White House blasts protest of Israeli restaurant in Philadelphia as 'unjustifiable'

The White House on Monday condemned a group of protesters who massed and chanted in front of an Israeli-style falafel shop in Philadelphia on Sunday night, characterizing the demonstration as an act of anti-Jewish prejudice.

“It is Antisemitic and completely unjustifiable to target restaurants that serve Israeli food over disagreements with Israeli policy,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said Monday.

“This behavior reveals the kind of cruel and senseless double standard that is a calling card of Antisemitism,” Bates said, adding that President Joe Biden would “always stand up firmly against these kinds of undignified actions.”

In a video clip that circulated on the X social platform late Sunday, pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside Goldie in Center City, one of several restaurants co-owned by the Israel-born chef Michael Solomonov and the CookNSolo group.

The protesters shouted: “Goldie, Goldie, you can’t hide. We charge you with genocide.”

In recent weeks, Jewish advocacy groups like the Anti-Defamation League have reported a surge in antisemitic threats and incidents in the U.S., and some American Jews have expressed concern that they will be unfairly linked to the actions of the Israeli government.

Muslim advocacy groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations have concurrently tracked an uptick in Islamophobic threats and incidents. Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims across the country have expressed fears about hate crimes and rising bigotry.

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro strongly criticized the protest in a post on X on Sunday, describing it as “a blatant act of antisemitism — not a peaceful protest.”

Shapiro said Goldie was “targeted and mobbed because its owner is Jewish and Israeli. This hate and bigotry is reminiscent of a dark time in history.”

Goldie restaurant in Philadelphia.
Goldie restaurant in Philadelphia.Google Maps

Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., said on X: “They could be protesting Hamas. They could be protesting Hamas’ systematic rape of Israeli women and girls or demanding the remaining hostages be immediately released.”

“Instead,” he added, “they targeted a Jewish restaurant. It’s pathetic and rank antisemitism.”

Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., who represents Philadelphia, said on X that “targeting businesses simply because they’re Jewish owned is despicable.” He added, “Philadelphia stands against this sort of harassment and hate.”

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said on X that the city’s Commission on Human Relations would investigate the incident. The city “will always protect free speech and peaceful protest,” Kenney said, but “we must stand united against acts of hate and bias.”

When reached by NBC News, CookNSolo declined to comment.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that hundreds of protesters marched through Center City and University City on Sunday to demand a cease-fire in Gaza, the Palestinian enclave that has been besieged by Israeli forces amid the country’s war with Hamas.

The seven-day truce between Israel and Hamas ended Friday. Palestinian officials say more than 15,899 people in Gaza have been killed since the start of the war; Israel says roughly 1,200 people were killed in the Oct. 7 terror attack.

The protests in Philadelphia came as Jews around the world prepare to celebrate Hanukkah. In at least one U.S. city, Jewish leaders are outraged that the organizers of a local festival canceled a menorah lighting scheduled for Dec. 10.

The Jewish Community of the Virginia Peninsula said it was “shocked and alarmed” that Williamsburg’s Second Sundays Art and Music Festival canceled the lighting because organizers did not want to “appear to choose sides in the Israel-Hamas conflict.”

“The menorah lighting, which was to be led by a local community rabbi, had nothing to do with Israel or the conflict,” the Jewish community group said.

“We should be very clear: it is antisemitic to hold Jews collectively responsible for Israel’s policies and actions, and to require a political litmus test for Jews’ participation in community events that have nothing to do with Israel,” the group added.

The festival’s organizers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, a menorah will not be displayed outside City Hall in Moncton, a town in the Canadian province of New Brunswick. Jewish community leaders there say that has not happened in 20 years.

Francis Weil, president of the Moncton Jewish Community, told the CBC that he learned the news during a meeting with Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold. Christmas trees and angels are already lit up around the building.

“We have absolutely nothing against the Christmas tree,” Weil said to the CBC. “But how can you justify having religious symbols from one religion and banning something from another religion?”

Arnold’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Leave a Comment