Richard Branson’s airline is threatened with a boycott after serving an ‘offensive’ salad

Richard Branson portrait
Tracy Keeling

Irate pro-Israel customers called for a boycott of Virgin Atlantic, the company founded by Richard Branson, after it served a Palestinian salad. The airline, however, caved swiftly following the complaints and edited the name of the dish.

That’s my salad!

In December 2017, Virgin Atlantic included a dish on its in-flight menu called “Palestinian couscous salad”. But after a flight, some passengers complained about the dish’s title:

Another customer took to Facebook, claiming the salad was Israeli. He also said that “Israelis must [sic] boycott Virgin and Israel must ask for an explanation”.

The airline has since confirmed that the salad is indeed a Palestinian speciality. It told The Electronic Intifada:

Our salad is made using a mix of maftoul (traditional Palestinian couscous) and couscous…

But Virgin Atlantic said that, as a result of “feedback”, it has now disguised the dish’s origin. It will now call the dish “couscous salad”. The airline also added that it “always want[s] to do the right thing for our customers” and is “extremely sorry for any offense caused”.

Unsurprisingly, the airline could not explain to The Electronic Intifada why it is ‘offensive’ to call food by its real name.

That’s my land!

The incident is an illustration of a very serious issue. One that Christiane Dabdoub Nasser, the author of Classic Palestinian Cuisine, summed up well. She told The Electronic Intifada:

This is the result of decades of Israeli propaganda, which not only tries to deny the very existence of the Palestinian people, but also their culture, their history and their memory.

Of course, it’s very useful for Israel if it manages to deny or distort the Palestinians’ existence, culture, history and memory. Because that makes its colonisation of Palestine and dispossession of the Palestinian people more palatable to others.

Dirty work

Essentially, Branson’s Virgin Atlantic has just done Israel’s dirty work for it. Its choice to kowtow to the irrational whims of a few people is helping to make the Palestinians invisible. And the less visible they are, the less likely people are to care or notice what happens to them.

That’d be good news for Israel. Because it favours, among other things, a proposal called the “sanctuary plan“. That’s a ‘peace’ plan the US is reportedly working on with Saudi Arabia. But it won’t sit well with people if they’re concerned for the Palestinians. Because the plan requires Palestine to give up around 50% of the occupied West Bank to Israel.

So shame on Virgin Atlantic for bowing down to this pressure. It deserves nothing but derision for this cowardly and damaging act.

Get Involved!

Take action with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Featured image via Chatham House/Flickr

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