Friday, April 20, 2018

An Open Letter to Gail Simmons of Food & Wine Magazine Concerning Its Honoring of Racist Cafe Owner, Reem Assil

Michael Lumish

{Also published at the Algemeiner.}

Gail Simmons
of Food & Wine
and Top Chef
Dear Gail,

Laurie and I have been fans of Top Chef since the 2006 opening-season in San Francisco. We lived in the Central Haight at the time and were recently married as I was chewing on a dissertation and she was designing a career in marketing. We also briefly talked with you at a Grapes to Glass festival in Sonoma a few years ago.

You were at the Food & Wine table and we just dropped by to say "hello" as fans.

I may have been a bit star-struck at the time.

I am also, by the way, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and a PhD in American History from Penn State University.

The reason that I am knocking on your door is to sincerely request that Food & Wine not honor Reem Assil's culinary efforts in Oakland. I suppose that it is too late since it has already named Reem's among Food & Wine Restaurants of the Year for 2018.

It is not your fault, but Food & Wine is making a mistake.

By venerating the antisemitic murderer Rasmea Odeh, Reem Assil is popularizing hatred for Jewish people in day-to-day retail spaces within the San Francisco Bay Area.

Terry Joffe Benaryeh, the niece of Edward Joffe, has written about the trauma to her family and their overcoming of that trauma in the pages of the Times of Israel. She writes eloquently about moving her family beyond the very malice that Reem Assil celebrates.

Reem's flatbread and coffee-shop features a floor-to-ceiling mural of the murderer of Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner. They were just college students, barely out of their teens in Jerusalem from the Hebrew University when Rasmea Odeh shattered their bones all over the Supersol grocery store in 1969 on behalf of the PFLP. This is essentially the same group that pushed 69-year-old wheel-chair bound Leon Klinghoffer off of the deck of the Achille Lauro during a cruise with his wife in celebration of their 36th wedding anniversary.

I am closely familiar with this story because Reem Assil and her attorneys dragged me into the legal system for writing about it on my small blog, Israel Thrives.

Among the people best able to describe Rasmea Odeh's political murders is Cornell University Professor of Law, William Jacobson:

But the truth is - whatever the quality of Assil's flatbread - this woman is not only honoring an ideological antisemitic killer but is popularizing it on the local, retail-level in the name of "social justice."

I sincerely hope that Food & Wine will recognize that it has made an understandable mistake because it is not as if Assil's veneration of the murderer Rasmea Odeh is common knowledge.

I do not believe that this mistake was malicious, but it should be corrected not only for the integrity of Food & Wine but because it is simply not ethical.

But what cuts close to the bone for me personally is the fact that three times Reem Assil and her attorneys sought Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) against me and were three times denied by the courts. They sought these TROs not because I ever spoke with Reem Assil or ever came within ten feet of the woman. I do not know her. Yet Assil's attorney's sought these restraining orders to prevent me from writing about the demonstrable fact that she is celebrating an ideological killer of Jews.

What most analyses of this story miss are two crucial points.

The first is that in her legal efforts to silence our vigils for the dead, Assil also sought to push against the Western and American tradition of freedom of speech. My case was a test case. It was meant to see if Assil and her friends could not legally silence American Jews, and friends of the Jewish people, from speaking out against antisemitism.

The second is that in celebrating Rasmea Odeh in that giant floor-to-ceiling mural, Assil sought to mainstream violent antisemitism in common American retail spaces. It represents the popular cultural expression of hatred towards Jews.

I very much want you to understand that it is not in the interest of Food & Wine, or anyone else, to join such a racist celebration within living memory of the Holocaust.


