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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘discrimination’

A Modesty Request in Williamsburg – Or Is it?

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

http://haemtza.blogspot.co.il/2012/08/a-modesty-request-in-williamsburg-or-is.html

Whenever my wife and I visit New York, we try and “take in” all the Jewish neighborhoods. Among the places we visit are Boro Park, Monsey, and the Satmar enclave of Williamsburg.

A couple of years ago as I was walking down Williamsburg’s famous shopping district of Lee Street, I recall seeing a sign in one of the stores that had a message written in both Yiddish (Hebrew characters) and English. The English sign said “Closed”. The Yiddish sign said “Offen” – which is Yiddish for “Open”.

I smiled when I saw it. How clever, I thought for this storeowner to avoid “unwanted” customers. But that smile was immediately followed by the realization that not only was he guilty of Geneivas Daas (deception), he may very well have been guilty of ethnic prejudice.

I thought that the store owner  wanted to avoid the ethnic minorities that share the wider Williamsburg neighborhood with him. Among the 45,000 Satmar Chasidim that live there are significant numbers of Black and Hispanic people.

But perhaps it was something other than prejudice. Maybe the issue was one of modesty in dress.

A sign was posted recently posted in one of those stores that read in English, “Please… do not enter in immodest clothing (i.e. short sleeves pants…).” This was obviously directed towards women.

That sign has caused quite a controversy. In these hot summer days where people tend to dress as comfortably as they can – modesty by Orthodox Jewish standards goes “out the window.” If one is not Orthodox one would hardly be expected to cover themselves up by Orthodox standards of dress. So when these signs went up, cries of “discrimination” were heard.

This is not discrimination. Requiring that patrons observe a dress code does not discriminate against a class of people. People have a right to require dress codes for their establishment. A restaurant for example is well within their rights to require jackets for their patrons. As long as it is all patrons and not just – say… black patrons. The same thing should be true of dress codes for religious reasons.

I therefore side with the Chasdim on this one.

But still… in the back of my mind is that deceptive sign from a couple of years ago: “Closed” in English – “Open” in Yiddish. Was it prejudice or modesty that motivated them? That there was deception involved makes me wonder what the real motivation is.  Is this just a legal way of eliminating unwanted patrons?

Who knows?

But the way the sign reads now, there is certainly nothing wrong with it. Not any more than if I would put up a sign saying that only people wearing underwear on their heads would be allowed in the store.

Pakistani Owner of Swanky Santa Monica Hotel: “Get the [expletive] Jews out of my Pool”

Monday, July 30th, 2012

An upscale hotel on a Santa Monica, California, beach is an odd place to be singled out from a crowd and removed because you are Jewish, but that’s what happened to 18 young professionals who are telling their story to a jury in a discrimination trial taking place in Santa Monica Superior Court this week.

Ari Ryan is the grandson of a Ukranian Jew who lost most of his family in the Holocaust and narrowly escaped death at the hands of the Nazis.  Ryan’s grandfather moved to Israel in 1942 and served as a captain in the Israel Defense Forces.

Seventy years later Ryan says he got a small taste of what his grandfather lived through, but rather than in the forests of the Ukraine, it took place at an upscale hotel in Santa Monica.  Ryan and more than a dozen others have brought a lawsuit alleging anti-Semitic discrimination against them by a multi-millionaire Muslim American hotel owner.

Two years ago Ryan and other twenty- and thirty-something Jews planned to raise money to send children of fallen IDF soldiers to camp with a charity event at the Hotel Shangri-La in Santa Monica, California.

On the morning of July 11, 2010, Ryan and others arrived at the hotel and began setting up Friends of the IDF banners, literature and piles of shirts for the event guests.

But the event was aborted after, according to one employee’s sworn testimony, the hotel’s owner told staff members, “Get the [expletive deleted] Jews out of my pool.”  Then the hotel security and other employees began removing the materials and ordering the guests to leave.

Ryan said,  “Anyone wearing a blue wristband,” which identified them as being with the Friends of the IDF, “was asked to get out of the swimming pool and the hot tub.”  In fact, no one who was identifiable as Jewish was so much as “allowed to dip their feet in the water.”

Tehmina (Tamie) Adaya, a Pakistani-American Muslim, is the owner of the Shangri-La.  Her father, Ahmad Adaya, was a founding partner of the California real estate company IDS Real Estate Group.  He also was a founder and benefactor of the New Horizon School for Muslim religious education in Southern California.

