Commons Debates British Airline’s Refusal to Fly Jews Via Iraq

A debate was held in the House of Commons today over the practice of the British Overseas Air Corporation not to transport Jews to Iraq or to any other point in the Near East which requires a stop-over at Bagdad.

The debate was precipitated by Barnett Janner, Labor M. P., who asked the government to explain why the BOAC was putting difficulties in the way of Jews, of British or other nationality, who wanted to travel to Iraq or through Iraq. He also demanded that the government obtain from the corporation assurances that such discrimination would cease.

J.D. Profumo, Joint Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Transportation and Civil Aviation, said that since 1950 the BOAC, on the basis of an Iraqi regulation, had refused to take Jews on such routes unless they had special visas issued by Bagdad. Mr. Profumo insisted that such regulations had been issued in the interests of Jewish passengers, to avoid embarrassment and inconvenience to them.

At this point another Laborite, Sidney Silverman, interjected that Iraq had refused to issue such visas to any Jew crossing its territory. He called the British Government’s refusal to act in this matter “connivance against British subjects travelling in British aircraft. ” Again Mr. Profumo insisted that the regulations were in the best interests of Jewish passengers. He also said he knew of no case where a Jewish passenger had been halted in transit in Iraq.

Conservative M. P. William Teeling asked whether this ruling also applied to members of the staff of BOAC who were Jews. He asked for an assurance that under no circumstance would the corporation refuse to hire Jews on this account.

Mr. Profumo said that there had been no discrimination against members of the Jewish faith on BOAC’s staff. The regulations, he added, referred to any person of the Jewish faith. He also noted that there were two other routes over which Jews could reach their destinations in the East.

Mr. Janner, who referred to the matter as a “case of shocking discrimination, ” said that owing to the unsatisfactory nature of Mr. Profumo’s reply he would again raise the issue in the near future.

Afterwards, a BOAC spokesman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the Arab governments had informed the line that they would not permit Israelis to enter their territory or cross it. Iraq, he added, had extended this ban to all Jews. For any airline to contravene this regulation would mean that the Iraqis would inflict their maximum punishment “amounting to impounding the aircraft. ” In view of this and for their own sake, the spokesman declared, bookings were not accepted from Jews on this route.

NEXT STORY