Cinnamon Stillwell

I’m the West Coast Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum that focuses on Middle East studies. I was a political columnist for (San Francisco Chronicle online) from 2004-2008. I've written for the American Thinker, Frontpage Magazine, Family Security Matters, Accuracy In Media, Newsbusters, Israel National News, The Jewish Policy Center, J-The Jewish News Weekly of N. CA, Intellectual Conservative and many others. More info at

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

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.)

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."
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.

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.

...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.


Anonymous jeremayakovka said...

"Acid Rainbow Grocery"

Tuesday, August 07, 2007 4:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Supposedly YBM bakery was also filthy and the health department closed them down. I've often wondered about the down home kind of products that "health" food stores carry. Who inspects the kitchen in these places that supply them?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007 5:21:00 PM  
Anonymous jeremayakovka said...

Classic example of "love ideas, hate people."

The Rainbow Grocery: where wholesale organic produce meets wholesale destruction of the Jewish people.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007 10:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Paul said...

Anyone thought of a boycot of Rainbow Grocery ?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007 4:57:00 AM  
Blogger Epaminondas said...

Cmon, Cinnamon .. get with the dialectic

In this context ..

Peace means no Israel
Justice means no Israel
Tolerance means certain viewpoints must not only be 'correct' (see above two lines), but arrogantly replace other ideas as unary and therefore utterly predominant.

Resistance to this dialectic means you are reactionary, imperialist, colonial and probably worst of all a zionist or some kind of jew.

The only possible rebuttal for the ignorant is to invite them to rebut something like this

Wednesday, August 08, 2007 7:53:00 AM  
Blogger Aimee Kligman, née Dassa said...

Where are the wonderful governmental officials we have elected in instances such as these? Busy counting votes? counting money? counting crows? I'm inclined to say that boycotting this damn store makes sense. But how do we not offend the sensibilities of these ultra liberal, palestinian loving ignoramuses?
I am not from the right...far from it. I consider myself actually quite liberal; however, I am having a bit of difficulty feeling any sympathy for this group. It's been 40 years? Why the hell haven't they been assimmilated by some other Arab country? As they should have been? I'm speaking as a sephardic refugee.. that had to flee Egypt in my young age. Did my parents join some jihad group and start murdering people? No, they simply went to work and fed their kids. Is it so hard for the Palestinians to do the same?
Aimee Kligman
Women's Lens

Wednesday, August 08, 2007 2:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder how much stock the store would have if they took out every product that was labeled "Parve"?

Friday, August 10, 2007 6:40:00 PM  
Blogger Eric V. Kirk said...

Look, I'm having trouble with anti-semites claiming to be merely anti-Zionists on my own blog. I'm not unsympathetic, and I do believe that the left has evolved a new anti-semitism to which its leadership is too reluctant to address. But there's something missing from the narrative here. I find it hard to believe that she said all of this merely in response to "wouldn't it be nice if they could all live in peace."

When I lived in the city I shopped at Rainbow regularly, and I find it very difficult to believe that the management would knowingly put up with the alleged behavior. I find it even less likely that all of the employees would be rounding the wagons and making up stories about this guy.

Moreover, I find it extremely wimpy of Jewish Weekly to be afraid to publish her statements. I'd like to know what she told them. If they're going to buckle under that easily, they're going to be worthless as a paper.

Monday, August 13, 2007 6:03:00 PM  
Blogger Eric V. Kirk said...

And incidentally, lots of people and businesses bought from that bakery. Nobody had any reason to believe that they were supporting a criminal venture. From what I hear the food was quite good until the patriarch died.

Monday, August 13, 2007 6:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stopped shopping at Rainbow a few years ago altogether, as a few workers there were rather unhinged, in my opinion. They got issues, man, lots of them. I've seen some pretty crazy stuff there, and I think this Nikki gal came unglued at another customer once, because they didn't put a shopping cart in the right place.

Who the heck needs to shop at a place like that? Thank God for Trader Joe's and local farmer's markets!

Thursday, August 16, 2007 9:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like Rainbow and they still carry some Israeli products. (I've seen Israeli couscous, for example) Whenever I shop there, I put my receipt into the suggestion box with a note on it "Please don't boycott Israeli products". Economic leverage, perhaps?

Monday, September 03, 2007 11:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David Nahmod is nothing but a troublemaker. The cashier probably didn't smile at him and kiss his ass, and so he got pissy and decided to go on a psychotic warpath to bring her down. That's what he does if he thinks you've crossed him -- throws childish fits and keeps coming at you with name-calling and bitchiness FOR-EVER. He needs to get over himself!

Monday, October 26, 2009 7:09:00 PM  

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