An Open Letter to Food & Wine Magazine Concerning Its Honoring of Racist Cafe Owner Reem Assil
Dear Ms. Gail Simmons,
My wife and I have been fans of your work on “Top Chef” since the 2006 opening season in San Francisco. We also briefly talked with you at the Grapes to Glass wine festival in Sonoma a few years ago. You were representing Food & Wine there and we just dropped by to say “hello” as fans. I am also, by the way, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, a PhD in American history, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
The reason that I am writing is to sincerely request that Food & Wine reverse its decision to honor Reem Assil’s culinary efforts in Oakland, by naming her “Reem’s California” bakery among the Food & Wine Restaurants of the Year for 2018.
It is hopefully not your fault, but Food & Wine is making a serious mistake. By venerating the antisemitic murderer Rasmea Odeh, Reem Assil is popularizing hatred for Jewish people in day-to-day retail spaces within the San Francisco Bay Area.
Reem’s flatbread and coffee-shop features a floor-to-ceiling mural of the murderer of Jewish college students Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner. They were barely out of their teens in Jerusalem from the Hebrew University when Rasmea Odeh shattered their bones all over the Supersol grocery store in 1969 on behalf of the PFLP. This is essentially the same group that pushed 69-year-old wheelchair bound Leon Klinghoffer off of the deck of the Achille Lauro during a cruise with his wife in celebration of their 36th wedding anniversary.
Terry Joffe Benaryeh, the niece of Edward Joffe, has written about the trauma to her family and their overcoming of that trauma in the pages of The Times of Israel. She writes eloquently about moving her family beyond the very malice that Reem Assil now jubilantly celebrates.
Among the people best able to describe Rasmea Odeh’s political murders is Cornell University Professor of Law William Jacobson, who documents Odeh’s many lies. But the truth is — whatever the quality of Assil’s flatbread — this woman is not only honoring an ideological antisemitic killer but is popularizing it on the local, retail level, all in the name of “social justice.”
I am closely familiar with this story because Reem Assil and her attorneys dragged me into the legal system for writing about it on my small blog, Israel Thrives.
But what cuts close to the bone for me personally is the fact that three times Reem Assil and her attorneys sought Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) against me and were three times denied by the courts. They sought these TROs not because I ever spoke with Reem Assil or ever came within ten feet of the woman. I do not know her. Yet Assil’s attorney’s sought these restraining orders to prevent me from writing about the demonstrable fact that she is celebrating an ideological killer of Jews.
What most analyses of this story miss are two crucial points.
The first is that in her legal efforts to silence our vigils for the two young men Odeh murdered, Assil also sought to push against the Western and American tradition of freedom of speech. My case was a test case. It was meant to see whether Assil and her friends could legally silence American Jews, and friends of the Jewish people, from speaking out against antisemitism.
The second is that in celebrating Rasmea Odeh in that giant floor-to-ceiling mural, Assil seeks to mainstream violent antisemitism in common American retail spaces. It represents the popular cultural expression of hatred towards Jews.
Does Food & Wine really want to join such a racist celebration of the murder of Jews?
I understand that Food & Wine‘s mistake was not malicious and I truly hope you will undertake to reverse it.