The father bought the Shangri-La Hotel in the 1980‘s and the daughter took it over in 2004, investing $30 million to renovate the property into a design award-winning opulent destination. In addition to the hotel, Adaya runs an upscale artist collective called the Crown Jewels which she blogs about at her site “Culture Shock to Culture Architect.

In the cross-complaint she initially filed, Adaya claimed Ryan and his friends were trespassing on the Shangri-La property and became unruly.

“Not so,” said James Turken, managing partner of the California office of the DC-based law firm Dickstein, Shapiro, attorney for the plaintiffs.  He explained that Adaya withdrew her complaint after he interviewed her, under oath, and she was unable to substantiate any of the allegations she had made.

Turken told The Jewish Press that witnesses will testify that, in addition to cursing the Jews and yelling at her staff to remove them from the pool, Adaya was heard saying, “my family will disown me,” and that her “investors will be furious,” if the plaintiffs remained on site.

The defense claims there was no discrimination and that, instead, the promoters of the event had failed to properly schedule the event with the hotel, and therefore they were trespassing.

According to Turken, however, all the necessary arrangements had been made in advance, as evidenced by the initial assistance provided by the Shangri-La employees, which included putting up a rope and stanchions and a check-in table.  What’s more, he said, the day before the event “the head of hotel security gave a briefing to the staff to prepare them for the crowd of 150 that were expected to attend.”

The removal from the pool of Jews who were wearing Jewish-identified wristbands evokes a similar selection process of seventy years ago.  Ryan, recalling his grandfather’s legacy, said “I felt the weight of standing up to what he had to live through.”

The plaintiffs are seeking $ 1 million from Adaya and the Shangri-La Hotel for emotional distress, attorneys’ fees and other statutory damages.

Williamsburg Store Owners Slammed for Banning Sleeveless Shoppers

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

If a snooty restaurant can require that men wear dinner jackets in order to be served, is it okay for shopkeepers to require its customers to wear modest attire?  That’s the kind of question being debated in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, these days.

Restaurants with a “no shoes, no service” rule have been commonplace for years.  That rule is partly for health purposes, but it is also partly because many people are turned off by seeing someone else’s bare feet when they eat.  If someone is barefoot and hungry, they’ll just have to go to a different restaurant and no one thinks about raising claims of discrimination.

But for some reason the ban by certain Orthodox Brooklyn shopkeepers on customers’ cleavage and bare shoulders has raised the ire of some local consumers, and confused the general public and even law professors concerning permissible limitations on public attire.

One of the complaints is that the stores with the dress codes serve lots of people, not just Jews.

“Religious freedom is one thing, but we do not have the right to enforce our beliefs on someone else,” one local resident claimed.

Another added, “Why should they be able to say that on their signs?  It’s not OK.”

Actually, it is.

So long as the shopkeepers are only telling you what you cannot do in their store – in other words, not requiring you to change your own lifestyle to conform to their own – the shopkeeper has wide latitude about what can be required of customers.  And it isn’t as if the Brooklyn dress codes require customers to follow the religious practices of the storeowners.  There is no prohibition on women wearing pants, for example, nor is there a distinction made between men and women – the discrimination is appearance-based, not gender based.

Marci Hamilton teaches Constitutional Law at Cardozo Law School.  Presumably she knows the difference between discrimination imposed by the government – which is virtually always verboten – and restrictions imposed by private actors, such as shopkeepers, on their personal property, which is almost always permissible, so long as not overtly discriminatory.

When asked to comment on signs hanging in Brooklyn shop windows that state: “No Low Cut Neckline Allowed in the Store,” or “Entry here in modest dress only,” Hamilton bristled.

According to an account in the New York Post, Hamilton referred to the Orthodox dress code as a form of “Balkanization” of the United States.  She said, “It’s no longer sufficient that [the Orthodox] have shared norms among themselves, they are increasingly trying to impose their norms on the rest of the culture.”

UCLA Constitutional Law professor Eugene Volokh, however, points out that there is no constitutional clause against Balkanization.  “Indeed, it is perfectly legal and a part of American tradition that certain communities in the United States prefer to interact primarily within their own parameters, the Amish, for example.”

For Volokh, so long as the dress code applies equally – and it need not even be applied exactly equally – and doesn’t single out people of a certain race, color or gender – there is nothing unconstitutional about the dress codes.

“There are still plenty of fancy restaurants in New York City that require men wear jackets, aren’t there?” Volokh asked.  “What’s the difference?”  In fact, a quick check reveals the famous 21 Club in Manhattan prohibits sneakers and jeans, and dinner jackets are required for male patrons.

Nonetheless, Hamilton maintained, “There’s a movement toward insularity among religious groups.  It’s dangerous for tolerance, and it’s also dangerous for peace.”

