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Ex-Trump envoy to Middle East triggered by airline scarves

Jason Greenblatt suggested the accessories worn by United staff “look like a keffiyeh” and may secretly express pro-Palestinian sympathies

A former US envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, has accused United Airlines of harboring pro-Palestinian sentiment after remarking that the black and white scarves worn by staff members resemble the traditional Palestinian headscarf.

This latest accusation came just days after Greenblatt joined a campaign to pressure United to fire one of its pilots for social media posts critical of Israel.

The ex-diplomat later retracted his accusation of a hidden meaning behind the scarves, saying he was “too hasty” in claiming the accessories, which featured a plane silhouette pattern, look like the traditional Palestinian keffiyeh.

Greenblatt served in the administration of President Donald Trump and helped seal the Abraham Accords, the treaties establishing Israeli diplomatic and economic relations with several Arab nations.

The first criticism directed at the airline earlier this week stemmed from a complaint by stopantisemitism.org, a self-described “grassroots watchdog organization dedicated to exposing groups and individuals that espouse incitement towards the Jewish people and State.”

On Monday, it flagged United Airlines pilot Ibrahim Mossallam for allegedly calling “the massacre in Israel that left 1,400 people dead” on October 7 perpetrated by the Palestinian militant group Hamas “resistance by brave people.” Israeli authorities last Friday revised the initial death toll cited by the advocacy group to about 1,200.

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Mossallam’s message cited in the complaint did not mention the killing of civilians, but encouraged readers to learn more about the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict, because “mass media here in America is heavily politicized.”

“This is not an unprovoked attack, but a response to this past years attacks by the Zionist regime,” he argued, apparently referring to the Hamas incursion.

Greenblatt was among those urging United Airlines to react to the allegations, and thanked it when the carrier announced having fired Mossallam on Tuesday.

On Thursday, however, the ex-official posted new allegations showing a photo of United gate agents at Newark International Airport. Their scarves “look a lot like a Palestinian keffiyeh. Is there a message @United is trying to promote?” the message read.

Commenters quickly pointed out that the scarves were just regular company accessories and that in any case the keffiyeh carries no inherent political message.

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Yasser Arafat, the long-time leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), became known for wearing a fishnet pattern black-and-white keffiyeh. In the 2000s, the secular Arab nationalist PLO and its political party Fatah fought a war with Islamist Hamas for control over Gaza, which the latter won.

Greenblatt later conceded an error in judgment and deleted his tweet.

November 23, 2023 at 05:42PM

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