Club Med cancels cruise after angering Jewish groups

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French holiday group Club Med dropped a cruise to Lebanon on Thursday after angering Jewish groups by banning passengers with Israeli passport stamps since Lebanese authorities would not let them land.

The company had warned that those with Israeli visas or stamps in their passports could not board its boat, the Club Med II, for the Lebanon leg of the cruise since Lebanese authorities would bar them.

That drew a furious reaction from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, an organisation that campaigns against anti-Semitism, and the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France.

A statement by the Wiesenthal Centre quoted Club Med documents as saying: "Lebanese authorities will not admit on their territory... passport holders with a visa or Israeli stamp. These will be prohibited to board the Club Med II."

The Wiesenthal Centre branded this "offensive language" and demanded an apology from Club Med "for the offense to world Jewry of your travel advisory".

It rejected the company's argument that Lebanon was responsible for the ban.

"The message is sadly reminiscent of the exclusion policy of World War II Vichy France," the centre's international relations director Shimon Samuels said in a letter to Club Med's chief executive, Henri Giscard d'Estaing.

Club Med responded by cancelling the Lebanon leg of the cruise.

"In light of the emotion raised by the conditions of the Club Med II's trip to Lebanon... Club Med has decided to cancel this trip," communications director Thierry Orsoni said in a statement.

"It will be replaced by a new destination which will be announced soon."

© 2010 AFP

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