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Palestinian restaurant in New York accused of calling for genocide over menu line

'29.12.2023'

Alina Prikhodko

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A chain of Palestinian restaurants in New York whose menu includes a “From the River to the Sea” section is receiving death threats for “outright genocide.” new york post reports that the owners are scared and insist that the controversial phrase does not mean a call for the extermination of the people of Israel.

Abdul Elenani and Ayat Masoud opened a new restaurant, Ayat, in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, earlier this month, where the menu includes a controversial phrase for the seafood section and includes an image of a crying Palestinian woman with the words “Down with the occupation.”

“From the river to the sea,” according to the Anti-Defamation League, is considered an anti-Semitic call for the destruction of the Jewish state. This slogan has been chanted by protesters around the world since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7.

“This phrase has been on my menu for the last year, long before October 7, and this slogan in our communities has always been defined as a call for peace and equality for the Palestinian people in their country,” Elenani explained.

“And after October 7, it began to be interpreted as a way to kill, expel, do whatever you want to the entire Jewish people, which does not correspond to our definition at all. It drives me crazy,” he remarked.

Threats and curses

The restaurateur shared the vile messages that appeared on his Instagram page: “20 is not enough and 000 sub-human Palestinians killed in Gaza!!! I hope every corpse is shitted before it is buried in the ground.”

“We receive death threats. This is ridiculous. Our Instagram is just one page for all points, we don’t have separate pages,” Elenani emphasized, adding that his wife is afraid to leave the house with their newborn child.

On the subject: To survive despite threats: how New Yorkers with Israeli and Palestinian roots feel now

Ayat has five other locations in Bay Ridge and Industry City in Brooklyn, the East Village, Staten Island and Allentown, Pennsylvania, the company's website says. “Someone wrote on our page, ‘We Jews will destroy you. Palestine does not exist. From the river to the sea there will be 100 percent Israel. Palestinians need to be killed,' he said.

Elenani said he does not condone any violence in the region, and he insisted he does not share the “angry” mentality of protesters on both sides of the conflict who call for violence.

“We believe they will continue to exist,” he said of the Jewish state established in 1948. – Israel must stay there. Palestine should be there too. This is a peaceful two-state solution.”

Public opinion is divided

Ditmas Park restaurant manager Hania Khattab, 19, of Egyptian-Moroccan descent, said Elenani originally put the slogan on the menu as a “pun” about seafood. According to him, he did not do this out of malice and did not want to show people that the phrase “is being used to promote Palestinian freedom.” Ill-wishers, he believes, have a “victim complex” or “victim mentality”:

“They think we mean genocide when we say 'From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,' but we don't. This phrase contains a call for freedom for all. As you know, Palestinians live in an apartheid state. They have no rights. They have no freedom. And, technically speaking, this is their homeland. So they are under occupation.”

A Brooklyn legislator representing the densely Jewish neighborhoods of Borough Park and Midwood objected to the establishment's interpretation of the slogan. “Restaurateurs may think they're cute or funny, but the phrase is widely accepted as calling for the destruction of the Jewish people, and I find it hard to believe they don't know what they're doing,” said City Councilman Kalman Yeager. “They use the language of Hamas and claim that it means something different to them.”

Vespiary

In the new space, a mural depicts Palestinian children behind bars under the golden dome of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and Israeli soldiers pointing guns at a crying Palestinian woman. Neighbor Dahlia Schweitzer believes the images have "disturbed a hornet's nest and they know what they're doing," even if the owners claim they're "just standing up for freedom."

Another resident said he believed the owners were “clearly trying to provoke” the problem, while Lisa Javaherikia said: “They have the right to say what they want, and I have the right to go or not.”

Anthony Babangida, 24, said he thinks the restaurant needs to be “especially conscious at a time like this. It may be better to remove some phrases from the menu.” “However, threats and explosions cannot be an excuse,” he noted. “It’s just hatred and incitement to hatred.” We're trying to bring both sides together, not drive them apart."

Alton Baxter, 58, laments that his neighborhood has become a “political war zone” and fears violence will follow. “People just need to calm down. This is a free country, we all have the right to use any slogans that we consider necessary, as long as they do not carry hatred. But, for God's sake, don't threaten violence. It’s a peaceful area,” he said of Ditmas Park.

“We welcome people of all creeds and colors. I have lunch at a Palestinian restaurant and dinner at an Israeli restaurant, and I am happy with both. Let’s be nice to both sides and put an end to this nonsense.”

 

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