OCEAN AVE — The Los Angeles branch of a national Jewish organization has called for a protest outside Hotel Shangri-La Sunday morning to spread word of a verdict which found the hotel’s owner guilty of discrimination against Jews.

A jury decided that Tehmina Adaya, the Muslim owner of Hotel Shangri-La, had ordered her staff to shut down a party thrown by the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces in July 2010.

In the complaint, the 19 plaintiffs in the case alleged that Adaya had forced them to take down banners and other materials referencing their organization and used profanity and derogatory language against them.

The plaintiffs were awarded $1.2 million in statutory damages on Aug. 15.

The wider community should know about the hotel’s actions, said Steven Goldberg, the national vice chairman of the Zionist Organization of America and chair of the Los Angeles region chapter.

“The community at large … would not be supportive of the establishment owned by a bigot,” Goldberg said.

The Shangri-La released a statement last week saying that they would appeal the decision.

The plaintiffs were not hotel guests and used the property without a written contract, and the testimony regarding foul language came from a disgruntled former employee, said Ellen Adelman, a development consultant with the hotel.

“We are absolutely, terribly disappointed by the verdict,” Adelman said.

Adelman, who is Jewish, said that Adaya has always treated her and other Jewish employees with “the utmost respect,” and described the hotel as a multicultural environment with staff from 14 different countries, races, religions and beliefs.

The trouble on July 11, 2010 stemmed from a “huge misunderstanding” which could never be repeated after the hotel changed its policies regarding food and beverage operations at the site by bringing that work in-house rather than contracting it out, Adelman said.

The FIDF party had not contracted for the private event space, and had arrived to use the pool and hotel facilities on a busy weekend when hotel guests were also there.

Now, there is only one way to rent space at the hotel — through its event planner, who is also Jewish, Adelman said.

“The point we’re trying to make is that it had nothing to do with the group’s profile, it had everything to do with guests’ privacy at the pool during peak hours,” Adelman said.

In Goldberg’s eyes, the hotel and its staff reinforced a negative stance toward Jewry by not denying the statements strongly.

“It seems like the defense played technical games,” Goldberg said. “If they had said it was outrageously false, we would never do such a thing, we would never discriminate, you always have the risk of an innocent person being falsely accused. It doesn’t look like it in this case.”

If the call against the Shangri-La goes on as planned, there will be at least one person protesting the protesters.

Matthew Gibbons, a Jewish member of the Santa Monica business community, intends to be out by the protesters with a bullhorn.

Gibbons has been dealing with the Shangri-La for over a decade, and describes the experience as “lovely.”

“There’s never been any sort of bigotry or prejudice,” Gibbons said.

He doesn’t appreciate the expected presence of the protesters.

“If they’re coming into my city to cause trouble during the height of tourist season and mess with any property in Santa Monica, they’re going to have me in their face,” Gibbons said.

 

ashley@smdp.com

 

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