A United Airlines captain has been grounded after an inflammatory post that appeared to praise the Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel went viral on social media. Like the Qatar Airways issue earlier today, I find myself taking a more nuanced approach to the matter.
United Airlines Captain Suspended After Grotesque Antisemitic Social Media Post
On October 7, 2023, just hours after the Hamas attack against Israel, United Airlines Captain Ibrahim Mossallam posted the following message on Facebook:
For all my friends here in FB land with Questions / Thoughts / Assumptions / Critique about whats [sic] transpiring in Palestine currently in response to the Zionist occupation, please work on expanding your media literacy. Know that mass media here in America is heavily politicized and skewed to show a non-occupying narrative of Palestine. This is a resistance by a brave people who have endured decades of occupation, oppression, humiliation, apartheid, and straight up murder. This was not an unprovoked attack, but a response to this past years attacks by the Zionist regime. Don’t take my word, do your due diligence in acquiring your information.
Wow, so the murder of civilians, including children, was simply “a resistance by brave people” and Israel is not a country but simply a “Zionist occupation?”
Yesterday, a Twitter (X) account under the name StopAntisemitism exposed his remarks:
Ibrahim R Mossallam is a United Airlines pilot who stated on an October 7th Facebook post the massacre in Israel that left 1400 people dead, women raped, and babies burned alive was "resistance by brave people".
— StopAntisemitism (@StopAntisemites) November 20, 2023
There is a long history of antisemitic remarks from Mossallam as well as remarks that were hostile to the state of Israel.
United has suspended, with pay, the Newark-based 757-767 pilot:
“This pilot has been removed from service, with pay, while we look into this matter.”
Many on social media have vowed never to fly United again unless the pilot is permanently sacked and compared him to Gameel Al-Batouti, who is believed to have deliberately crashed Egypt Air 990 off the coast of Nantucket in 1999 (as the plane rapidly descended, Al-Batouti repeated 11 times, “Tawkalt ala Allah” [“I entrust myself unto God”]).
An Easy Case For United But A Difficult Dilemma For All Of Us…
United Airlines has a vague social media policy for employees, but it is safe to say that this particular post likely runs afoul of it.
“We work to promote a safe and inclusive environment. It’s valuable to bring together people from different backgrounds who express different views, but we need to pay attention to our words and how they may impact our diverse population of employees and customers. It’s not okay to say (or post) things that are offensive or racially charged…
“And where social media is concerned, it doesn’t matter whether your post is public or within a closed group – nothing on the internet is truly private or anonymous. Use common sense and good judgment, and if you have any doubt about whether or not what you’re saying or posting may be offensive, you probably want to avoid it…
“We’re committed to maintaining a workplace free from offensive or harassing statements, language and actions. It’s never okay to criticize others on the basis of race, gender, age or any other protected category. This includes conduct within the workplace, as well as outside of the workplace and on social media. We take this very seriously. Employees who violate this policy may be subject to discipline up to and including termination.”
Mossallam certainly has the First Amendment right to criticize Israel or the US government, but words do have consequences when it comes to private employment.
Live And Let’s Fly has reached out to the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) for comment and has not heard back.
Here’s the difficult part of this. I find Mossallam’s viewpoint absolutely vile. And indeed, I don’t want to fly with him and if I ever found myself on an aircraft he was piloting, I would call out his intolerance and bigotry.
And yet, I have a hunch that most non-European pilots operating in the Middle East and Turkey feel exactly the same as Mossallam. Look at how the thuggish Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has all but adopted the same language as Mossallam. You think pilots in Turkey, the Gulf, and the Levant think any differently?
Will all the people saying that they will not fly United because they feel unsafe with this particular pilot no longer fly Turkish Airlines, EgyptAir, Royal Air Jordanian, Etihad, Qatar Airways, Emirates, and other carriers with pilots who may also agree that Israel does not have a right to exist or that the Hamas attacks were justified?
I’m not prepared to say that Mossallam is a bad pilot. Instead, I will simply condemn his words and hope that he will one day see how repugnant and frankly barbaric his viewpoint is.
United has suspended a Muslim pilot who posted a vile antisemitic rant praising the Hamas attack on Israel. While I condemn his vile opinion, I’ll stop short of saying that he is unfit to fly. However, he may never wear a United uniform again if his postings are found to run afoul of United’s rather strict (though vague) social media policy.