Anti-Semitism with a Side of Vegan Sausage

Stand for Israel  |  November 17, 2019

Several pictures in frames on a wall.

I’ve visited this café for many years. It’s a small, quaint vegan-friendly café in a hip, quiet part of town. I frequent this local eatery on lazy Saturdays to start my day with coffee, breakfast, and reading.

I can tell the ideology of the staff and customers by the signs and decorations on the wall. I don’t share most of their views, but I’m used to being around a wide array of people with different beliefs, and if I only ate breakfast with people who I agreed with 100%, well, I’d miss out on lots of pancakes!

First Observation: Hitler Mustache Drawn on Photo of George Bush

This morning was different, however. I noticed not just banners railing against “The 1%” or pictures criticizing the center-left leaning mayor.

I’m used to criticisms of presidents, but comparing people with whom we disagree to Hitler is careless and irresponsible. I’m not sure why the owners of this café feel the need to share their views on a president who hasn’t been in power for over a decade – seems stuck in the past to me, but I digress – but that’s their right.

Comparing someone to Hitler, who engineered the killing of 6,000,000 Jews and millions more people who didn’t conform to his twisted view of an ideal society,  should never be done lightly, if at all. These comparisons aren’t just careless; they worsen the division and mistrust in our country right now. This isn’t just a disagreement on policy, or even a joke or an insult. It’s a statement saying that everyone who may have supported a former U.S. President are no different than Nazis.

I’ve learned that glib comments or jokes about Hitler and Nazis can deeply offend those in the Jewish community. It is using the greatest atrocity committed against their people, and one of the greatest atrocities in history, to score cheap political points. When you’ve read many stories of Holocaust survivors who we help at The Fellowship and the horrors they went through, you begin to understand how weighty this subject truly is.

Second Observation: Anti-Israel Sticker

Above the picture of George Bush with the Hitler mustache was a hand making the peace sign with the Palestinian colors that said “Peace Not Apartheid.”

I let this image sink in as I ate my chicken fried steak and egg breakfast (definitely not vegan), reveling in the irony of it all. On top of the picture comparing George Bush to Hitler – Hitler, who caused hundreds of thousands of European Jews to flee to safety in what would become the state of Israel – is a sticker comparing Israeli policy to the racist policies of apartheid-era South Africa.

The comparison of these two countries and policies is just absurd. South Africa was never surrounded by warring, enemy nations. South Africa has never been on the brink of extinction as a nation. Just as comparing people to Hitler minimizes the evil of Hitler, so does casually comparing situations to past racist policies or actions minimizes the evils of racism.

The sticker also portrays the Palestinians unfairly. The hand in the picture is giving the peace sign, a symbol adopted by the 1960’s antiwar movement to protest the Vietnam War. But I’ve never seen the Palestinian or Hamas governments passing out flowers with “Make Love Not War” signs, have you? They have been anything but peaceful neighbors pursuing a good, working relationship with Israel.

I do believe that most Palestinian men and women just want safe streets for their children and opportunities to succeed in life, but likening the Palestinian leadership to any kind of peace movement is laughable. The Jewish people have reached out their hands for peace multiples times in their history since 1948, and have not had that gesture returned.

Third Observation: Hold the Bacon

And this is the icing on the proverbial gluten-free, vegan cake. It’s normal for cafes to have photos of famous people who have visited the establishment, and this café chose to highlight one Louis Farrakhan on the very same wall of anti-Semitism. His picture is in a frame with his signature and the words “Hold the bacon” amusingly written on it.

If you don’t know, Louis Farrakhan is the leader of the Nation of Islam and an influential “social justice” advocate who has DECADES of anti-Semitic comments and rhetoric under his belt. He has blamed Jews for great injustices like the slave trade and Jim Crow laws. He’s peddled in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories like Jews controlling world affairs, governments, and financial systems. In fact just last year he “clarified” things by tweeting: “I’m not anti-Semite. I’m anti-termite.” I understand serving anyone inside a public place of business, but why showcase him?

Anti-Semitism: The Ever-Changing Prejudice

Anti-Semitism is as deadly and dangerous as any other form of racism or prejudice, but it is often harder to understand and detect. It can come from any ideology: the extreme right, the extreme left, or radical extremist Islam. Sadly, throughout history it has even come from the Christian community.

I do not believe that this restaurant staff has any personal animus towards Jewish people. With that said, one thing I have learned from my Jewish friends is that there’s a tendency to treat anti-Semitism as less serious than other forms of prejudice.

In biblical times, watchmen were set on the walls of Jerusalem day and night to look for threats. As supporters of Israel, we must be watchmen too, always looking for signs of prejudice and hate against the Jewish people when others might not see it.

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