Hundreds of Jewish would-be rallygoers were stranded in a Virginia airport on Tuesday after several pro-Palestinian bus drivers staged a walk-off.
An estimated 900 Jewish men and women flew from Detroit to Dulles International Airport on Tuesday to attend the March for Israel in D.C., which is about a 30 minute drive from the airport. But upon their arrival at the airport, a third were stranded for 11 hours before being sent back home thanks to the protesting bus drivers.
“A third of the passengers weren’t allowed to leave the tarmac … after several buses failed to show up on the tarmac upon their 10:30 a.m. landing,” according to the New York Post.
“The drivers had organized a ‘mass sick out’ day to prevent Jewish ralliers from attending the much-anticipated march, leaving just a handful available to meet their obligations,” the Post reported.
“I thought it was nuts,” Jewish flyer Jonathan Kaufman told the Post. “I thought it was crazy that we’re blocked from getting to the rally. Our right to assembly is a constitutional right — and this was straight up blocking that.”
#BREAKING: hundreds of Jewish Detroiters were prevented from attending today’s pro-Israel rally in DC when bus drivers staged a deliberate and malicious walkout.
Nearly 1,000 people flew from Detroit to DC on chartered flights and buses were hired to take them from Dulles Airport… pic.twitter.com/j3BVg0UrGw
— Israel War Room (@IsraelWarRoom) November 15, 2023
According to the Post, Kaufman and roughly 900 other Jews took three private flights chartered by the Jewish Federation of Detroit out of Detroit. The federation also booked a number of buses to later move the rallygoers from the airport to D.C.’s National Mall.
But as noted before, protesting pro-Palestinian drivers decided to ruin their day. Federation spokesperson David Kurzmann believes their actions were “malicious.”
“In the way that this action prevented proud Jewish Americans from exercising their freedom to speak protest assemble gathered today at the nation’s capital, that to me was a malicious act. It was an act targeting the Jewish community as far as their participation in this rally,” he told reporters at a press conference Tuesday.
Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations CEO William Daroff, one of the March for Israel organizers, also reportedly confirmed that the “bus drivers refused to take them to a pro-Israel event.”
The 300 or so Jews who were left stranded reportedly spent three hours on the tarmac before they were ushered onto several buses but then rejected from the same buses because the buses were assigned to another group of travelers.
“Because chartered flights cannot depart the tarmac without pre-organized vehicular transportation, those passengers who were unable to board the limited buses were forced back onto the plane and missed the entire day-long rally,” the Post notes.
“They were also forced to wait several hours for their team members who did make it to the rally to finally return before the chartered flights could fly back to Michigan,” according to the Post.
Rather than learning a lesson in civic engagement, my kids and 900 other from Detroit were stranded at Dulles airport after drivers from chartered buses, hired to transport them, walked off the job. The rich irony: instead of protesting against antisemitism, they experienced it. pic.twitter.com/ZCDdRGHiez
— Bryan Gottlieb (@bryangottlieb) November 14, 2023
Speaking with the Post, Kaufman — who reportedly spent hundreds of dollars to attend the March for Israel — called the protest by the bus drivers “a deliberate anti-Semitic act” that “would have been called a hate crime” had it occurred to anybody else.
“This is a historical moment — and I would have loved to be part of it,” he said of the March for Israel.
Kaufman and the rest of the rallygoers were originally told that the buses were merely going through security and would be there soon. That was a lie.
“About an hour and a half later we were told that there was an ongoing walkout of bus drivers from the company that was hired to drive us into the city and that the shortage of drivers was making it very difficult to get us into DC,” Jonah Seinfeld-Chopp, an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Michigan, explained to the Post.
Seinfeld-Chopp and his girlfriend had reportedly woken up 5:00 am that morning in hopes of attending the March for Israel. As a student, he’d expected to see all his campus friends at the rally.
“I was actually really looking forward to seeing the dozens of kids from my program who flew/bussed from all over the country to be there,” he said.
Appalling antisemitism as American Jews and allies fly in to DC to join the protest against antisemitism only to find the bus drivers refused to show up in protests of…wait for it, JEWS.
Every single one of the employees who refuses to drive buses because Jews were on it should… pic.twitter.com/IN4eXg4CCg
— Emily Schrader – אמילי שריידר امیلی شریدر (@emilykschrader) November 14, 2023
As for the bus company involved in what happened Tuesday, it could face some legal trouble, according to Brooke Goldstein, a human rights lawyer and founder of The Lawfare Project.
“Any company that so blatantly refuses to provide services to Jewish people engages in unlawful discrimination,” she told the Post.
“The scale of what allegedly happened to these Jewish people is outrageous; on a day when hundreds of thousands of allies gathered to spread a message of unity with, and support for, the Jewish community, and to demand the release of hostages taken by barbaric terrorists, we see firsthand the discrimination that Jewish people face on a daily basis in the United States,” she added.
The Federation for its part defended the bus company, saying it’d done everything in its power to try to help the rallygoers.
“They were wonderful, cooperative. It was just an unfortunate logistical snafu that they had no control over,” Kurzmann said.
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