Rainbow Grocery: The Saga Continues
Picking up on last month's blog post about the San Francisco health food store cooperative Rainbow Grocery and its troublesome history of anti-Semitism (both in the guise of "anti-Zionism" and of the flat-out Jew-hating variety), it seems there's even more to the story than I'd initially thought.
I've been in touch with David Alexander Nahmod, the freelance writer of Sephardic Jewish persuasion who recently filed a complaint with San Francisco's Human Rights Commission (HRC) against Rainbow after an employee hurled anti-Semitic epithets in his direction. Her exact words, according to him, were "Jews need to be killed, it's the only way to get them off Palestinian land" and "You’re just a stupid Jew." Not exactly subtle.
The article I initially referred to in J: The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California only provided sketchy details, but, as Nahmod pointed out, SF Weekly reporter Lauren Smiley also covered the incident. Her article, humorously titled (and written, I might add) "No Peace Prize For You," elaborates on the encounter between Nahmod and the Rainbow employee known only as Nikki:
Many Jewish customers have refused to enter Rainbow Grocery — the hippie-dippy worker-owned cooperative that preaches an "inclusive environment that is welcoming to everyone" — ever since two departments de-shelved Israeli products in an apparent anti-Israel boycott in 2002. (Store employee Naomi Jelks says it was done without store authorization, and the boycott was later shot down by an employee vote.)Well, that's debatable, but if past experience is any indication, it's at least a possibility that Nikki is the one fudging the truth. The unprofessional behavior thus far on her part and that of other employees (one threatened to "whoop him" when he complained) hardly lends credibility to the Rainbow crowd, and its history of attempted anti-Israel boycotts (a popular past time of local lefties who are in thrall to the Palestinian "cause," which, these days, seems to entail wiping out Israel) doesn't help.
Now the Human Rights Commission is investigating a complaint by ex-customer David Nahmod, who says he was called a "stupid Jew" more than a year ago by a cashier who employees say identifies as Palestinian. Nahmod, a 51-year-old freelance writer and dog-sitter, says he motioned to the woman's "Free Palestine" T-shirt and asked, "Wouldn't it be nice if they could all live in peace?" He alleges that she responded with the epithet and that suicide bombers should kill as many Jews as possible. He said he approached her a second time months later to similar effect. ("I thought she might just be having a bad day" the first time, he says, seemingly without irony.)
Jelks says an "internal investigation" conducted after Nahmod filed a customer complaint yielded another story: The cashier said she didn't want to talk politics at work (duh, man, read the T-shirt!), but Nahmod escalated the conversation into a heated exchange, and Nahmod's accusations could not be proven.
The cashier, who identified herself as Nikki, flung some major attitude on the phone while telling us her version, and then said we couldn't print any of it, or she'd sue. Since we've already got one lawsuit from the Bay Guardian, all we get to print from Nikki is this: "The things he is saying I said are all false. None of these words came out of my mouth."
Indeed, the words of Peter Altman, deputy director of BlueStarPR, a nonprofit that promotes Israel, who is quoted in the SF Weekly article, says it all:
...Nahmod should have known better than to bring up Israel at Rainbow: "David is naive because most people know that if you don't want Israel torn to shreds, first of all, they wouldn't go there, and if they do, they'd be quiet."Apparently, Jews who don't want to see Israel destroyed should just quietly keep their heads down while shopping at the "tolerant" and "open minded" co-op known as Rainbow Grocery.
SF Weekly certainly got an earful from what one acolyte labeled the "true progressives of Rainbow Grocery" in its August 1st Letters to the Editor section. A group of Rainbow employees responded to Smiley's article by labeling it a "flippant attack," defending their employees' rights to make what they call "political stands," and accusing Nahmod of being a "troublemaker with a trumped-up complaint." And for good measure, they played the Jewish card, extolling the alleged great number of Jewish shoppers and employees at Rainbow. Given that some of the worst Israel-haters and anti-Semites these days are Jews (most of whom have abandoned their faith for the more secular religion of leftism), this means nothing.
What's more, according to Nahmod, he's had little to no interaction with any Rainbow employees other than the charming Nikki, so the accusations against him have no grounds. As he put it:
How do all these Rainbow workers & shoppers "know me to be a troublemaker"? I don't know them & they don't know me. I've never met or spoken to any of them...The people who wrote that letter, I honestly haven't a clue as to who any of them are. I've asked HRC to question them--to describe me if they know me so well.Something tells me we're unlikely to hear back from Rainbow employees on that last point. It seems that instead of owning up to any possible misdeeds, they are instead closing ranks.
But Rainbow may have at last met its match. Beyond Nahmod's case, someone who wishes to remain anonymous has informed me that she too may be filing a complaint with the Human Rights Commission. In an e-mail sent to Nahmod and shared with me, she had this to say:
[There's] no way to prove this unfortunately, but I was completely positive that I was let go from Rainbow because I was Jewish. I didn't work for them. I was demonstrating a produce item for a friend and was asked not to return. I look and sound Jewish and was getting uncomfortable vibes from employees. Yes, I may have had a bubbly and persuasive (some might say stereotypical) style that didn't fit their laid back image, but I was selling my friend's product like crazy. He was thrilled to have me witha 300% hike in sales when I demonstrated. He was not given a reason as to why they didn't want me back, and he thought that strange but didn't want to ruffle any feathers and let it drop. It really gave me goosebumps to read your piece because the girl in charge of the Dairy dept. who asked me not to return, and wouldn't give me a reason but that "we're not a good fit" was named Nikki!While I cannot vouch for her claim or those of Nahmod, my own experience with Rainbow Grocery certainly strengthen the possibility that anti-Semitism is part of the equation. For as much as leftists like to insist that anti-Zionism has nothing to do with anti-Semitism, the reality has borne out just the opposite. One cannot seek to demonize a nation and a people by distorting and falsifying history and supporting movements that are blatantly genocidal in their goals without being a party to the hatred and bloodshed associated therewith.
As I have maintained ever since my own post-9/11 break with the left, such self-proclaimed "progressives" are, in fact, on the wrong side of history. And history will eventually catch up to them.
Update: It appears Rainbow Grocery, while once opposed to carrying Israeli products, has no such issues with those of "Your Black Muslim Bakery" in Oakland, seven of whose employees are currently under arrest for the murder of journalist Chauncey Bailey (in addition to the bakery's history of criminal activity). As pointed out by local blogger Cyclizen:
I remember seeing loaves of Your Black Muslim Bakery bread for sale at Rainbow Grocery a while ago. I bought some once. It wasn't very good. Just think; Rainbow and everyone who bought their products funded terrorists.Indeed.
...A few years back, Rainbow attempted a boycott of Israeli goods. I wonder if they'll stop carrying Your Black Muslim Bakery goods. Oh, that's right. It's closed down.
I used to shop at Rainbow, but before I knew any of this, didn't very often, because everything is so expensive there, even with the 10% discount they offer to members of the SF Bike Coalition.
I guess that's the extra you pay for groceries that are organic, antisemitic, and tied to alleged murderers.