Emirates airline has suspended a Tunisian pilot for refusing to fly to Israel. Moneem Saheb Tabaa confirmed the suspension on his Facebook page, which he has since closed.
"God is [the] only [one] who takes care of me…" said Tabaa. "I do not regret it." The pilot is suspended pending a formal hearing.
منعم الطابع طيار تونسي حر يُعاقب بوقفه عن العمل من قبل شركة طيران #الإمارات والذنب رفضه المشاركة برحلة لـ(تل أبيب).. رده كان باختصار " الله فقط من يرعاني ولست نادما" تحية لك من #فلسطين يابن #تونس الخضراء 🇹🇳🇵🇸 pic.twitter.com/ELXd5taMqt
— Tamer Almisshal تامر المسحال (@TamerMisshal) January 13, 2021
As news of his suspension spread across social media, many activists denounced Dubai-based Emirates and praised Tabaa for his defiant stance in opposing last year's normalisation deals between Israel and several Arab states. The UAE was the first of the recent states to establish diplomatic ties with Israel, along with Bahrain, Sudan and, more recently, Morocco.
Tunisia has maintained consistently that it has no intention of following suit and normalising with the occupation state. In a statement late last year, the Tunisian foreign ministry said, "As Tunisia respects the sovereign positions of other countries, it affirms that its stance is principled, and changes in the international scene will never affect it."
Upon being elected in 2019, Tunisia's President Kais Saied said that Palestine is engraved in the hearts of Tunisians and that, "Palestine is not a lot of land which is registered as real estate."
Following Morocco's normalisation with Israel, the Speaker of the Tunisian Parliament, and head of Ennahda Movement, Rached Ghannouchi, said, "We were shocked by this step, which contradicted the Arab consensus as expressed by the Arab Peace Initiative. We support the rights of the Palestinian people in accordance with the principle of Arab and Muslim brotherhood as well as international law."
Both Tunisia and Algeria have prevented Israeli aircraft from using their airspace for flights to and from Morocco, forcing them to take an indirect route via Europe. Israeli airlines began operating direct flights between Tel Aviv and the UAE in August. Etihad Airways was the first UAE airline to fly to Israel, carrying medicine bound for Palestine. According to Israeli news website Globes, Emirates is expected to launch its flights from Dubai to Tel Aviv next month.