White House calls falafel shop protest antisemitic and 'unjustifiable'

As restaurants continue to be caught in the war-related political crossfire, the latest incident at Philadelphia's Goldie prompted a high-level response.
Philadelphia, the city of Brotherly Love, was the site of the latest pro-Palestine march that included a stop to accuse falafel shop Goldie's of participating in "genocide." | Photo: Shutterstock.

The fast-casual falafel concept Goldie in Philadelphia was targeted by pro-Palestine protesters over the weekend, in one of the latest of war-related skirmishes involving restaurants.

A crowd gathered at the tiny restaurant owned by Israeli chef Michael Solomonov and partner Steve Cook on Sunday night, chanting, “Goldie, Goldie you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.”

Responding to the incident, White House spokesman Andrew Bates on Monday reportedly called it “antisemitic,” saying it is “completely unjustifiable to target restaurants that serve Israeli food over disagreements with Israeli policy. This behavior reveals the kind of cruel and senseless double standard that is a calling card of antisemitism.”

Bates underlined comments by Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, who also called the incident a “blatant act of antisemitism—not a peaceful protest.”

“A restaurant was targeted and mobbed because its owner is Jewish and Israeli. This hate and bigotry is reminiscent of a dark time in history,” the governor posted on X.

Goldie parent CookNSolo, which also operates the acclaimed concept Zahav, Laser Wolf and the growing chain Federal Donuts, did not respond to requests for comment. Other restaurants within the group have also been targeted by protesters, and pro-Palestinian groups have called for a boycott.

Earlier this year, CookNSolo launched a fundraiser for United Hatzalah, a non-profit, civilian-led organization that provides emergency and medical assistance in Israel.

Natalie Abulhawa, an organizer for the Philly Palestine Coalition that organized the protest, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the stop at Goldie was only two to four minutes long, and part of a larger march across the city, saying their efforts are meant to draw attention to calls for a ceasefire.

Since the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas in Israel that left about 1,200 dead, an estimated 15,000 in Gaza have reportedly been killed in the response by Israel, which says it is targeting Hamas and seeking release of hostages. After a weeklong cease-fire, Israeli forces resumed their efforts last week.

Outrage on both sides of the conflict have roiled businesses across the U.S., with accusations of both antisemitism and Islamophobia, depending on the source.

In fact, another Israeli restaurant owner in another city who was asked about such incidents asked not to be included in the article, because of the sensitivity of the issue.

But restaurant operators on both sides of the issue have been impacted.

In San Francisco, where Reem Assil has built a devoted following for her three Arab street-corner bakeries, Reem’s Bakery was broken into two nights in a row in November. The restaurant posted on Instagram that it possibly was a targeted attack “for our unapologetic stance on liberation and dignity for all oppressed peoples, from Palestinians in Gaza to black and brown communities here in the U.S.”

Assil has helped organize Hospitality for Humanity, a chef organization demanding a cease-fire in Gaza that also calls for support of Palestinian voices and a boycott of Israeli products.

In nearby Petaluma, Calif., a concept called Urban Deli, which is co-owned by a Palestinian, was vandalized with racist graffiti and scratches on the window, according to a statement from the Council on American Islamic Relations in San Francisco.

With such incidents, however, often come an outpouring of support.

In late October, a location of the ice cream shop Smitten Ice Cream in San Francisco’s Mission district was spray painted with misspelled graffiti saying: “Free Palestien” and “Out the Mission.”

The attack left the Smitten team “scared and hurt,” said owner Robyn Sue Fisher in an Instagram post, and it forced the shop to close to repair the storefront, putting people temporarily out of work.

But it also prompted owner Fisher to launch a clothing line saying, “In the spirit of ice cream, I choose LOVE,” with proceeds to benefit the Courage Museum, set to open in 2025, which Fisher described as an immersive experience that encourages visitors to imagine a world without violence, hate and discrimination.

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