UK Media Watch Prompts Correction to Indy Story Blaming Ultra-Orthodox for Lengthy El Al Delay

A June 25th article in The Independent focused on accusations of discrimination against El Al after the flight crew moved two female passengers when four ultra-Orthodox Jews refused to sit next to them.

This follows a similar incident last year when a case of discrimination was filed against the airline by a woman who had similarly been asked to change her designated seat for the same reason.  Israel’s Supreme Court later ruled that asking a passenger to move seats based on gender is a form of discrimination.

However, much of the Indy’s story about the incident is based on a single Facebook post by Khen Rotem, an Israeli rapper who was a passenger on the flight.  The Indy uncritically quotes Rotem’s claim that “The El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv was delayed for more than an hour while new seats were found for the pair.”

This claim, that the flight was delayed due to the ordeal concerning the Ultra-Orthodox passengers, was repeated in an Indy video accompanying the article.

Screenshot from the Indy video

However, Israeli journalist Sivan Rahav Meir wrote an article at Times of Israel undermining Rotem’s version of events.  Meir cited a statement from another passenger on that flight, who maintained that the delay had nothing to do with the incident involving the switched seats.  The journalist also contacted El Al to inquire about the cause of the delay, and the airline’s spokesperson also flatly denied that it had anything to do with the behavior of the ultra-orthodox passengers.

Here’s El Al’s statement:

“The details that were reported about the incident were not accurate, to put it mildly. In actual fact, the delay was totally unconnected to the incident. The plane’s journey to the runway at the airport in New York took about one hour and had nothing to do with the incident. Taking care of the two passengers who refused to sit in their allocated places occurred after the plane had already left the gate and only took a few moments. We will continue to do our best to transport our customers safely, comfortably, and according to schedule.”

After we contacted Indy editors, they agreed to amend the passage to note El Al’s denial.

Here’s the new language (new words in bold):

One passenger claimedthe El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv was delayed for more than an hour while new seats were allocated to the pair –although the airline later issued a statement saying it had taken staff only a few moments to find the passengers new seats, and the delay in the flight’s departure was completely unconnected to the incident. 

This post originally appeared at CAMERA’s UK Media Watch.