Michael Valentine: I’m not interested in solidarity with genocide deniers

I am not interested in breaking bread with those who can’t see the humanity of Palestinians.

(Jose Davila IV | The Salt Lake Tribune) Weathered Waves in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, March 6, 2024.

I’m not interested in creating solidarity with hate speech and genocide deniers. I am not interested in breaking bread with those who can’t see the humanity of Palestinians. I don’t want any Nazis in my bar, Weathered Waves, no matter what stripes and flags these Nazis salute. I’m writing this op-ed to respond to the last two letters to the editor published by the Tribune and to clarify my stance once and for all.

It’s not antisemitic to be anti-Zionist. It’s not discrimination to ban hate speech from my bar. I am not discriminating against anyone. We have violated no policies and have broken no laws. We have had Jewish customers in our bar multiple times in recent weeks who oppose Zionism, who support our ban against hate speech, who stand for human rights, who support a ceasefire and who stand in solidarity with Palestine.

Zionism isn’t a protected class — it’s an ideology. It’s not protected under the Civil Rights Act or Utah Code 13-7-3 Zionism is not a race, color, sex, pregnancy, religion, ethnicity, national origin, age, gender, etc. It’s a religious dogma that asserts God gave a certain people a set of land thousands of years ago and therefore have a right to ethnically cleanse, oppress and dominate the Arab people who already live there and who are actually indigenous to the land.

Zionism ties directly with our own Utah and American history, as we also destroyed the tribes who lived here through generations of manifest destiny, colonialism and genocide. Salt Lake City remains on Shoshone, Paiute, Goshute and Ute land. Mormon and Western history is one of blood, violence and conquest against native people. This history must never be forgotten. The site of the Bear River Massacre is hours away.

As an atheist, I don’t believe in a Jewish, Christian or Muslim state. I believe Israel has no right to exist in the same way America doesn’t have a right to exist. This is my religious freedom that is not being addressed all while Governor Spencer Cox signs a bill putting the Ten Commandments in schools, a direct violation of the separation of church and state and First Amendment religious liberties. Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion. I vehemently oppose all theocracies, both Israel and our local Utah theocracy. 

Since banning hate speech from my bar and standing for human rights, I have received multiple death threats, as well as threats to burn my bar down. I have been the target of a disinformation campaign with fake bots sending me messages and phone calls directly from Israel, a campaign that I have reported to the FBI. But it is a small price to pay to stand on the right side of history, to stand with humanity and to stand with the Palestinian people as they fight the direct annihilation of their people and culture.

I will always be anti-genocide, anti-colonialism and pro-human rights. I stand with those around the world who directly oppose the war crimes of Israel and America as all of Gaza is carpet bombed, hospitals are blown up, children are murdered, doctors are shot and nurses and journalists are targeted and assassinated.

I’m sure there are other genocide-loving establishments folks can enjoy. My bar will not be one of them.

I remain disgusted by anyone who justifies genocide and rationalizes what is happening in Gaza as trials unfold at the Hague with the International Court of Justice investigating egregious human rights abuses at an unprecedented scale and speed of unimaginable inhumanity. With the court now investigating the illegal occupation of Palestine by the apartheid state of Israel.

Free Palestine. Ceasefire now.

(Photo courtesy of Michael Valentine) Michael Valentine

Michael Valentine is a former Salt Lake City Mayoral candidate who is actively getting signatures to get on the ballot to run for Salt Lake County Mayor this year. He is a business owner and filmmaker who resides in downtown Salt Lake City.

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