On July 8, a small group of senior citizens conduct a silent, peaceful vigil outside an Oakland bakery. Shortly after their arrival, they are confronted by a group of thugs.
Sometimes a single event is a microcosm of larger and more dynamic forces. The vigil outside the bakery was such an event.
On the one hand, this is a purely American story of entrepreneurship in the manner of 19th century Horatio Alger stories of individual achievement. On the other hand, it’s a grim story of the deterioration of civility and the Left’s increasing use of violence in contemporary politics.
Reem Assil, the owner of Reem’s Bakery, is a former labor activist who holds an undergraduate degree in international relations from Tufts University. After parting ways with labor activism, Ms. Assil showed that she was not afraid to get her hands dirty and that it was not beneath her dignity to enroll in a community college to acquire economic skills.
With some on-the-job experience, a Kickstarter fundraiser, and the courage it takes to start a new business, Ms. Assil launched her bakery. Modeled after the stand-up, Arab street bakery, Reem’s advertises that it extends hands across cultures and experience through the warmth of bread.
So, what’s the problem? A young entrepreneur opens a successful bakery in an underserved part of Oakland and appears to have made a success of it. It’s as American as apple pie.
The problem for some is that staring down at you while you munch on your freshly baked manoushe is a large mural honoring Rasmea Odeh. Convicted of participating in a 1969 terrorist bombing in Jerusalem that killed two Israeli college students, Ms. Odeh spent 10 years in an Israeli prison. She was exchanged, along with 77 others, for an Israeli soldier held by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist group to which Odeh belongs and whose founder, George Habash, pioneered airplane hijacking and shooting up airline terminals.
The PFLP, along with German Revolutionary Cells, carried out the 1976 hijacking of an Air France Airbus, flying it to Entebbe, Uganda, ending in the highly acclaimed Israeli commando rescue of 100 hostages.
In 1972, the PFLP teamed up with the Japanese Red Army to execute an attack on Lod (now Ben Gurion) International Airport that resulted in scores of casualties, most of whom were Puerto Ricans on a Christian pilgrimage.
Eating your Arab-street bread under the glare of Rasmea Odeh is offensive not only to Jews but to anyone who objects to the taking of innocent life. For all the warm fuzzy talk about extending hands across cultures and experiences, being looked down upon by the image of a convicted terrorist as you try to savor Ms. Assil’s culinary art is incongruous at best, and indigestion-inducing at worst.
Let’s be clear. Ms. Assil cannot be held responsible for the thuggery of her patrons or even her fellow anti-Zionists whom, some allege, she mobilized. Furthermore, this is America, and Ms. Assil can decorate her restaurant with whatever “art” she wants. And if patrons’ appetites are stimulated by the face of bloodshed, that too is their right.
At the same time, the elderly Jews who stood outside Reem’s bakery with pictures of Rasmea Odeh’s victims have the same right to be there. The attack on them by the restaurant’s patrons and an assortment of Berkeley/Oakland anti-Israel activists is more offensive and a greater threat to our political system than anything Ms. Assil could conceivably hang on her wall.
Ms. Assil claims Odeh’s mural is there to stimulate dialog.
Consider what dialog would ensue if you opened a restaurant with a mural of the religious fanatic Baruch Goldstein, who killed 29 Muslim worshippers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994. Not a single self-respecting Jew would step foot in it, for Goldstein is not an inspiration but a blight.
We are shamed by our fanatics. We do not see them as role models, heroes, and inspirations. The other side idolizes their fanatics! When they stop, maybe we can have a dialog. Then we really could break manoushe with someone like Reem Assil.