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                            29 Shevat-5 Adar, 5779                                           Feb 4-10, 2019 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES --  621st Web Ed.

  NEXT EDITION   4-1-19                                                           



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A new lawsuit has been filed against Airbnb, alleging that Airbnb’s decision to removelistings of dwellings and accommodations owned by Jews in Judea and Samaria constitutes an “anti-Jewish Discriminatory Policy” that violates both the federal Fair Housing Act and California law.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, where Airbnb’s headquarters is located, is brought on behalf of Eve and Earl Harow, who reside in Efrat, Fay and Neal Shapiro of Los Angeles, California, and Joel Taubman of Scottsdale, Arizona. Harow et al v. Airbnb, Inc., 3:19-cv-00395-JCS.

On November 19, 2018, Airbnb announced that it would “remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.” The lawsuit alleges that the Discriminatory Policy adopted by Airbnb applies only to residents of Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria and not to listings from any Arab or Palestinian towns in the region. As a result, Jews and Israelis who live in Judea and Samaria, such as the Harows, cannot rent out their property using Airbnb and Jews and Israelis throughout the world, such as the Shapiros and Mr. Taubman, cannot seek to rent accommodations in Judea and Samaria using Airbnb.

The lawsuit, filed by attorneys David N. Schultz and L. Marc Zell, alleges claims against Airbnb for violation of the Fair Housing Act, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, and California’s unfair competition law. It alleges that Airbnb adopted its Discriminatory Policy “with the incitement and encouragement of [Human Rights Watch] and other organizations associated with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement.” The Complaint seeks damages, injunctive relief prohibiting Airbnb from enforcing its Discriminatory Policy, and declaratory relief that the policy violates applicable law.

Commenting on the reasons underlying the lawsuit, Zell said, “Airbnb is eyeing the Israeli market to increase its offerings in the Middle East. It is inconceivable that Airbnb would  at the same time alter its longstanding policy against complying with the anti-Semitic BDS movement by delisting Jewish/Israeli accommodations in Judea and Samaria, while continuing to permit Arab homeowners located literally across the road to participate in the Airbnb program. This lawsuit aims to put an end to this nefarious policy.”


           Israeli singer Netta won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2018

Dame Vivienne Westwood, Peter Gabriel and Wolf Alice are among 50 artists who have called for the Eurovision Song Contest to be relocated from Israel.

Citing human rights concerns, they have signed an open letter urging the BBC to ask organisers to move the contest.

"Eurovision may be light entertainment, but it is not exempt from human rights considerations," they wrote.

In response, the BBC said it was not appropriate "to use the BBC's participation for political reasons".

The annual contest is due to be held in Tel Aviv in May, following Israeli singer Netta's victory in 2018. The winning country usually hosts the following year's competition.

However, the group of cultural figures, which also includes Mike Leigh, Maxine Peake and Miriam Margolyes, said the event's "claim to celebrate diversity and inclusion must ring hollow" in light of Israel's occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

"We cannot ignore Israel's systematic violation of Palestinian human rights," their letter read. "The BBC is bound by its charter to 'champion freedom of expression'. It should act on its principles and press for Eurovision to be relocated to a country where crimes against that freedom are not being committed."

The letter comes a week before Eurovision: You Decide, a live BBC TV show through which the British public will vote for the act to represent the UK.

"For any artist of conscience, this would be a dubious honour," the letter said. "They and the BBC should consider that You Decide is not a principle extended to the Palestinians, who cannot 'decide' to remove Israel's military occupation and live free of apartheid."

The BBC said Eurovision was "not a political event and does not endorse any political message or campaign".

A statement said: "The competition has always supported the values of friendship, inclusion, tolerance and diversity and we do not believe it would be appropriate to use the BBC's participation for political reasons. "Because of this we will be taking part in this year's event. The host country is determined by the rules of the competition, not the BBC."

The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the contest, also emphasised the "non-political character of the event" and pointed out that preparations in Tel Aviv were already "well advanced".

Cultural boycott

Many of the signatories to Wednesday's letter have previously made calls for a cultural boycott of Israel, criticising artists such as Nick Cave, Radiohead and Lana Del Rey for organising concerts in the country.

