Last Sunday, on the afternoon of January 28, about fifty people arrived at the Fruitvale BART Station in Oakland, California, for the purpose of staring at one another across a notoriously ugly, racially-grounded, political divide.
The problem revolves around Reem’s Cafe…or, as I like to think of it, Reem Assil’s Racist Flatbread and Terror Joint.
For emotional reasons of her own, political activist Reem Assil has taken it upon herself to introduce Jew hatred into the Oakland culinary scene by featuring a floor-to-ceiling image of anti-Jewish murderer, Rasmea Odeh in her little bakery/cafe near a major Bay Area transportation hub.
Odeh, along with her partner, Aisha Odeh and their friends within the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), killed 21-year-old Leon Kanner of Netanya, Israel, and 22-year-old Eddie Joffe on February 21, 1969, in a Jerusalem grocery.
Both were college students.
I find it profoundly disconcerting that within living memory of the Shoah – the genocide of the Jews – the very city that I live in, a city that proudly claims itself against race hate is perfectly comfortable… with race hate.
What the City of Oakland is showing the rest of the United States is that urinating on Jews is just fine and that honoring the murderers of innocent Jews in a public manner is a righteous matter of “social justice.”
So on that perfectly beautiful Sunday afternoon those who despise Israel sat with Reem Assil in the cafe – in a closed, RSVP-Only event – and discussed with professor Sunaina Maira (UC Davis), author of Boycott!: The Academy and Justice for Palestine, how best to eliminate Jewish self-determination and self-defense from the world stage.
Jewish people and friends of Jewish people – maybe twenty of us total – stood outside in the courtyard beside the leadership of Faith Meltzer, Susan George, and Matthew Finkelstein.
In a video for the East Bay Times under an article entitled, Palestinian mural protesters, bakery backers face off in Oakland, reporter George Kelly gives his readership clips of statements by pro-Jewish / pro-Israel advocate Faith Meltzer, for Oakland Unified Against Hate, and anti-Zionist activist Lara Kiswani who writes for the anti-Zionist online journal, Electronic Intifada.
George Kelly: Did the group begin in response to Reem’s opening?
Faith Meltzer: Only in response to the mural. Reem’s has had a presence in the farmers’ market. My family has actually eaten there. And it is only since this mural of Rasmea Odeh that we realized that this was something that we needed to mobilize against because this is the glorification of terror and violence in our community. (My emphasis.)
Lara Kiswani: Today there is an event here that is put on by Sunaina Maira who published a book through the University of California about the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement… And so, because of the event and the subject matter is about BDS, boycott, divestment, and sanctions, Israel, and that is we are being critical of apartheid and the colonialist state of Israel at this time, the demonstrators have called for another protest today.
Kiswani also refers to the Jewish people and friends of Jewish people who object to the mural of a Jew murderer as “racist.”
The fundamental difference between Meltzer and Kiswani – aside from the fact that Meltzer cares about the well-being of the tiny Jewish minority around the world and Kiswani obviously does not – is that Meltzer wants to organize against the murder and hatred of Jewish people while Kiswani, despite her best intentions, promotes it.
Kiswani favors opposing Israel (i.e., the Jewish people) by any means necessary.
She calls us apartheid-enthusiasts and colonialists on the very land of our own heritage, the very land where Jewish identity was forged.
This would be like calling indigenous Métis activist Ryan Bellerose a colonist in Alberta.
within Progressive-Left anti-Zionism
While Meltzer stood before the press directly prior to the vigil/protest at Reem’s, Susan George and Matthew Finkelstein endeavored to talk to Reem’s anti-liberal supporters.
The most important moment in this entire event came when Finkelstein and George requested that those who faced us actually speak with us.
They wanted to know just why it is that as progressives and Democrats and alleged liberals they were standing up for a retail establishment that venerates the murdering of Jewish people?
We can unpack that question… we can put it into the nicest possible terms… but we can only do so through dialogue and dialogue is the very foundation of Enlightenment liberalism.
But make no mistake, as recent polling definitively shows, the progressive-left and the Democratic Party honestly believes that the Jews in the Middle East deserve a good ass-kicking.
Look at these numbers:
According to 2018 Pew polling, 79 percent of Republicans sympathize more with Israel – by which they essentially mean the Jews – than they do with the Palestinian-Arabs.
Only 27 percent of Democrats do so.
That is a tough fact, but it is a fact that must be acknowledged.
Another fact that must be acknowledged is that the progressive-left, in the United States, is straying well beyond liberalism.
You cannot be a liberal if you refuse to engage in discourse and what Susan George and Matthew Finkelstein showed us is that the other side refuses to engage in honest dialogue.
We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.