Swiss Erases Israel From Its Moving Map In Order to “Remain Neutral”

Swiss is under fire after its flight from Zurich to Tel Aviv on Thursday, September 27 displayed the name of a Palestinian Arab village which was abandoned in 1948 prior to the Arab-Israeli war in place of Tel Aviv on the aircraft’s ‘moving map’ display.

The destination Tel Aviv is listed, but where it would go on the map has been replaced by the name of a town that was abandoned 70 years ago.

It turns out that Swiss didn’t intend to display the town of Esh Sheikh Muwannis on the flight — their policy is to turn off the moving map as they approach Tel Aviv so they don’t display anything at all so that they can avoid showing Israel with hopefully less controversy.

Swiss is a subsidiary of Germany’s Lufthansa Group, so indeed private, though I’m unclear on why that should protect them from criticism.

The airline tells The Points Guy writer Jordan Allen,

Knowing of the situation in the Middle East and based on the experience that it is not possible to suit every guest on board, we have a procedure in place that ensures that the map is turned off manually by the crew at least 30 minutes before arriving in Tel Aviv. This way, the display as shown in the photo doesn’t come up. In this particular case, obviously and unfortunately, the map was not turned off in time.

Since they’re printing Tel Aviv as the destination on tickets and boarding passes, and operating at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, it’s far from clear how their refusal to show Tel Aviv on a map skirts the issue of Palestinian-Israeli relations, if indeed displaying the destination on a map would somehow be taking sides.

It’s odd as well to think that showing Tel Aviv on a map to passengers will be what uniquely makes those customers uncomfortable when they’re headed to Tel Aviv and will be in Tel Aviv and see the name all over on arrival.

Choosing to display Esh Sheikh Muwannis is particularly ironic if Swiss is claiming to ‘remain neutral’ since the town was the location of a famous 1946 rape of an Israeli girl by three villagers which led to violent retaliation against the perpetrators — two years before the town’s abandonment. And whether intended or not it’s being used to inflame passion against Israel as well as stirring up critics of the country’s removal.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Nothing changes and nothing will
    The swiss and Germans pretend to be neutral but of course continue to do lots of business with israel and the jewish population, while stabbing us in the back, like they did during the holocaust
    Shame on lufthansa, one of the largest carriers in and out of tel aviv

  2. The town was not abandoned. The Palestinian villagers were forced out by Israel as they are now from their villages.

  3. @James
    Other than calling me names, do you have an explanation for your disagreement?
    Any logical way you can explain why they would put a village that does not exist anymore?
    Any logic behind flying to israel but trying to suck up to the arabs while doing so?
    Could you accept if a US airline would put navajo reservation instead of arizona before landing in phoenix?
    If you have any valid argument let me know, otherwise you are just another nazi sympathizer POS

  4. @Gary – it seems unlikely that there was an Israeli girl in 1946, since there was no Israel in 1946. That said, you’re right that this is silly.

  5. Let the reasoned debate begin!

    But seriously, what Swiss did is dumb. Not quite on the level of the Nazis, but dumb.

  6. Gary, clean up your comment section. Comments about potential nazi sympathizer shouldn’t be part of your blog.


    I can think of NO reason why:
    1) Tel-Aviv isn’t on the map — do they show Leningrad, or St. Petersburg? West/East Berlin, or Berlin? Formosa, or Taiwan? etc., etc. AND, what of the company that provides the software for the map? Why is Esh Sheikh Muwannis on the map in the first place?
    2) Swiss would “turn off the map” as they approach TLV — a) are they pretending they are landing in a place that doesn’t exist? b) do they turn off the map feature of their IFE as they approach any other country? (Do their maps still show Rhodesia? Belgian Congo? If they flew into Ramallah, would they turn off the maps?)

    AND, what does their parent company, Lufthansa, do? Do their flights turn off the map? Do they show Esh Sheikh Muwannis on their maps? Sorry. For me, this is just bull$#|+ from Swiss.

  8. @JBL Also without getting into the politics and history of all this: Why would Swiss do this? Perhaps this is the map Swiss uses when flying to Arab countries (and perhaps other nations) that don’t recognize Israel. I’d think that some such countries would refuse to recognize a map that had Tel Aviv on it. On the other hand, I’d also assume that someone on such flights would have reported such a practice at some point.

  9. @Doug
    I am truly sorry but I have completely misread your comment – Yes, they are 100% hypocrites. They would present themselves in the media and in meeting with Israeli representatives as the true sponsors of the only democracy in the middle east, while sending millions of Euros directly to the “Palestinian” government and indirectly to shady and corrupted organization such as UNRWA and the New Israel Fund (which is a cynical name for an organization that essentially supports the removal of Jewish people from their homes and denies any terrorist action against Jewish people).
    As for those Arab villages, I absolutely agree with you.
    Again, sorry for misreading your comment – my bad for jumping to respond while still half asleep in bad.