  1. Will Food & Wine next be toasting Bubba's KKK Cafe?
    "Their grits are yummy, and come from an old family recipe." "Confederate battle flags, a floor to ceiling mural of Jefferson Davis, and a few photos of lynchings adorn the walls and give an authentic, homey feel."
    "Bubba says he wanted a place where people could discuss, or his word "jaw" about the injustice meted out to the confederacy. About blacks he says, observantly, and bravely, that the oppressed have become the oppressors." "Bubba's is just filled to the brim with California Love. 4 stars"

    1. At this point I am fairly amazed that the message is simply not getting through. It is not as if there is any honest doubt that Reem Assil is honoring a convicted and confessed murderer, yet apparently they just love that flatbread.

  2. Well said Mike L. Serving hate with flatbread is not social consciousness. All hate must be condemned.

    1. You're a local chef!

      Y'know, OLT, one of the funny things is that Oakland is filled with retail spaces that have signs reading Oakland Stands United Against Hate.

      It's such insidious nonsense that it just pisses me off.

      Oakland stands united against hate... except in the case of the Jewish people where it seems to be understandable and promoted as a matter of "social justice."

      And they even sought to drag me into court for writing about it.

  3. I have no reason to doubt that this was an honest mistake on behalf of Food & Wine and my guess is that Gail Simmons had nothing whatsoever to do with it. But she is the face of the publication and I just want her to realize that they've made a mistake.

    1. At least 2 out of 10 on this list are obviously chosen for progressive politics.
      Maybe others too, but it's too much effort to research. You can no longer trust any recommendations. Sci Fi was gone years go, as Nebula and other awards push PC compliant garbage over actually enjoyable books. Hogg just got a book deal, he's probably already worth more than most people reading this board.

    2. That's an interesting insight, Jacob.

      MARVEL is going thru something similar.

      The movies are kicking ass at the box office because they are remaining true to the characters from Iron Man to Wonder Woman to Black Panther.

      The comic book market is getting hit because they do miserable shit like turning Captain America into a Nazi or have new characters wearing t-shirts saying, "Ask me about my feminism."

      As for the anti-2nd Amendment kids, they are just a useful momentary phase of the Democratic Party.

    3. As Hollywood cashes in on the blockbusters they are giving their prestigious awards to lousy films with pronounced political agendas. Jimmy Kimmel admitted as much on air. And that crowd loved him for it.

      Once upon a time they gave out awards using good film making as the criteria. They didn't have people at the podium telling you how they enjoyed a film as a ____________ (fill in the intersectional identity).
      As an alternative they had stuff like this:

      Can a SJW even imagine such a thing?

    4. We like the Academy Awards. Laurie enjoys the "red carpet" and I enjoy spitting and complaining. :O)

    5. That's the thing. My wife and I used to look forward to the Academy Awards. Now we can't sit through it. I don't care what their politics are. I don't want to spend 3 hours listening about it during a movie awards show.

  4. "According to the plea agreement signed by Odeh and accepted by the court, Odeh admitted that she lied about her criminal history, by falsely denying that she ever had been arrested, charged with a crime, convicted, or imprisoned. Odeh admitted today that she had omitted her Israeli arrest, charge, conviction and imprisonment from her United States naturalization application even though she knew she was required to disclose them. Odeh also admitted that ’At the time she made the false statements, Defendant knew the statements were false, and that she made the false statements intentionally and not as a result of any mistake, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or any other psychological issue or condition, as she had previously claimed in court proceedings, or for any innocent reason. Odeh also admitted that at the time she made the false statements, she knew that it was unlawful for her to provide false information to the United States government in connection with her application for Immigrant Visa and her application for naturalization. Had Odeh revealed the truth about her criminal history, as she was required to by law, she never would have been granted an immigrant visa, admitted to the United States, allowed to live here for the last 22 years, or granted United States citizenship."

    This is who this new celebrity chef lionizes, as Palestinians express their Nazi love. American Jews, largely, would rather attack Israel for being the liberal state it is and look the other way to true injustice. Go figure.

    1. It's unconscionable. I can understand that Assil, as a hard-line anti-Zionist activist will have friends that would call us "White Supremacists" and even, for reasons that I still do not understand, "homophobes" despite the fact that almost half of us at the vigils were Gay.

