Website Bars Israelis

From the www.monabaker.com archive (legacy material)

Alex Sholem | Totally Jewish | 16 October 2003

A British website that barred Israelis from entering one of its competitions has been forced to issue a retraction after receiving a deluge of complaints. In a giveaway running this month, ukhotmovies.com invited visitors to compete to win the top prize of a DVD box set of popular animated comedy series The Simpsons. But the site’s terms and conditions stated the competition was “open to film fans worldwide except inhabitants of Israel and Serbia.” The clause was quickly withdrawn without explanation following a campaign of email messages and telephone calls by several organisations late last week. A man describing himself as an employee of the website refused to give a reason for the clause, saying only: “If you want to know why Israel and Serbia, look in the history books.” He said he had altered the conditions of entry out of fear for his family’s safety: “We received endless threatening emails and phone calls, saying things like, ‘You watch what happens now,’ my wife was petrified. We passed tapes of the threats on to the police last Thursday and when we told these people the threats ended immediately.” Zionist Federation president Eric Moonman described the removal of the clause as a “victory”, and told TJ: “We were one of several organisations that wanted to show our deep concern over what happened.” He said he would like to hear any evidence of threats but said it was impossible to know if those alleged to have made threats were from the Jewish community or not. The website employee said: “It is ironic that when this was happening I was in Hampstead having dinner with a Jewish friend of mine, having a civilised discussion.” He added that he always read the Jewish newspapers and often wrote letters that went unpublished. But asked whether he would consider barring Israeli citizens from future competitions he said: “I can’t say. Just keep visiting the site.”