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'Price tag' attack burns Jaffa restaurant Sunday night

In what is being seen as the next in a series of “price tag” assaults by Jews on Palestinian citizens of Israel, the well-known Abu el-Abed Restaurant in Jaffa was partially burned and vandalized Sunday night

"Kahane was right" and "price tag" graffitied on side of Abu el-Abed Restaurant in Jaffa (Photo: Awad Mohammad, Sami Abu Shehade Office)

Israeli media reported this morning an arson and vandalism attack on a well-known restaurant in Jaffa, just a few blocks from where I live. The Abu el-Abed Restaurant, a family business on Jaffa’s busy Yefet Street, has been around since 1949 and is packed on weekends by customers, many of them Jewish Israelis. The restaurant is well-known by residents of the neighborhood both Arab and Jewish, and it is clear that whoever committed this act seeks to frame it in the right-wing agenda of nationalist-racist hate crimes in order to provoke the entire community.

According to the report, one of the managers closed the restaurant at about 11:30pm Sunday night, and when he returned this morning at 8am, he found a part of the kitchen burnt down and a small fire still blazing in the dining area, which he put out. The words “price tag” and “Kahane was right” were graffitied below the window on the side of the restaurant.  (Meir Kahane was an American-Israeli Jewish supremacist leader of the Kach party, banned from Israel’s Knesset in 1988 on the grounds that it was racist and undemocratic.)

By the time I arrived at noon today, the graffiti had already been painted over, but the damage inside was clear.

Abu el-Abed Restaurant after graffiti painted over (Photo: Mairav Zonszein)

Damage due to arson in Abu el-Abed Restaurant's kitchen in Jaffa (Photo: Mairav Zonszein)

Front of Abu el-Abed Restaurant in Jaffa: "Lebanese-Palestinian kitchen and catering" (Photo: Mairav Zonszein)

Although “price tags” have sadly become a familiar phenomenon committed in the West Bank by settlers – whether as a reaction to Israeli military evacuations of settlements or other Israeli government decisions, or just as a way to express their sincere hatred and intolerance of the Palestinian community they moved next to – such attacks inside the Green Line have been rare, until recently. In recent months there has been a rise in “price tag” attacks being committed inside Israel proper. Earlier this month, a cemetery in Jaffa was desecrated by Jewish Israelis and before that, a mosque in the north of Israel was set ablaze.

Some of the residents and restaurant employees who were on the scene told me they thought the attack may have been prompted by the fact that the restaurant recently changed its sign (pictured above) to include the word “Palestinian” to describe its kitchen.

Restaurant owner Nicole Saba told me he saw it as an act of “insanity and racism” committed by the “price tag clan.” He sees it as just one in a series of provocations in the area meant to hurt Palestinian business, and said he hopes the authorities will take extra care to ensure that coexistence and peace are maintained. In its nearly 63 years in business, they have not experienced any hostility, or even a burglary, he said.  Video of his statement to me is here below, in Hebrew.

As a resident of the area, I am enraged by this incendiary effort to incite violence in a neighborhood that, despite problems, has been for so long a successful mixed Arab-Jewish city.

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    1. RichardNYC

      any leads?

      Reply to Comment
    2. AYLA

      I wonder if the neighborhood could have some kind of town council meeting and set up neighborhood watch committees? Even just the solidarity of it would be good for morale , even if it’s not realistic to actually stand watch all night. We used to have these in the States; the people on each block who agreed to be on call had signs in their windows. I fully understand that this isn’t american suburbia. but there’s some wisdom in it. And there could be pressure on the police force from the group. This is a time of citizen journalism, citizen revolt, citizen everything.

      Reply to Comment
    3. AYLA

      also, a neighborhood fundraiser to pay for damages; neighborhood volunteer clean/paint/repair day. It may sound silly, but I don’t think it is. Right now, we need solidarity more than anything. When I read today about two Druze students being evicted from their Tsvat apartment due to Haredi pressure on the landlord, what made the difference were all the Talkbacks from other jewish Israelis, offering those two housing. We need to confront each injustice on a local level. This could even bring Jaffa’s Jews and Arabs closer than before.

      Reply to Comment
    4. The weak link in hate lies with Arab Israeli citizens outside of occupied territory. If you can make inroads here, you can change the moral and legal calculus elsewhere later. Law formed here will have an affect elsewhere.
      Hatred spreads. But it will find that people outside of the West Bank and Gaza will react forcefully against it, creating a counter current. Sadly and scarily, the hatred needs to spread before you can effectively react to it. This is why I retain a core of optimism over Israel’s internal legal trajectory. But, then, I am not exposed to these acts. I do not live it.
      I think Ayla right. These acts are also an opportunity to break down walls of silence, uneasiness, and misunderstanding.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Sherri Munnerlyn

      I like what I am reading here in these posts, the acts of hate are opportunities, opportunities for Israelis and others there to join together and take a stand against the hate, to show everyone there is another way, peaceful co- existence is a goal well worth seeking and pursuing. I am in the US, and I can’t even begin to express how much I respect and admire the Israelis who take a stand against the injustices there. I think about all the olive trees destroyed, and so many times I read about CPT members and Israelis and international activists planting new trees, and what a message that sends. And so many acts of sacrifice, I see, and people of conscience taking a stand for human rights of all to be respected. You are an inspiration for people everywhere taking a stand against injustices, wherever they are. And we all know injustice always has an end,and we all just have to keep speaking against it and speaking truth and taking our stands against injustice until the injustice ceases.

      Reply to Comment
    6. They are small voices, Sherri, but they will not be silenced. We have to keep speaking until events occur allowing new paths. Well, not me. I’m not there.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Shmuel

      I certainly hope the perpetrators are brought to justice.

      And I certainly hope that the neighborhood gets together to allow both Jews and Arabs to reside there in peace. I have heard many reports about Arab thugs threatening and attacking Jews who come to visit, and I hope that this, too, is halted.

      Reply to Comment
    8. greg

      It’s not my place to speak towards the politics of this as an ‘outsider’ but it’s disgusting to see this level of hate, especially towards the people who work at El Abed as they seemed very warm and great people. I randomly stopped in to Abu El Abed a few days ago when I was in Jaffa (Native of Los Angeles during my first trip to Tel Aviv). There was singing and news cameras filming the reopening. It was a phenomenal environment with amazing food which left a great impression on me.

      Reply to Comment

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