      But what amazes me is that the NYT, the SF Chronicle (total rag) and Food & Wine would celebrate this woman.

      The NYT I expect nothing from. Hell, they even downplayed the friggin' Holocaust.

      The Chronicle is a joke.

      But Food & Wine?


      Gail Simmons broke my heart.

  5. Placing an "Open Letter to Gail Simmons" on this blog is good, but there is no substitute for placing a paper-copy of this open-letter into her two hands.

    If that is not possible, then send a copy of this open-letter to her by traditional mail, three times, on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday, to insure that she reads it.

    Ancient Roman historians
    connected Jews with the Land of Israel


    Why Israel’s 1967 Borders are Undefendable:


    How to Convict the New York Times
    of Unfair Bias Against Israel:

  6. F&W seems to be encroaching on Anthony Bourdain's space where he typically prattles on about human rights and the glory that is the 'palestinian' cuisine.

    1. Oh, yes, Anthony Bourdain. He has an episode on "Jerusalem" (probably the most fascinating city on Earth), and spends 3/4 of the show in the West Bank and Gaza ... not talking about food.

    2. From Roger Waters to Anthony Bourdain, I am getting very tired of people whose art I love turning out to be total schmucks.

      I guess this is a small taste of what Antonio Salieri felt.

      But, y'know, Camille Paglia wrote about this in one of her collections of essays.

      She was at Yale in the late 60s or early 70s and was, or so she says, the first openly lesbian graduate student there or in the lit dept or whatever.

      She talks about getting into a screaming battle-to-the-death with a few of her co-graduate students at a party over Under My Thumb by the Stones!

      Can you imagine?

      What Paglia argued is that you can separate the art from the man.

      I still do not know the truth of that matter.

    3. Yes, I saw a clip of her just a few days ago talking about that on Bill Maher's old show. (I spend far too much time on youtube.) As usual, she was interesting, probably far more so than the people she was arguing with at school.
      Roger Waters is rock music's answer to Richard Wagner. Bombastic, pompous, and antisemitic.

    4. Anthony Bourdain is CNN's answer to news content.

    5. As for Antonio Salieri:

  7. Meanwhile.....

  8. The evidence is trickling in that the so called eviction from Starbucks of 2 or 3 black men who claimed to be waiting for someone was an intentionally staged event. And certainly all the protests that stemmed from it were and are still from the same fraternity they are members of.

    So I propose that someone, preferably black or brown, stage a similar civil disruption at Reem's in Oakland, get thrown out or better, detained by the cops in order to trigger a series of protests highlighting the 'palestinian' racism towards black or brown people.

    1. Trudy,
      They were evicted from the premises. They were arrested. What I want to know is which part of the incident was racist. Where's Waldo?
      Being asked to leave while black is not in and of itself racism. I am so sick and tired of hearing the constant din of "racism," where the circumstances are at best murky and questionable. It's like I never left Berkeley.
      The two youths may have actually seen this as racism. That doesn't mean it was. But that is exactly what we are now supposed to believe.

      There already were protests at Reem's over a mural of someone who doesn't accept the law, international or local, but who believed in whipped up tribal passions, who tried to murder scores of people for being the "wrong type" of people, succeeded in two cases, and the owner of the cafe who believes in the same thing. People ripped signs of protestors hands, said awful things to them including veiled threats, the cops were called, and one protestor I happen to know was dragged into court for exercising his first amendment right to write about it. Where's the national outrage?

      In Philadelphia two guys, non-customers, loitering, were asked to leave, but they were black, in a city with a large black population, in a Starbucks that probably serves loads of black customers, where black people probably work. I've seen no indication that Starbuck's harbors ill-will toward black people, or calls for their murder or subjugation. No murals on the wall celebrating the klan. Nothing. Nada. Nichts. Yet this is considered a racist incident and national scandal. You can see the shakedown coming.