The dress code requirements of Orthodox shopkeepers may be dangerous for their own bank accounts, but it’s hard to understand how such standards could endanger peace.

France Penalizes Boycott of Israeli Products

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Last May, the Cour de Cassation, the Supreme Court of France, ruled that calls for a boycott of Israeli products constitute discrimination and as such are illegal under French law.

The verdict was the final ruling in a legal battle that went on for years. On 9 July 2005, exactly seven years ago, the Palestinian Authority called for a worldwide Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign against the Jewish State. In February 2009, following the Gaza War in the winter of 2008-2009, several leftist and pro-Palestinian organizations in France convened to organize a French BDS campaign. The activists target French and international corporations that do business in Israel, French branches of Israeli companies, and supermarkets selling Israeli products.

Supermarkets are raided by commando units who block the entrances or storm the premises in order to remove the Israeli products or label them with stickers stating that Israel is an “apartheid state.” Often the raids are videotaped and posted on YouTube. The French revolutionary Left considers BDS to be a huge political success. The BDS actions attract a lot of support from Muslims youths from the suburbs surrounding the French cities. It is the first time since the 1960s and 70s that the French Left has been able to mobilize large numbers of youths.

BDS activists have succeeded in intimidating a number of supermarkets to remove Israeli products from their shelves, movie theaters to stop programming Israeli movies, and universities to cancel lectures by Israeli citizens. The lectures were boycotted simply because of their nationality and their Jewish religion; not for the opinions they personally might have held about Israeli politics.

Soon after the BDS raids began, the French Bureau National de Vigilance Contre l’Antisémitisme (National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism), a Jewish organization that was founded in 2002, started to lodge complaints against BDS at courts all over France. Sometimes the courts went along with the complaints, sometimes they did not.

In February 2010, the penal court of Bordeaux convicted Saquina Arnaud-Khimoun for labeling Israeli products with the sticker “Boycott Apartheid Israel.” The court ruled that she had “hindered the normal exercise of economic activities by making a distinction on the basis of nationality.” The French anti-discrimination act of 1981 prohibits “incitment to discrimination, hatred or violence against a person or a group of persons on the basis of descent, ethnicity and nationality or the fact whether or not one belongs to a race or a religion.” Arnaud-Khimoun was sentenced to a fine of €1,000 ($1,230). In October 2010, the Appeals Court of Bordeaux reaffirmed the verdict.

However, in July 2011, a court in Paris acquitted Olivia Zémor, a member of the group EuroPalestine, for posting a video on the internet showing Palestinian and French activists wearing t-shirts calling for a boycott of Israel. Zémor was brought to court by four organizations, including the Israeli Chamber of Commerce.

The Paris court ruled that calling for the boycott of Israeli products is not prohibited under French law. The tribunal said that “Criticism of a State or its policies cannot be regarded, in principle, as infringing the rights or dignity of its nationals, without seriously affecting freedom of expression in a world now globalized, whose civil society has become a major actor, and since no ‘criminal offence against a Foreign State’ has ever been established under substantive law or international common law, because this would be contrary to the commonly accepted standard of freedom to express opinions.”

The court added that “Since the call of a boycott of Israeli products is formulated by a citizen for political motives and is part of a political debate relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – a debate concerned with a matter of general interest with international significance – the offence of incitement to discrimination, based on the fact of belonging to a Nation, is not constituted.” Moreover, the court pointed out, “certain sectors of Israeli opinion support the BDS call.” In this regard, it explicitly referred to the declaration of the Israeli Women’s Coalition for Peace.

The verdict in the Zémor case encouraged Arnaud-Khimoun in her decision to bring her case to the French Supreme Court. On 22 May, however, the French Cour de Cassation reaffirmed that publicly calling for the boycott of Israeli products is a case of incitement to discrimination on the basis of nationality.

Gaza Women Demand to Pray in Al-Aqsa Mosque

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

Six women from Gaza appealed their case to the Israeli Supreme Court on Wednesday to be allowed to pray at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, after their original petition was denied by the Beersheba District Court last year.  The women claim discrimination based on their Muslim faith, as Christian women in Gaza are allowed to visit Israel’s holy areas.  The women say they just want to pray, but security has been elevated in the area since Hamas’s capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006 and its brutal takeover of the strip in 2007.  The women remain optimistic about the decision.