  10. Well, companies like Swiss do carry a lot of Arab customers so it makes sense for them I guess.

    But, they can say / do what they wish – Israel continues to grow and strengthen year over year and no slander / so called boycotts / hate will stop it or make it go away – and that’s what REALLY makes Israel-haters crazy:)

  11. @ Doug — Seriously? LH is a business, and they have done nothing wrong here, except maybe having strange very policies (as Gary points out).

  12. A continuation of typical Swiss “neutrality” – they were happy to take $$$ from Nazis and Jews and then deny funds to surviving relatives of holocaust survivors because they did not have death certificates.

    It is difficult to understand how there could be any “controversy” showing Israel on a map when the flight itself lands in Tel Aviv. If Swiss customers are so delusional as to deny the existence of the state of Israel (recognized by UN) then they probably aren’t flying into TLV where they will be processed by Israeli customs. There are plenty of other options to the Mideast and even to the West Bank.

    This would be more understandable on flights to Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, etc.

  13. @Boraxo – it’s just a numbers game….They serve far more Arab customers than Israeli ones. So I do understand it from their stand point.

    The good news is that the Arab-Israeli conflict has always tilted to the Arab side in terms of numbers, but reality has been much more in favour of Israel:)

    As to the matter itself – it is kind of silly to name a place that doesn’t exist in real life. Why not just put on the map of Israel “the ottoman empire”? LOL

  14. So ludicrous. Why dont we live in reality? The city is called Tel Aviv. Any efforts to distort facts is ridiculous and I interpret it as biased.

  15. It’s quite simple. If the plane is going to Tel Aviv, put Tel Aviv on the map. Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?

  16. @Doug

    Do you care to back up your claims that Swiss and Germans do lots of business with jews but still “stab them in the back?”

  17. @JJ
    Isnt it obvious?
    Isn’t the removal of thr city they fly to a stab in the back?
    Lufthansa being the major shareholder in swiss and at same time being one of the largest carriers into israel, is trying to have it both ways
    This is very much self explanatory and if you don’t see it then you don’t want to see it

  18. Cartographic aggression? On the scale of things to worry about, this is pretty low.

    Being required to turn off the in-flight map during at least part of a trip wasn’t a required security measure by some governmental authorities?

  19. Yah what are you going on about?!

    The words Tel Aviv are plainly shown on the image provided!

    The village name is attached to the small yellow square.

    Tel Aviv is the the title of the destination denoted by the big yellow-green circle.

    Two separate places on the image.

    So no, the village name is not replacing Tel Aviv.

    It would seem that as far as the airline is concerned, they are dammed if they do and damned if they don’t.

    The responses herein give one little hope for common sense or peaceful resolution…sigh…

  20. @Doug

    I think your being extremely dramatic if this is what constitutes a “stab in the back” by two countries both of which have exceedingly great ties with the state of Israel.

  21. @ DOUG

    But on the image the name of the city has NOT been removed at all.

    That is entirely evident and obvious.

    If you can’t see the letters on the map then if you can’t see them you don’t want to see them.

    An amazing exercise in the blindness of prejudice and preconception…

  22. “Choosing to display Esh Sheikh Muwannis is particularly ironic if Swiss is claiming to ‘remain neutral’ since the town was the location of a famous 1946 rape of an Israeli girl by three villagers which led to violent retaliation against the perpetrators”

    “Israel” did not exist in 1946. And why does this sound an awful lot like a lynching excuse? Rape is an awful, disgusting crime … mentioning that still does not justify the ethnic cleansing that happened two years later, and again in ’67.

    Also, the choice of the word “abandoned” is not neutral. Your wording implies no violence in the ethnic cleansing of the majority of the inhabitants in the area prior to the creation of the zionist entity.

    You can defend ethnic genocide as much as you want, just don’t pretend to be a human(itarian) when you do.

    The writing in disgusting in this article, as is the author when they wrote it.

  23. If you want to be historically factual, TLV airport is actually in the Palestinian town al-Lyd aka Lydda, whose Arab inhabitants were expelled in 1948 and the town (along with neighboring Arab town Ramle) became incorporated into Greater Tel Aviv. So they should show al-Lyd on the map as destination.

  24. @ Gwayrav’s comments prove my comment – Israel’s growing and continuing success drives Israel haters CRAZY:) Love it.

  25. What’s the bet their programmer is a leftie and/or Muslim who quietly inserted his politics. Swiss Air is covering its behind with the neutrality story rather than admit it.

  26. If Tel Aviv ‘vanishes’ 30 minutes short of landing, perhaps Ben Gurion Airport should cancel Swiss landing rights.

    I’m quite sure that those wishing or needing to fly to Israel could find another airline to accommodate them.

  27. The town was not Tel Aviv. It was a very small area and Tel Aviv grew around it. Tel Aviv started from empty areas. The map is very misleading and historically inaccurate.

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