Latest update: January 30th, 2013
In 2012 the Jewish Press reported on the successful lawsuit against the Muslim owner of a swanky Santa Monica hotel who, while exclaiming, “Get the [expletive deleted] Jews out of my pool,” had her employees do just that. The plaintiffs had been at the hotel at a fundraiser they hosted for a pro-Israel organization, the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF).
The jury found the hotel and its owner, Tehmina Adaya, had committed “particularly reprehensible” acts of discrimination against the plaintiffs, and specifically, that Adaya had acted with “malice, oppression and fraud,” slapping her with punitive damages.
When word got out about what Adaya had done to the FIDF volunteers, members of the Los Angeles office of the ZOA planned a protest in front of the hotel. Adaya met that public relations protest by sending an underling to promise the activists she would host an event for them at her expense within a year in exchange for cancelling the protest. They accepted the offer and called off the protest.
When the trial ended and the jury returned its verdict finding that Adaya had discriminated against Jews, she and the ZOA group issued their agreed-upon statements. In hers, Adaya said she was opposed to anti-Semitism. Adaya also claimed she had not done any of the things she had been accused of, or had been found liable for. The ZOA LA statement included, “we believe that her statement exhibits the Jewish value of teshuva, repentance.”
As Miles Lozano, the Shangri-La public relations manager told the Jewish Press at the time, “the steps Adaya is taking are intended to address the Shangri-La’s public relations issues, whereas the court case dealt only with the legal issues.”
Adaya is still working with a bifurcated plan: on the legal front, she has appealed the ruling by the jury that she committed particularly reprehensible acts of discrimination against Jews, and at the same time, she is footing the bill for an event which is now a fundraiser for the new organization of the former ZOA director, Orit Arfa (Arfa was fired by the ZOA in the fall). Strikingly, that event is headlining two of the world’s most renown and controversial anti-Jihadi activists, Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs.com, and Robert Spencer, of Jihadwatch.com.
Geller garnered a great deal of attention over the past several months by running a series of ads in New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. transit systems which state: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, choose civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” Muslim groups such as Council on American-Islamic Relations, Islamic Society of North America, Muslim Public Affairs Council and others were outraged and pushed back hard. In September, Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-American activist, was arrested for vandalizing one of Geller’s posters in New York.
When asked how she felt about being hosted by someone who had engaged in such reprehensible acts of discrimination against Jews, Geller told the Jewish Press,
“The public renunciation by Adaya of one of the most egregious and monstrous acts of anti-Semitism in modern times is something to celebrate. She is underwriting the cost of a gala costume ball honoring two of America’s leading critics of Islamic anti-Semitism, and at a Purim event, perhaps this is Haman avenged! ‘Cause it’s the same hate, different era.”
When one of the plaintiffs in the case against the hotel was asked about the Shangri-La Purim party, the response was not as enthusiastic. The plaintiff told the Jewish Press that she and the other plaintiffs found the response to Adaya and the Shangri-La Hotel by some in the pro-Israel community to be “deeply disappointing.” Why? The plaintiff gave several reasons:
First, despite what the ZOA director wrote at the time, there was no teshuva by Adaya – she is still claiming not to have done anything wrong and everyone knows the steps for teshuva are first, acknowledgement that one acted wrongly, and second, apologizing to the one wronged. To this day Adaya and her hotel have not apologized to the plaintiffs. But second, given that the FIDF was the wronged party, why isn’t Adaya having a fundraiser for the FIDF? Instead, the Purim Gala is to help promote a new organization created by the former ZOA employee who falsely claimed Adaya had done teshuva.
There are other ways to divine the sincerity of Adaya’s gesture. Court papers filed by her new attorneys on January 7, offered several reasons to justify Adaya being given a new trial. Much emphasis was placed on the “fact” that one of the jurors hid that she was Jewish. According to the filed papers, Adaya is claiming that one of the jurors “failed to disclose her religious background, Jewish,” during the jury selection process. Two problems with that: there’s no legal bar to a Jewish juror sitting on a case about anti-Semitic discrimination, and Adaya’s lawyers never asked the juror whether she was Jewish during the jury selection process.
When James Turken, manager partner at Dickstein, Shapiro’s California offices and plaintiffs’ lawyer in this case, was asked by the Jewish Press what he thought about the claims by Adaya’s lawyers, he responded with a soft chuckle and raised a third problem with the claim: “I don’t even think the juror they are claiming hid being Jewish is actually Jewish,” he said, ” but I know they never asked about that” during the jury selection process.
Turken was reluctant to comment on anything other than the legal matters of the case, but quipped about the Zionist Gala to be held at the Shangri-La, “since Adaya was found liable for insisting that “all the ‘blankin’ Jews get out of her pool, I’m going to assume this isn’t going to be a pool party.”
For her part, Geller is saying that it is the first time that she can think of in which a Muslim has publicly acknowledged that “Islamic anti-Semitism is wrong, and offered to make amends for it.” She went on to acknowledge that Adaya might be engaging in a form of deception while not actually ruing her acts of discrimination, she said, “Taqiyya? Maybe, but how sincere they are is not the point: the point is that they’re publicly admitting that Islamic Jew-hatred exists and is wrong. We’re going to make the most of it.”
Geller promises she and Spencer will partake in a proudly Zionist event in the Shangri-La Hotel, “in which we will talk forthrightly about the roots of Islamic antisemitism in the Quran and other Islamic texts.”
An ironic sidenote is that when Geller was scheduled to speak at an event for the ZOA at the building owned by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles last June, the Federation cancelled her, reportedly because of fear that local Muslim groups might protest outside the building. At the time, Geller responded that the Jewish Federation “cravenly submitted to Islamic supremacists who wanted to suppress free speech.”
A public statement prepared by Ellen Adelman, the Shangri-La Hotel’s development officer, was issued about the upcoming Purim Gala. It states that the hotel “is committed to enhancing understanding and cooperation between people of all backgrounds and cultures, and to embrace differences. Our hope is that we can come together and celebrate the theme of their party – Purim – a holiday designed to bring people together.”
When Lozano, the Shangri-La’s public relations manager, was asked by the Jewish Press whether Adaya would be attending the Zionist Purim event at her hotel, Lozano – who is Jewish – said he didn’t know. When asked whether he thought Purim is really a holiday “designed to bring people together,” he snorted, acknowledging it was a strange way to describe Purim.
Perhaps Adaya hasn’t been told that at the end of the Purim story, Haman is hanged.Lori Lowenthal Marcus
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the U.S. correspondent for The Jewish Press. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com
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