Brazilian restaurant apologizes over anti-Israel signs

One restaurant owner apologizes for spreading hatred, the other claims Israel's government is 'genocidal.'

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Pernambuco, Brazil
Pernambuco, Brazil
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A Brazilian Arab food restaurant apologized for placing anti-Israel signs at its entrance after a massive boycott campaign on social media.

One of the owners of Papaya Verde restaurant, in Recife, sent a note to the Pernambuco Jewish Federation stressing that the big and colorful “Free Palestine! It’s not war, it’s genocide” and “Boycott Israel!” stickers on its front window had been removed, reported Folha de Pernambuco newspaper on Tuesday.

“My sincere apologies to all who were offended. The power of written words does not convey my true feeling, which is to always work for the culture of peace among the peoples who have a great example in Brazil. I never intended to spread hatred or any other negative sentiment towards the Jewish community,” read the note from restaurateur Antônio Siqueira Campos.

The message from Campos was “peaceful and purposeful,” the Jewish federation’s president Sonia Sette told JTA.

“We’re perplexed, the material exhibited is extremely offensive towards the State of Israel. The images provoked outrage to the members of our community and beyond. We consider it fundamental that the serious issues involving Israel and Palestinians be treated with responsibility, respect and in a peace-seeking manner,” read a statement from the Jewish Federation.

“Manifestations such as these exposed in the restaurant, in addition to conveying false concepts, contribute to spreading a message of hatred, shaking relations and reducing the path of understanding,” the statement said.

The Palestinian Alliance of Recife published a statement reportedly signed by the restaurateur’s partner, who reiterated his position as anti-Israel militant, using racist speech including words such as genocide, apartheid and more.

Partner João Asfor is an Arab of Middle Eastern descent. In a statement to the newspaper he wrote, in part: “I am a Palestinian! I am proud of my homeland and I am not deaf to the suffering of my people. I do not accept the genocidal Israeli government in the same way I do not accept the stupid Brazilian coup government.” He claimed that the two partners in the restaurant have different opinions, and claimed he has Jewish friends.

On October 1, an influential daily newspaper in Brazil apologized for publishing a crossword puzzle that identified “Palestine” as a “territory that suffers Israeli occupation and bombings. In an apology Sunday, the newspaper's editor “apologized for the wrong way the question about Israel and Palestine was addressed.”

Recife is the site of the Kahal Zur Israel temple, the first synagogue established in the Americas, in 1637, during the short period that the Dutch ruled a small area of the then-Portuguese colony.