Former j. writer sues airline, feds for racial profiling

A Jewish and Arab American woman, saying she was ethnically targeted, is suing Frontier Airlines and the U.S. Transportation Security Administration for removing her from an airplane and strip searching her.

Shoshana Hebshi, whose mother is Jewish and father is Saudi Arabian, filed the lawsuit Jan. 22 in federal court in Detroit. Hebshi, 36, worked as a writer and copy editor for the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California, j.’s predecessor, in 2002 and 2003.

She said in a statement that she was “frightened and humiliated” by the Sept. 11, 2011 incident, and that she believes she was singled out because of her ethnicity.

A SWAT team forcibly removed Hebshi, an American citizen who lives in Ohio, and two Indian men in handcuffs from a Frontier flight after it landed at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. She was held for hours, questioned and strip searched.

A fellow passenger had accused the three of acting suspiciously.

“The illegal arrest and strip search of Ms. Hebshi is not simply a mistake made by an airline employee or government agency, but a predictable consequence of institutionalizing racial stereotypes and mass suspicion as law enforcement tactics,” said Sarah Mehta, an attorney with the ACLU of Michigan, in a statement.

The TSA would not comment.

Also named in the lawsuit are the Wayne County Airport Authority, Detroit Metro Airport Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Patrol. — jta