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Virgin Atlantic in Palestinian couscous row

Virgin Atlantic in Palestinian couscous row

  • 13 February 2018

Tail of Virgin aeroplane displaying the Virgin logoImage copyright
Getty Images


Virgin Atlantic has found itself at the centre of a social media row after removing the word Palestinian from an in-flight meal following complaints.

A couscous-style salad had been described on a menu as “inspired by the flavours of Palestine”.

Pro-Israel social media users called for a boycott of the airline, saying it pandered to Palestinian supporters.

However, the airline’s decision to remove the terms sparked a fresh backlash from Palestinian sympathisers.

Twitter user @Thedaniwilliams highlighted the controversial dish after taking a flight in December 2017.

Sharing a photo of the menu, they suggested the airline had been influenced by the pro-Palestinian campaign group Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS).

David Garnelas shared a similar photograph of the menu to the Israel Advocacy Movement Facebook group suggesting “Israelis must boycott Virgin”.

Image Copyright Israel Advocacy Movement
Israel Advocacy Movement


Facebook post by Israel Advocacy Movement: 22nd December. VIRGIN ATLANTIC..I thought this was an Israeli salad...obviously Branson showing his true...Image Copyright Israel Advocacy Movement
Israel Advocacy Movement

After a number of social media users expressed their dissatisfaction with the naming of the dish, the airline apologised for causing offence and changed it to ‘couscous salad’.

However, the dish’s name change has caused fresh controversy after some on social media questioned the airline’s decision to remove the word Palestinian.

A number of Twitter user expressed their anger at the change of wording, and asked why Virgin Atlantic thought the word Palestinian was offensive.

Skip Twitter post by @subhitaha_

so @VirginAtlantic changes a dish name on their flight menu from “Palestinian Couscous salad” to “Couscous salad” bc apparently the word PALESTINE is offensive. el oh elllll. God forbid we name something what it is ?? nothing like the existence of an entire ppl offending someone

— subhi taha (@subhitaha_) February 11, 2018

End of Twitter post by @subhitaha_

Twitter user Anna Habibti said anti-Palestinian groups were trying to “wipe Palestine off the menu” as well as “off the map”.

Skip Twitter post by @AnaHabibti

Trying to wipe #Palestine off the map isn’t enough for #Zionists; they have to wipe #Palestinian off the #menu too. #shameonyou #VirginAtlantic @virginatlantic Why does Virgin find “Palestinian couscous” offensive? https://t.co/SxJC4TGr3k

— Anna Habibti (@AnaHabibti) February 12, 2018

End of Twitter post by @AnaHabibti

Geographically, the term Palestine is used by many pro-Palestinians to refer to the Israeli-occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza and, at most, Israel itself – something supporters of Israel regard as delegitimising the state.

Virgin Atlantic told the BBC the airline chose to name the dish Palestinian couscous salad as the main ingredient, maftoul, is not widely-known.

Maftoul is often referred to as Palestinian couscous and is made from sun-dried bugler wheat.

A spokesperson for the airline said: “We’d like to reassure all customers that our sole intention was to bring new flavours onboard, and never to cause offence through the naming or renaming of the dish.”

It is not the first time the classification of food has been a source on tension between Israeli and Palestinian groups.

In 2015, UK supermarket Waitrose came under fire from Palestinian supporters for publishing a Taste of Israel magazine which included a number traditionally Arabic dishes.

By BBC UGC and Social News