By ADRIAN GLASS-MOORE / Assistant Editor
The owner of an embattled new Minneapolis bar says accusations that he made anti-Semitic comments online are false.
“I don’t have a problem with Jewish people. My best friends are Jewish; they love me and I love them,” bar owner Emad Abed told the Jewish World this week.
Abed was working on opening a new gay bar called Cheers at 1925 Lyndale Ave. S., the old Rudolph’s Bar-B-Que location, when controversial Facebook posts he allegedly made were publicized last month.
Andy Birkey, a former journalist, said in an interview that he noticed an online fundraiser for the bar and decided to do some digging to find out if the owner was genuine about creating a bar for LGBT people.
“Is this a community space put on by someone from the community?” Birkey, who is gay, said he wondered. “That brought me to his Facebook page, which had some rather disturbing posts on it.”
Birkey took screenshots of some of the posts and shared them on Facebook on June 3, leading to accusations of anti-Semitism against Abed. Another Facebook user created an album of posts allegedly by Abed. Abed denied writing the posts.
“Did you know Israel & it’s people must be eliminated from existence,” read one post from 2015 from a user named “Emad Yousef Abed.” “They are like cancer, Europe got rid of this disease in World War One & Two by moving this disease to ‘PALESTINE’. Now as Palestinians we are stuck with this horrible s–t until we eliminate them from existence.”
Another post from 2016 read in part, “All world problems are caused by Israelis & Jews.”
Abed said the posts attributed to him have been “doctored.” As a Palestinian, he said that he has a problem with the Israeli government, not with Jews.
“Definitely I take a stance against IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) and the Israeli government, the extreme-right Israeli government that kills Palestinians and keeps building settlements,” he said during a telephone interview.
He added, “I’m anti-Zionism and I’m anti the government of Israel. Why? Because I’m Palestinian. They took our land; they killed our people. … But I am not anti-Semitic. There is a difference between Jews and Zionism.”
Abed, who is Muslim, accused his critics of being motivated by racism and prejudice. “It’s because of my name, where I’m from,” he said.
Birkey said he has “strong solidarity” with Muslims and Palestinians. “I would just say there’s a difference between criticizing Israel and anti-Semitism; and there’s no doubt in my mind the posts I saw crossed that line,” he commented.
Even Mayor Jacob Frey weighed in. Frey, who is Jewish, wrote on Twitter, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came. While you’ll find this welcoming attitude at LGBTQ bars across MPLS, you won’t find it at Cheers. I’ll be sure [to patronize] the welcoming ones. L’chaim! (Not Cheers).”
Cheers, which has yet to open, also faced legal problems with its landlord last month, but both parties recently said that they’ve come to an agreement.
“The cases have been resolved,” Mitchel Chargo, an attorney for the landlord, said on July 2.
The landlord, a company called 1933 Lyndale LLC, had filed an eviction action against Abed’s company, Red Star Group LLC, on June 12. The complaint alleged Abed was behind on rent and maintenance fees totaling about $21,600.
Abed’s company sued the landlord on June 24, seeking in excess of $50,000 and asking a judge to put a hold on Cheers’ eviction. The lawsuit alleged there are physical problems with the building that weren’t disclosed. An inspection by the Minneapolis Health Department revealed violations “causing a delay in the opening of business,” according to the lawsuit.
Abed confirmed that “we have resolved all disputes between us.” He declined to say how this might affect the future of the bar.