A recent addition to New York City’s dining scene, Ayat, a Palestinian restaurant with existing locations, has stirred up controversy by adding antisemitic phrases in its menu phrasing and decor.
The use of the phrase ‘from the river, to the sea’ and the declaration ‘down with the occupation’ has sparked backlash, particularly in the heavily-Jewish area of Ditmas Park, Brooklyn.
The chant ‘from the river to the sea’ is an antisemitic call for ‘Israel’s destruction through violent means.’ Despite this, Ayat’s owners, Ayat Masoud and Abdul Elenani, claim that the phrase is intended to convey freedom and rights for the Palestinian people in the region.
Elenani, responding to criticism on Facebook, emphasised their positive relationships with Jewish neighbors and colleagues, asserting that their stance is against a particular mindset rather than aimed at Jewish people.
The restaurant’s decor prominently features Palestinian symbols, and images inside depict what seems to be contentious scenes related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
While Ayat’s owners assert their commitment to advocating for peace and highlighting the Palestinian occupation, some residents feel the restaurant is deliberately provoking controversy. Ditmas Park resident Dahlia Scheitzer drew an analogy, stating it’s akin to a Southern food restaurant displaying the Confederate flag.