Palestinian Restaurant menu

Palestinian Restaurant In Jewish Brooklyn Neighborhood Faces Backlash Over Menu Phrases

The owners stress that it is important for the Ayat brand to have authentic representation.

The Palestinian restaurant chain Ayat’s new Brooklyn franchise has found itself in the center of controversy for the language in its menus, according to The Daily Beast.

Descriptions and phrases—including “from the river, to the sea,” a pro-Palestinian battle cry, and “down with the occupation” (on the front of the menus)—have the heavily Jewish neighborhood of Ditmas Park up in arms since the restaurant opened last week. 

The Daily Beast reports that some residents who congregate on Facebook grew increasingly sour as customers deemed the menus ‘’openly genocidal,” and that marketing of “from the river to the sea” is a not-so subtle dog whistle for “Israel’s destruction through violent means.”

However, the restaurant’s owners, Ayat Masoud and husband Abdul Elenanin, are shocked by the Facebook group’s disapproval, and innocently claim that the inclusion of the phrase in the menu has been misinterpreted. 

On Facebook, Elenanin explained the real meaning behind the phrase and their choice to include it. “Our interpretation on it is just simply freedom and rights to the Palestinian people between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea.”

He went on to add that their is no underlying passive hostility and that they also detest the mistreatment of Jews. ‘’We’re just against the Zionist mentality of, like, eliminate or flatten now. Our neighbors are Jews, our friends are Jews, we work with Jewish people all day every day. We do not hate Jewish people. It’s the opposite,” he continued, “Judaism and Islam, they are the two most similar religions.”

Like many small ethnic restaurants in NYC, Ayat displays its cultural pride with a number of Palestinian flags and depictions of people wearing traditional Palestinian clothing.  

The owners stress that it is important for the Ayat brand to have authentic representation and markets the restaurants following two rules: “Number one is that I will always mention the occupation of the Palestinian people. And number two is that we will always advocate for peace.” 

However, many feeling the restauranteurs are guilty of intentionally trying to get ignite customers’ emotions; the Palestine-Israel war started Oct. 7.

Dahlia Scheitzer of Ditmas Park is not buying Elenanin’s explanation.

“They’re poking the hornet’s nest, and they know what they are doing. The best analogy that I could think [of] is if a restaurant that had Southern food had the Confederate flag on their menu, and tried to spin it as ‘Oh, this is just Southern pride.’ And it’s like, you know, ‘Don’t be coy,'” she told The Daily Beast. 

Others say Ayat’s owners have a right to decorate and market their establishment as they see fit. 

Ayat remains in the hot seat as enraged customers have flocked to business review platforms and mobbed the establishment with one-star reviews in the days after Hamas’ attack, the owners told the New York Times in October.  

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