Guardian restaurant review of London Jewish deli manages to bash Israel

Jay Rayner, in a restaurant review for the Observer (sister site of the Guardian), sampled the salt beef sandwich, matzah ball soup, chopped liver, bagels and pickles at a new Jewish deli in London called Freddie’s. (Freddie’s, London: ‘Over salt beef, I brood on the need to review this Jewish deli’ – restaurant review, March 31)

The review was mixed. The Jewish journalist loved the salt beef sandwich, but it “pained” him to criticise the chicken soup as “desperately under-seasoned”.  Something else that clearly ‘pained’ him actually isn’t on the menu. Nor does it have anything whatsoever to do with the review. Though, as you’ll see in the paragraphs below, he tries desperately to imagine one:

There is a good chocolate mousse made on site, to go along with the bought-in pastries. It is while I am spooning the mousse away that I begin brooding about the fact that this review almost didn’t happen. And now I should warn you that it’s going to take a dark turn. When I first came across Freddie’s I was excited. For all my lack of faith or observance these dishes, kept alive by a vestigial memory of the shtetl, root me. Then I hesitated. Could I really write about a Jewish restaurant given the current political turmoil? Would I get abuse for doing so? Surely better to keep shtum.

At which point I knew I had no choice: I had to write about it. The horrendous campaign of the government and armed forces of Israel in Gaza cannot be allowed to make being Jewish a source of shame.

When Hamas mounted their 7 October attack on Israel, they committed both an atrocity and a provocation. With so many hostages taken, there were no good options for the Israeli government. Nevertheless, they managed to choose the very worst one. They have killed thousands, starved many more, destroyed homes and turned their country into a pariah. As it happens, they have also made life for Jews who live outside Israel and have no responsibility for the decisions its government takes, so very much harder.

I deplore what Israel is doing. But that doesn’t mean I can “refute” my Jewishness. That is a surrender to antisemitism. And so I sit here with my terrific salt beef sandwich and my chocolate mousse, indulging that bit of my Jewish identity which makes sense to me. It’s not much, but it’s all I have.

Life for the British Jewish community has indeed been much, much harder since Oct. 7.

The CST reported 4,103 instances of anti-Jewish hate in 2023, 2,699 (66%) of which occurred on or after 7 October. This figure alone, they note, “exceeds any previous annual antisemitic incident total recorded by CST, and marks an increase of 589% from the 392 instances of antisemitism reported to CST over the same time period in 2022″.

However, his suggestion that the decisions of Israel’s government has made life for Jews “so very much harder” is itself a classic (and codified) antisemitic trope – blaming Jews in Israel for the racist actions of non-Jews in the UK.  Can you even imagine an American or British writer of Palestinian descent feeling the need to distance him or herself from Hamas’s antisemitic massacre while reviewing a restaurant specialising in Palestinian cuisine?

It’s amazing that this even needs to be stated, but the only ones responsible for increased antisemitism – in the UK or anywhere else – are those committing antisemitic acts.  Even if you buy into his argument that Jerusalem’s military decisions since the barbarism of Oct. 7 have been the “worst” ones possible, or subscribe to the specific lie that Israel has intentionally “starved” Gazans, who, other than those who are already predisposed to hating Jews, would take their anti-Israel fury out on diaspora Jews?

Only at the Guardian – or an ASHJew character on the pages of Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question – would a Jewish restaurant critic writing a review abut salt beef, bagels and shmears feel the need to condemn and distance himself from the Jewish state.

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2 Comments

  1. says: Grimey

    Such ignorant blather sadly is typical of the antisemites running riot in The Grauniad, Observer, Indy and the IPC (aka BBC). In their views, gone are the reasons for Israel’s horrible task of ridding the world of Hamas – and now are the reasons for revealing their disgusting views on why Jews should be persecuted.

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