Philadelphia

So, what really happened during a pro-Palestine protest in Philadelphia on Dec. 3?

Pro-Palestine protest, Philadelphia, Dec. 3, 2023.  WW Photo: Joe Piette

According to President genocide Joe Biden, whose office was quick to issue a statement, the protesters were “antisemitic” because they demonstrated outside Goldie, a Israeli-owned restaurant in Center City. Biden was repeating false claims made by Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, known for his outspoken advocacy of Israel.

Even State Sen. Nikil Saval, who claims to be for a cease-fire, told the Philadelphia Inquirer he was “appalled at what happened at Goldie last night.” But since Saval was nowhere near the protest, these comments by a so-called progressive politician come off as worse than uninformed.

The usual suspects – CNN and Fox News – were quick to chime in. Fox called the protesters a “mob” and claimed they surrounded the restaurant, something impossible to do given that Goldie is in a storefront, not a stand-alone building. But why let facts stand in the way of Fox “News”?

What is clear is that these politicians and the corporate “news” outlets are no longer able to publicly defend Israel and its ongoing genocide against the people of Gaza. But they will stop at nothing in targeting protesters who accuse elected officials of ignoring demands for a cease-fire and an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

What really happened

The Dec. 3 protest was called to demand an end to U.S. military aid to Israel.  Many of the chants specifically targeted Biden for providing the bombs and bullets used by Israel in its genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. As a reporter who was on the march and witnessed the events outside Goldie, I feel qualified to report on them.

Initially organized by Jewish Voice for Peace, the plan was to start in Washington Square, several blocks east of City Hall. Protesters would then march through Center City, stopping to target several restaurants – not because the owners were Jewish, but because they were “complicit in some degree in Israel’s system of occupation and apartheid,” according to Instagram posts from organizers. Changes in the starting location to Rittenhouse Square, west of City Hall, as well as the march route were later made so the demonstration could end at 40th and Market streets to show solidarity with housing activists rallying at UC Townhomes.

One of the planned protest stops was at Goldie, described as “an Israeli-style falafel shop” co-owned by Israeli-born, celebrity chef Michael Solomonov, and part of a larger restaurant group CookNSolo. Solomonov was appointed by the Israeli government as a “culinary ambassador” for Israel. According to The Grayzone (Dec. 7) Solomonov “appears in Department of Justice Foreign Agent Registration Act documents as an official propagandist for the country’s Ministry of Tourism.”

Solomonov is also well known to Biden, having been, as Grayzone notes: “a prominent campaigner for the Biden presidency.

CookNSolo restaurants became targets of boycotts after Solomonov donated 100% of the Oct.12 sales from several of his restaurants, amounting to $100,000, to Friends of United Hatzalah, a nonprofit emergency medical service partnering with the Israeli Defense Forces. Solomonov’s restaurants are being targeted because he is raising funds to aid IDF soldiers who are killing Palestinians.

Grayzone stated that United Hatzalah’s “founder Eli Beer, personally met with Biden and addressed Congress in an effort to shore up support for a military aid package [for Israel] in late October.”

Pro-Palestine Goldie workers fired

There was no “mob” action during the very brief stop at Goldie. Outside the restaurant, Natalie Abulhawa, with the Philadelphia Palestine Coalition which helped coordinate the Dec. 3 march, pointed out that in addition to fund raising for the IDF, Goldie’s owner fired two workers who spoke out in support of Palestine. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer of Dec. 6, another Goldie worker was fired after responding to critiques of the protest by suggesting CookNSolo was directly funding genocide.

As the march continued on Sansom Street, several workers came out of other businesses to show support for the rally.

In an Instagram post, one of the terminated workers, former store manager Sophie Hamilton, stated that when she investigated United Hatzalah and found it was aiding the Israeli army, she began wearing a Palestinian flag pin in protest. For wearing the pin, she was sent home. Upon returning to work, she found that a coworker was also wearing the pin. She was terminated for not disciplining him. Hamilton stated: “As a manager, I would never censor a colleague expressing their genuine belief in human rights.”

Calling it the “Palestine exception,” Hamilton challenged the practice of disciplining or dismissing workers who advocate for Palestine.  “No one should face censorship or retaliation for opposing the occupation or other injustices, whether in their workplace or globally.”

The coalition lists restaurants that are boycotted for being “complicit in some degree in Israel’s system of occupation and apartheid.” This includes restaurants and businesses claiming to sell “Israeli” food, fruits, vegetables, and products as part of an ongoing colonial campaign of stealing, appropriating, and profiting off of Palestinian food and culture. It serves as a means of actively erasing Palestinian history and existence.

An Instagram post from mafateeh.info noted: “The governor of Pennsylvania, who is an open Zionist, made a smear campaign against the protesters for simply stating the obvious truth. The owner has four restaurants and always receives awards and recognition and then gets all this money and sends it to a genocidal army.”

Betsey Piette

Betsey.Piette@workers.org

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Betsey Piette

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