Flight from hell: 'I was smeared as an anti-Semite and arrested'

'Like a horror story.' Jewish man says media smeared him as an anti-Semite and damaged his career - all over a video taken out of context.

David Rosenberg,

Boeing airplane
Boeing airplane
Thinkstock

Last November, David Toaff, a 35-year-old loan officer from Washington DC, boarded a flight from DC to Atlanta for a vacation with his brother. He never expected that what happened next would cripple his career and leave him smeared as an anti-Semite.

Shortly after the flight landed, Jordan Dale, a writer for The Hill, released a portion of a video showing Toaff being taken into custody by Atlanta police. While Toaff can be seen wearing a tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl, Dale tweeted that Toaff was arrested over an “anti-Semitic tirade” onboard the flight, claiming he had demanded “all Jews raise their hands” so he could “identify them”.

News of the alleged anti-Semitic airborne incident spread quickly, accompanied by the brief clip of Toaff’s arrest.

Toaff was charged with obstruction of justice and resisting arrest/disorderly conduct.

The incident garnered coverage in both the Jewish and mainstream press, earning Toaff notoriety as an alleged anti-Semite.

But, Toaff says, the real story bears little resemblance to the way the incident was portrayed in the media coverage.

While Dale wrote that Toaff demanded all Jews on the flight identify themselves, Toaff says the claim is a complete fabrication.

"Never happened,” Toaff said in an interview with Arutz Sheva. “Not at all. That's complete nonsense. Some people theorized that I was looking for a minyan [Jewish prayer quorum] - that didn't happen, nothing at all like this happened."

"Calling me an anti-Semite is the most insane thing," Toaff said, citing the fact that he is Jewish himself, the fact that his family is largely Israeli, his ties to the state of Israel, and his large donations to charities in Israel.

“Most of my family lives in Israel and many of them have served in the IDF, including my father, Michael Toaff, who received the highest medal of honor. My cousin, Shlomo Toaff, is an engineer for a company that produces anti-nuclear missile systems in Israel.”

Toaff called the accusation of anti-Semitism “the ultimate insult” and a “slap in the face”.

So what actually happened on the flight to Atlanta?

David Toaff Courtesy of David Toaff

"I was heading to Atlanta in a very good mood. I had been through some difficult financial times in my life, but was at that point had been doing well as a loan officer for the past several years.”

Talking with a passenger next to him who seemed down on his luck, Toaff says he gave him a bracelet as a gift, apparently drawing the ire of another passenger.

“I'm a very extroverted guy, I was talking to an African-American man, a young social worker, who was sitting to the left of me. We were chatting. I was on my way to a vacation with my brother and I was very excited about that, and I decided that...I had all these bracelets that I had bought online, and I gave this guy one of them.”

“Yeah, it's a little unusual, but that's the kind of thing that I've done in my life, when you've had times in your life when you had nothing, then you suddenly find yourself doing well financially, some people are very quick to give things away because we believe it comes back anyway."

"To the right of me, Jordan Dale's friend... he looked at me during this with absolute disgust. I don't know if he thought that this was some person that I was dating or what he thought, but I've never had someone look at me with such anger."

Because of the Jewish items Toaff was carrying and the gift he had given the other passenger, Toaff believed the passenger to his right was angered either by his Jewishness, or by a false impression regarding the nature of the gift.

“I had a Magen David [Star of David] on my chain, he could see my tallit and Tefillin [phylacteries], he could figure out that I'm Jewish pretty easily.”

“He saw my tallit and Tefllin and looked just sickened.”

“I could only presume that this guy was prejudiced, because why else would he look at a total stranger with so much hatred. I told him, both representing me and the guy sitting to the left of me that we're not 'going' anywhere."

"He continued to look at me and he took out his phone while looking at my belongings and typing to somebody rapidly for literally 25-30 minutes. It was a very strange and uncomfortable situation."

Toaff and the passenger to his right argued, prompting a flight attendant to check in on the two.

The passenger to Toaff’s right, was apparently in close communication with Dale, Toaff said, noting that Dale was tweeting about an alleged “anti-Semitic rant” on the flight.

After the argument early in the flight, the rest of the flight passed without incident.

When the plane landed in Atlanta, however, the flight crew called Toaff, ordering him off the plane before the other passengers disembarked.

Frantic after being ordered off the plane without understanding why, Toaff says he panicked when he was confronted by police at the gate.

The two minutes video of Toaff during his arrest, he admits, doesn't look good.

"I had gotten in a full panic and I couldn't talk clearly. My heart was going crazy, as you can imagine."

"A lot of people wrote online that I have a mental condition or I must have been drunk. I wasn't drunk, I don't have a mental condition - I was in a full-blown panic, as I can imagine anyone else would be. It was like a horror story coming true in your own life - being called off the plane for something you didn't do."

"I'm a person who does have anxiety, like many other people. So obviously it was greatly pronounced in that video."

“I should have just kept my mouth shut and complied. What can I say, I let the anxiety get the best of me.”

Toaff was later booked on charges of resisting arrest/disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice. After paying fines and performing community service, he’s on the verge of having the charges expunged from his record.

But the claims he launched into an “anti-Semitic rant” on the flight and ordered Jews to identify themselves still haunt Toaff.

“My life was a disaster for quite a while.”

Toaff pursued a law suit against Dale for the initial claims he had gone on an anti-Semitic rant and demanded all Jews on the flight identify themselves, but says the challenges of proving damages in such a suit make it unlikely it will succeed.




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