ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Oakland café staff fired after barring woman from filming anti-Israel graffiti

Farley’s East employees blocked patron from bathroom, saying ‘Israel loves taking private property’; after eventually letting her in to film, they declared ‘free Palestine’

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Employees at Farley's East cafe and a neighboring shop in Oakland, California, who sought to block a customer from entering the store's bathroom to film anti-Israel graffiti inside on December 6, 2023. (Screen capture/X)
Employees at Farley's East cafe and a neighboring shop in Oakland, California, who sought to block a customer from entering the store's bathroom to film anti-Israel graffiti inside on December 6, 2023. (Screen capture/X)

Employees at a café in Oakland, California, were fired after being filmed recently barring a customer from entering the establishment’s bathroom, as she attempted to film an anti-Israel message inside, the owners of the establishment said Saturday.

Farley’s East café’s management said in a statement that due to the incident, they “fell short” of the intended “safe space” they sought to create when they opened their business 35 years ago.

“Events like these strike fear in the Jewish community and perpetuate the rise of antisemitism in our community and around the world. We do not tolerate any behavior at Farley’s that makes people feel unwelcome or safe,” the statement read.

The female patron of Farley’s East had apparently complained to the staff about the graffiti inside the bathroom and sought to go inside again to film the messages, but was blocked from doing so by an employee.

Reports on the incident claimed the woman was Jewish, though that was unconfirmed. Her accent was non-local and may have been Israeli, but that too was unknown.

“We’ve given you all of your food… I know Israel loves taking private property and saying it’s their own,” a second employee was heard telling the patron filming the interaction on her phone. “We have a right to refuse service.”

“Currently, this is a private property,” said a third staff member, who was wearing a face mask. “You’re also misgendering them, so I need you to leave.”

“You’re not going to let me go into the restroom?” the customer asked repeatedly.

An employee at a neighboring business then told the customer that she could use their bathroom. But the woman insisted on entering the bathroom with the graffiti inside. “I should not be excluded when other people are allowed,” she said.

“All you’re going to get is a video of us saying that ‘Zionism is antisemitism’ because it is,” said the third employee.

“If you agree with [the graffiti], why are you afraid that I take a picture of it?” the customer responded.

The staff then suddenly acquiesced and allowed the patron into the bathroom.

She filmed herself walking inside where the phrase “Zionism = fascism” was daubed on a mirror and “neutrality… is enabling genocide. Free Palestine” was graffitied on a diaper changing station.

“History didn’t start in 1948, lady,” said the second employee, apparently referring to the year in which Israel was established.

“Free Palestine. Now please go,” the third staffer chimed in, as the second employee repeated the phrase before adding “it’s always… great, we LOVE it.”

After the incident went viral online, Farley’s East issued an apology on social media, characterizing the graffiti in the bathroom as “hate speech” and saying that it had been removed, while insisting the chain was not antisemitic.

“The staff handled the situation poorly and we apologize for this error and the distress caused to the customer. We’ve taken corrective measures with our staff and removed the offensive graffiti,” the coffee shop said, without specifying what action had been taken toward the employees.

File: Audience members show their support at a special session of the Oakland City Council for a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, November 27, 2023, in Oakland, California. (AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron)

Then on Saturday, the café said that “the employees involved in the incident are no longer employed by Farley’s.”

“Though all employees are entitled to hold differing viewpoints, they are not entitled to express themselves on the job in ways that are disrespectful and hurtful to anyone,” it said.

Oakland made headlines last week when some participants at a city council meeting on a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza voiced denials of the October 7 atrocities committed by Hamas, while others backed the terror group’s right to use violence against Israel.

Before approving the resolution, the city council voted 6-2 to reject proposed amendments that specifically condemned killings and hostage-taking by Hamas, whose slaughter of some 1,200 people and kidnapping of around 240 others sparked the war in the Gaza Strip.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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