Their campaign follows an earlier call for Eurovision to be relocated, made last September by a coalition of artists from across Europe.That was organised by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which urges a complete boycott of Israel over its policies towards the Palestinians. Israel says BDS opposes Israel's very existence and is motivated by anti-Semitism.--BBCi


The report said someone who searched for "Jew jokes" was 100 times more likely

to also search for racist jokes about black people, BBCi

Wales has the highest proportion of anti-Semitic Google searches in the UK, a report has said.  Analysis for the Community Security Trust (CST) included search terms such as "Jews evil, kill Jews and die Jews".

Google estimated the area, based on the user's IP address or phone location, and searches in Wales were 7.2% above average for the population size. CST's Dave Rich said it was hard to say why, but fewer Jewish communities could mean more people were uninformed.

By comparison, searches in England were 1.9% above average, Northern Ireland was 2.4% below average and Scotland was 6.7% below average.

There are about 170,000 anti-Semitic Google searches in the UK each year, but CST did not include a baseline figure against which these averages were measured.

Dr Rich, CST's head of policy, said: "It's hard to speculate about why it may have been higher in Wales - it could be because the Jewish communities are smaller so there's perhaps more ignorance - a lot of racism is based on ignorance."

Hidden hate: what Google searches tell us about antisemitism today was compiled by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a former data scientist at Google, for the CST and Anti-semitism Policy Trust.

It looked at search terms between 2004 and 2018, including Jew combined with words such as greedy, cheap, racist and ugly.

Mr Stephens-Davidowitz admitted it would not capture every instance of anti-Semitic searches, but "provides a reliable baseline measure".

He also acknowledged it was "impossible to know for sure that any given search is made by a person with anti-Semitic attitudes, as it is always possible someone was making a search out of curiosity rather than as a result of malign intent".

His research focused on negative stereotypes, violent thoughts, racial epithets and jokes.

Anti-Jewish slurs such as yid, kike and heeb were examined - but research for the report showed the majority of those searches were people looking for the definitions of the words "perhaps because people had heard it being used about Jews and had not come across it before".

Dr Rich, CST's head of policy, said: "Internet companies have a really important part to play in directing people towards or away from hate content. These companies can use their power for good or for ill."

A Google spokesman said: "We partner with organisations in the UK who work to tackle hate speech including CST and Stop Hate UK.

"Autocomplete helps you get to the information you are looking for as quickly as possible. For certain issues, including hateful predictions against groups and individuals based on religion we have developed policies to exclude such terms." –BBCi


SACRAMENTO -- In a letter sent to the trustee in PG&E’s bankruptcy proceeding today, the Newsom Administration asked the court to ensure that wildfire survivors, PG&E employees, and customers have strong representation inside the bankruptcy courtroom.

“From the first indications that PG&E would file for bankruptcy, my Administration’s intentions have been clear -- we will look out for the interests of this state,” said Governor Newsom in announcing the letter. “As this case unfolds, the state will continue working to ensure that Californians have access to safe, reliable and affordable service, that victims and employees are treated fairly, and that any bankruptcy outcome will preserve a strong renewable energy sector and maintain forward progress on the state's clean energy goals."

"Wildfire survivors, employees and customers deserve to have a seat at the table during this bankruptcy process,” added Governor Newsom. “These groups don’t have the resources of many of PG&E’s Wall Street creditors, but they will be directly impacted by the bankruptcy’s results and deserve to have substantial representation in bankruptcy court.”

Citing the profound impacts that the proceedings will have on wildfire survivors, employees, and customers, the Administration’s letter asked the court to give these groups meaningful representation on the court’s official bankruptcy committee or committees -- the official entities that serve as watchdogs within bankruptcy proceedings. As the letter states, the composition of the creditors’ committee is critically important and must be led by stakeholders who have a long-term interest in California. This action would help ensure that that the reorganization plan does not come at the expense of these important California constituencies.   

“Most vulnerable in this process are the wildfire victims who were uninsured, underinsured or have potential claims against the company for personal injury and wrongful death,” the letter reads. “These individual victims should not be left to fend for themselves in a creditor class outnumbered by sophisticated and deep-pocketed financial institutions and insurance companies.”