Racism in Arab Lands

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

The dirty little secret is finally out. Even Robert Fisk, whose anti-Israeli credentials endear him to critics of the Jewish state, wrote in an article in The Independent, on May 7, 2012, of the pious silence by the politicians, prelates, and businessmen of Arab countries about the treatment of Asian domestic servants, and discrimination against migrant labor, male and female. The overlong story in the June 10, 2012 edition of the New York Times that a few activists, in this case Ethiopian Israelis, were protesting against racism and discrimination, is a familiar leitmotif to those who still read that newspaper; but less frequently, if ever, can those readers learn of the racism, intolerance, and discrimination that are endemic in Arab countries, or of the slavery that still exists in some of them.

Discrimination, intolerance, and racism in the Arab world persist in many forms: they affect women; all non-Muslims; dark skinned people, Blacks, would-be refugees, and migrants. Among those groups and peoples who have been denied political and civil rights are Kurds, the non-Arab people whose language belongs to the Iranian group; Berbers, the pre-Arab native people of North Africa; Turkmen who speak their own language; the Christian Copts in Egypt; the Assyrians or Assyro-Chaldeans in Iraq subject to both ethnic and religious persecution; and Jews. Christians and Jews are still regarded as dhimmis ["tolerated" people], defined in different ways but always as second-class citizens. Extreme Islamists, regarding them as infidels, have used violence against many, including the Copts and the Bahais, as well as against Jews.

Recent years have seen even stronger examples of discrimination than is customary: the slaughter in Darfur; the massacre of Kurds by Saddam Hussein and their persecution by Syria and Turkey; the Algerian government repression of the Kaybles, and the maintenance of apartheid of the Zaghawa people in the Sudan, especially in Darfur. A reasonable calculation is that over the last twenty years more than 1,500,000 African Christians have been killed or expelled from Southern Sudan, or enslaved by the Islamist regime in Khartoum.

In his unjustly neglected book, Race and Slavery in the Middle East, Bernard Lewis recounts that many of the stories in the Arabian Nights portray Blacks as slaves, and as second-class citizens, while Arabs are “white.” The Egyptian story is not a pleasant one for a variety of reasons. Egyptian Copts, about 10 to 12 million, are treated as second-class citizens and denied senior jobs. Now that the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis have won the election with 70% of the seats in new parliament, the Copts’ situation is likely only to worsen. Individual Copts and their churches have already been attacked. The Virgin Church in Assiut in Upper Egypt was burned. Copts have been sentenced to prison for allegedly insulting the Prophet. About 200,000 Egyptian Christians have tried to get visas to come to the US.

Before he became Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat, who was dark skinned, was insulted as Nasser’s “Black Poodle” and “The Monkey.” Although Blacks suffer from discrimination in many countries, Egypt has a long history of it, with Egyptians attacking black Africans in recent years. Riot police in 2005 cleared a camp of 2,500 Sudanese refugees, mostly from Darfur, at the Egyptian border with Israel. Egyptians have killed numbers of African refugees trying to reach Israel. Black Africans report verbal harassment and negative language, such as being called “oonga boonga” or samara [black], as well as physical attacks in the streets by the public, and even by Egyptian law enforcement officials. Blacks have been stopped for arbitrary identity checks on the basis of skin color, and have faced arbitrary roundups.

In Basra, Iraq, Blacks are treated contemptuously: people in street talk call them abd [slaves]. In Yemen, darker skinned individuals are known as al-akhdam [the servants]. Kuwait has shown similar hostility to blacks. 2,000,000 black African migrants were treated as virtual slaves in Libya. Even though slavery was officially abolished in Mauritania in 1981, around 15% of its population is still enslaved.

Discrimination is also rampant in the economic area. In the United Arab Emirates, the federation of seven emirates, Dubai, with its high rise buildings and luxury resorts, is attractive to tourists who are unaware that 2,500,000 migrant workers compose 80% of the population and 95% of the workforce. As the major group in the construction business, they are treated as bonded laborers, in essence slaves, despite the alleged UAE adherence to the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. The migrant workers are abused by very low wages, years of debts to recruitment agencies, and hazardous working conditions that result in a high rate of injuries and death.

Commerce Department to Consider Affirmative Action for Arab Americans

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

The Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) published a notice regarding a petition it received on January 11, 2012 from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), requesting formal designation of Arab-Americans as a minority group that is socially or economically disadvantaged.

The formal designation of the Arab-American community as a group that is socially or economically disadvantaged would allow the members of this community to receive assistance from MBDA funded programs, such as the MBDA Business Center program.

The ADC petition included information specifically related to social and economic discrimination against Arab-Americans. It cited “discrimination and prejudice in American society, resulting in conditions under which Arab-American individuals have been unable to compete in a business world.”

