Virgin Atlantic removes 'Palestinian' from in-flight dish description after complaints from Israel-supporting customers

Some social media users threatened to boycott the airline

Helen Coffey
Monday 12 February 2018 12:00 GMT
Maftoul is a traditional Palestinian dish
Maftoul is a traditional Palestinian dish (Ebushnaq/Wikipedia)

Virgin Atlantic has changed the name of an in-flight meal after social media backlash from pro-Israel supporters.

The dish – a mix of Maftoul and other couscous, tomatoes and cucumber seasoned with parsley, mint and lemon vinaigrette – was formerly called “Palestinian couscous salad” on the menu.

However, the name has since been changed to “couscous salad” after various complaints. Some social media users threatened to boycott the airline, accusing Virgin of being “terrorist sympathisers”.

Dani Williams tweeted a picture of the menu in December 2017, writing: “#virginatlantic this is the menu I received yesterday nothing like some BDS and delusionment with your salad, last time you get my money #TerroristSympathisers”.

Anthony Den tweeted: “Bearing in mind Jews have lived on the land you say they now occupy for over 3,000 years maybe it should be called Jewish Salad.”

Meanwhile, David Garnelas ‎posted a picture of the menu in the Israel Advocacy Movement Facebook group with the caption: “VIRGIN ATLANTIC. I thought this was an Israeli salad...obviously Branson showing his true colours...Israelis must boycott Virgin and Israel must ask for an explanation. When I complained the stewardess tried to take back the menu from me.”

Despite the fact that the salad features Maftoul, a traditional Palestinian grain made from bulgur and whole wheat flour, Virgin Atlantic has removed the reference in its in-flight menu.

The airline said in a statement: “Our customers’ experience on board is a key focus and we are constantly refreshing our food offerings on our flights. We recently introduced a Maftoul salad on board our flights. It includes a mix of Maftoul and other couscous, complemented by tomatoes and cucumber and seasoned with parsley, mint and lemon vinaigrette.

“We were aware that Maftoul is not a widely known ingredient – so the dish was listed as a ‘Palestinian couscous salad’, and later as a ‘Couscous salad’. We’d like to reassure all customers that our sole intention was to bring new flavours on board, and never to cause offense through the naming or renaming of the dish.”

The dish's name change has caused further controversy, as many people expressed their discomfort with the decision on social media.

“You can’t get more Palestinian cuisine than maftoul (couscous), national Palestinian dish,” tweeted Bassam Mansour. “Virgin should not have caved in to falsification of the name of the Palestinian cuisine to please twisted and hate-filled passengers. Virgin is morally culpable.”

Lexi Alexander tweeted: “No objection to the German chocolate cake though (which I swear is not German at all...unlike Maftoul aka Couscous salad which is super, super Palestinian)”.

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