(JTA) – Jewish-Israeli passengers on a flight from Athens to Tel Aviv demanded the crew remove two Arab-Israelis from the plane before allowing it to take off.
The incident, in which the Jewish travellers stopped an Aegean Airlines plane from taking off by standing in the aisles while the plane was on the tarmac, took place Monday night, Haaretz reported, citing an Israel Radio report.
The Arab passengers eventually agreed to leave the plane in return for a hotel room and financial compensation.
It wasn’t clear why the Jewish passengers found the Arab travellers suspicious, but the incident occurred days after an Arab-Israeli killed two people in a Tel Aviv shooting attack. The alleged gunman remains at large.
Arabs make up approximately 20 per cent of Israel’s population.
The airline said “an initially small group” of passengers “very vocally and persistently” demanded the two Arab travellers be “checked for security issues.” Airport police reviewed the “documents and identities” of the Arab passengers but found nothing suspicious, the airline said.
Nonetheless, even with “assurances given by the crew,” the number of Jewish passengers expressing alarm grew, delaying the flight by more than 90 minutes.
After the Arab passengers left the plane, Jewish passengers asked the flight crew to conduct more security checks, but backed off after the captain threatened to force them off the aircraft without compensation.
Michal Rozin, a Knesset member from the left wing Meretz party, blamed the incident on Israeli government leaders who “sow fear and hate through slander and incitement,” according to Haaretz.