The ADC claimed discrimination against Arab Americans increased after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Some little known facts are included in the ADC petition. For instance, it states that “Arab-Americans have faced discrimination since the late 1800s, similar to most other minority groups. They were treated the same way as many other minority groups in the United States and had specific derogatory names directed towards them. While this discrimination initially did not hinder their ability to obtain American citizenship, the situation changed in 1910 when the U.S. Census Bureau classified Syrian and Palestinian Arabs as ‘Asiatics.’”

According to the ADC, the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, which initially considered Syrians and Palestinians as “Caucasians,” subsequently issued a nationwide directive ordering the rejection of citizenship petitions for persons who were not “free white persons” or of “African nativity.” Some courts declared that Syrians could be considered “white” while other courts ruled that they were not “free white persons.”

The MBDA notice alerts the public to the fact that the United States Department of Commerce will consider the petition and requests public comment on the propriety of this designation.

MBDA will make a decision on the application no later than June 27, 2012.

Why Do Some Jewish Groups Have A Problem With Legal Protection For Jewish Students?

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Imagine if the NAACP had responded with skepticism to the passage of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and urged African Americans to exercise their civil rights cautiously under this law. Title VI was landmark legislation when it was passed in 1964 to remedy racial and ethnic discrimination in programs receiving federal funding.

In fact, the NAACP fought for Title VI’s passage and has vigorously sought to enforce it to uphold the right of African Americans to be free from discrimination.

Jewish students are facing their own serious problems of harassment and discrimination at schools receiving federal funding. After a six-year campaign by the Zionist Organization of America, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, or OCR, finally clarified in October 2010 that Jewish students finally would be afforded the same protection from harassment and discrimination under Title VI that other minorities have enjoyed for close to 50 years.

Yet instead of embracing the new legal protection, some in the Jewish community have been strangely critical of it.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs describes itself as “the representative voice of the organized American Jewish community” in the Jewish community relations field. Its national member agencies include the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and more than 100 Jewish community relations councils throughout the country. A year after the policy clarification from the Office for Civil Rights, the JCPA proposed a resolution regarding Title VI. Instead of praising the new policy and committing to a nationwide campaign to educate Jewish students and university officials about students’ right to be protected from anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination under Title VI, the JCPA resolution tried to impose unreasonably harsh standards on when Jewish students should use the law to rectify a hostile anti-Semitic school environment – stricter even than the standards that the Office for Civil Rights applies.

Critics of the new Title VI policy have paid little attention to the fact that the policy has already shown its value.

University of California President Mark Yudof recently issued a public statement in which he condemned anti-Semitic harassment on the UC campuses.

Last month, Rutgers University President Richard McCormick issued a statement publicly condemning a student paper, The Medium, for falsely claiming that an article mocking the Holocaust had been written by a vocal Jewish, pro-Israel student.

McCormick said that “no individual student should be subject to such a vicious, provocative, and hurtful piece, regardless of whether First Amendment protections apply to such expression.”

Significantly, McCormick had failed to condemn previous anti-Semitic incidents on campus. It is likely that OCR’s Title VI policy, which recommends that university leaders label certain incidents as anti-Semitic, played a role in the decisions of both McCormick and Yudof to speak out. Surely also at play was the fact that there are Title VI investigations pending against their schools.

The David Project recently issued a report about rethinking Israel advocacy on campus. Curiously, the report cautions that “legitimate efforts to combat campus anti-Semitism could be complicated by overly aggressive complaints” under Title VI. But what are “legitimate efforts”? And what does the David Project mean by “overly aggressive”? Only weeks after the Office for Civil Rights issued its new Title VI policy, the ZOA was able to use it effectively without even filing a complaint with the OCR. We contacted officials at a Maine high school where there was longstanding anti-Semitic harassment and informed them of their Title VI obligations. The school acted on nearly all our recommendations and rectified the situation.

Would the David Project consider our actions legitimate or overly aggressive? What if school officials had refused to fix the problems? Would a Title VI complaint then have been legitimate?

It is difficult to understand why members of the Jewish community are skeptical of a critical new legal tool under Title VI or why they are sending a cautious message about using it.

We should be fully supportive of Jewish students and holding schools accountable when they don’t respond to campus anti-Semitism.

It’s time for us to stop being “shah-still” frightened Jews of the previous generation and start strongly speaking out on behalf of our Jewish brethren when necessary.

Morton A. Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America. Susan B. Tuchman is the director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/why-do-some-jewish-groups-have-a-problem-with-legal-protection-for-jewish-students/2012/05/16/

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