Serbia Airport Worker “Erases” Israel in Favor of Palestine

Air Serbia plane at Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv, Israel (Photo Credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Since 1992, when Serbia and Israel established economic and cultural ties, the relationship between the two countries has been seemingly healthy. Israel helped Serbia in the Balkan floods of 2014, for example, and mutual tourism has been encouraged by both. Visa restrictions were abolished in 2009, making travel between the two countries easy. PR has included annual advertisements on billboards and public buses in Belgrade presenting Israel as a ‘Sea and Sun’ summer destination and according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics many thousands of Serbians visit Israel every year. There are embassies in both Belgrade and Tel Aviv where each ambassador boasts flourishing relationships, even politically.

As a result, it was very surprising and even shocking to hear of an incident that took place on August 29, 2016 at Serbia’s Nikola Tesla International Airport in Belgrade. Cabin crew announced to Air Serbia passengers with a Tel Aviv destination that boarding had commenced for the flight to “Palestine.”

As a result, Israeli passengers refused to get on the direct night flight JUO 816 from Belgrade to Tel Aviv and insisted that an amendment would have to be made to the announcement before they boarded.

As reported by Ynetnews, one of the Israeli passengers related what happened: “To our surprise, one of the airport employees asked over the PA system that ‘passengers for flight 816 with service to Palestine please come to gate C3.’ She repeated this several times. I couldn’t hold back when I heard it. At first I thought that I didn’t hear the announcement correctly, and I asked a few other people if they heard them say ‘Palestine’ over the PA system,” he continued.

This passenger along with a Rosh Pina resident approached the airline’s desk at the gate and together the two men requested three times that the announcement be corrected to say that the flight was going to Israel and not to Palestine.

In an attempt to rectify the offense, but showing an extraordinary lack of basic geography knowledge, the airline representatives told the passengers that “the flight is to Tel Aviv, not to Israel.” The irate passenger continued: “After the staff discussed the matter amongst themselves in Serbian, they announced that the flight was going to Tel Aviv three times. The manager of the desk personally took us to gate C3 and apologized to us several times.”

Following this scandal, a complaint was issued to the Israeli Embassy in Serbia.

Emanuel Nachshon who is the Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesoerson said: “this is a very disturbing incident, which requires an investigation with the relevant authorities and the airline. It’s inconceivable that an airport employee with a microphone can try and change reality in such a defiant and false manner. The Israeli Embassy in Serbia will deal with this issue, making it a high priority.”

Alona Fisher-Kamm who is the Israeli Ambassador to Serbia communicated with Air Serbia’s CEO, who expressed shock at what he said was the completely unacceptable first-time incident and clarified that airline employees in uniform were not allowed to openly express political positions. He apologized profusely promising that it would be dealt with and would not happen again. He said: “This political position doesn’t reflect the company’s position.”

An investigation showed it was an airport worker and not an airline employee who was responsible for this faux pas and Air Serbia wants her found and disciplined for the damage she has caused to the airline.

Erasing Israel from maps, both locally and abroad, as well as refusing to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, is unfortunately not an unusual phenomenon. Just last week in an atlas, the Czech Republic listed Israel’s capital as Tel Aviv, but after an outcry, they decided to reverse the textbook stand.

For Believers in the Bible, it is clear that Israel is a person (formerly Jacob), a nation (Deuteronomy 7:6) and a land.

God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.’ So he named him Israel. And God said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.’  – Genesis 35: 10-12

No matter what anti-Israel pundits propagate or what propaganda airport workers in Europe try to disseminate, the blueprint for the Land of Israel is clearly written and can never be erased.  

This is what the Lord says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar –the Lord Almighty is his name: ‘Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,’ declares the Lord, ‘will Israel ever cease being a nation before me.’ – Jeremiah 31:35 -36