The Philly Palestine Coalition is calling for a boycott of ‘Zionist’ owned businesses in the Philadelphia area. In particular, the anti-Israel organization is targeting restaurants owned by Steven Starr because a spokesperson posted a message supporting Israel after the Oct. 7 terrorist attack.
The Coalition’s Instagram post targeting the Starr Restaurants mistakenly attributed a statement by a business associate of Steven Starr to the restaurant company’s spokesperson.
“This attack is not just against Israel but against all Jewish people,” it said. “Hamas is an enemy of Christians, Hindus, minorities, LGBTQ, atheists, people of color, and anyone who differs from their extremist idealist ideology that all Jews must die. We all have skin in the game and must show our support for Israel.”
However, a spokesperson for Starr Restaurants did condemn the attack: “The horrific acts carried out by Hamas against the Israeli and all Jewish people are indefensible and barbaric.”
In response, the Philly Palestine Coalition urged supporters to boycott the Starr restaurants and offered a list.
“Supporting BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions] as a personal practice is both an easy and effective way to support Palestinian Resistance, no matter where you are in the world,” the group wrote. “We are working on compiling a comprehensive list of Palestinian-owned and anti-Zionist aligned establishments in a matter that also ensures safety for business owners.”
The Coalition has also been leading protest marches in the city, including one on Oct. 8 in which participants appeared to celebrate the massacre.
“What happened yesterday was freedom fighters fighting for freedom,” one speaker said. Another added, “I salute Hamas for a job well done!”
Hams has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States government.
Michael Balaban, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Philadelphia, and Jason Holtzman, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, issued a statement responding to the targeting of the restaurants.
“The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia condemns the Philly Palestine Coalition’s antisemitic campaign encouraging the boycott of ‘Zionist’ owned businesses in the Philadelphia area. This tactic does not in any way support Palestinians – it only serves to intimidate, isolate, and scapegoat Israeli and Jewish businesses.
Targeting businesses solely because of their Israeli and Jewish ownership is blatant antisemitism and only further contributes to the alarming levels of hate against Jews nationwide. No business should be villainized for rightfully condemning Hamas, a designated terrorist organization, whose purpose is to kill Israelis and Jews with no regard for Palestinian life.”
Barri Miller with the Jewish Business Network Philadelphia said, “I’ve seen a lot of posts about the boycott. It’s horrible.”
“I think all the Jewish community, after seeing that post, is reposting that on social media and saying that we need, as a community, to support those restaurants, for sure.”
She said her family is making reservations.
A spokesperson for the Starr restaurants did not respond to requests for comment.
A leader of the Philly Palestine Coalition is Philadelphia writer Nicki Kattoura, who is also involved with the Institute for Palestine Studies and the Resist Foundation. He was also a participant in the controversial Palestine Writes Literature Festival at the University of Pennsylvania, held on the eve of Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Several antisemitic incidents occurred on the Penn campus afterward, leading donors, alumni, and students to demand that Penn President Liz Magill take a stronger stance against antisemitism.
On Wednesday, the university announced a plan to counter “hate” that includes Islamophobia. She noted the first Jewish student at Penn was Moses Levy in 1772, who later became the first Jewish trustee.
Penn will work to improve safety and security, engagement, and education, she said. She acknowledged the recent antisemitic incidents on campus.
“We recognize it is our collective responsibility as a community to stand clearly and strongly against antisemitism in all its odious forms. Penn has work to do,” Magill said. An Antisemitism Task Force was also formed.
FBI Director Christopher Wray testified Tuesday to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, saying Jews make up 2.4 percent of the population but are the victims of about 60 percent of all religious-based hated crimes.
“We also cannot and do not discount the possibility that Hamas or another foreign terrorist organization may exploit the current conflict to conduct attacks here on our own soil,” Wray said.