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Is Anti-Semitism No Longer Disqualifying in This Country?

Reem’s Bakery in Oakland serves “Traditional Arab Street Food Made with California Love!” It’s also decorated with a huge mural of Rasmeah Odeh, who was convicted by an Israeli court for her role in the terror attack that killed two Jewish students, Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner. (Her trial was observed by the International Red Cross and deemed fair.)

Last month I wrote on CAMERA’s website about Food and Wine magazine’s decision to award Reem’s bakery with the honor of “Restaurant of the Year.” The article was sent to CAMERA’s members, and many of them responded with letters to Food and Wine, demanding to know whether the magazine understood that Reem’s honors an unrepentant terrorist. Editor Hunter Lewis responded that, in fact, Food and Wine was well aware of Odeh and her conviction, and that the decision to bestow this honor on Reem’s was made only after Restaurant Editor Jordana Rothman “discussed with our editorial team the controversial mural of Rasmea Odeh painted on one of the bakery’s walls.”

Food and Wine is primarily a cultural publication, and should have little to do with politics. However, it would be unthinkable to honor an establishment with a mural of, say, Dylann Roof, or the San Bernadino shooters. Yet, Odeh didn’t raise eyebrows at that publication.

It’s difficult to understand how Food and Wine took seriously proprietor Reem Assil’s claim that she “wanted to cultivate understanding in the most humane way possible,” when the editors knew there is an image of a killer staring down on Assil’s customers. And Lewis’s characterization of the mural as a “polarizing distraction” downplays what is really happening at Reem’s – that is, the glorification of terror directed at Jews. “Justifying the killing or harming of Jews,” was one example of contemporary anti-Semitism in the definition adopted by the Obama administration. Yet, Food and Wine looked the other way at just that, and bestowed its honor on Assil.

Unfortunately, the Food and Wine award is not an isolated incident.

When Linda Sarsour first rose to national prominence last year for co-chairing the January 2017 Women’s March, her critics were mostly dismissed or ignored outside of Jewish organizations and Jewish media. Sarsour, along with her co-leaders, was honored by Time and by Glamour. This was despite Sarsour’s literal embrace of Rasmeah Odeh in April of 2017.

In March of this year, Sarsour’s co-chair Tamika Mallory’s close ties with Louis Farrakhan were exposed. All of the Women’s March leaders’ affiliations with anti-Semites came under scrutiny, and widespread condemnation followed. In The Atlantic, John-Paul Pagano wrote, “that the [Women’s March] group refuses to be accountable for a high-level alliance with an open anti-Semite disqualifies it from ranking among today’s movements for social justice.” Refinery 29 featured a headline that asserted, “Women’s March Leaders Have An Anti-Semitism Problem — Maybe It’s Time To Leave Them Behind.” The article that ran under that headline criticized Mallory for her association with Farrakhan and Sarsour for a past collaboration with Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam and for her failure to denounce Farrakhan’s antisemitism in the wake of the revelations about Mallory.

Yet, barely two months after these calls to move on from the March’s leaders, Sarsour was included on CNN’s list of “25 Influential American Muslims.” (Others recognized include Rep. Keith Ellison (D – Minn.), who also has a troubling history with Farrakhan, and Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, a blogger who has been described as having a “history of anti-Semitism.”) CNN, with half a billion visitors on its site, is obviously influential.

Sarsour was called “The Fighter,” and CNN wrote, “often outspoken, Sarsour has faced criticism for aligning with questionable characters and sharply denouncing Zionism. But many Muslims say she is the kind of uncompromising, unapologetic leader their community needs right now.” Like Food and Wine with respect to Assil, CNN was well aware of the criticisms of Sarsour, but decided that they weren’t important.

What are American Jews to take away from these two mainstream outlets lauding individuals who have made no effort to hide their support for the likes of Odeh and Farrakhan? Such associations, it would seem, are no longer disqualifying. Under criticism, Food and Wine doubled down on its decision. And CNN’s designation of Sarsour was met with little or no pushback from the mainstream media. Two major media organizations have decided that the Jewish community’s complaints of antisemitism just don’t matter.

The willingness of the media to overlook blatant anti-Semitism mirrors growing tolerance of anti-Semitism in the public sphere. Regarding the recent sidelining of the ADL by Starbucks at the urging of Sarsour’s co-leader Mallory, David Gemunder wrote, “it is crystal clear that Americans need to recognize that antisemitism is just as vile as racism, sexism, homophobia, and other religious or ethnic persecution. It cannot be tolerated from the right or the left. Those should be obvious statements. That they somehow are not self-evident in our time should anger and concern everyone.”

The same holds true for the accolades being bestowed on Reem Assil and on Linda Sarsour. With these awards, both of these publications are participating in the mainstreaming of antisemitism. That should anger and concern everyone.

[Photo: Matthew Finkelstein / YouTube ]