he was 6 by a kid from Saudi Arabia, would that have mattered? If his Jewish American status didn’t matter, why was it included?

(Thanks to


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