Letter: Utah bar owner’s “banning all Zionists” post is a missed opportunity to create solidarity

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Weathered Waves bar in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, March 6, 2024.

I’m greatly disappointed with Michael Valentine’s Instagram post promoting his new bar, “That is why we are pleased to announce we are banning all Zionists forever from our establishment.”

His short-sided declaration was a missed opportunity to create solidarity. If the message was a call for peace and plans for donation to Palestinian refugees, I’d be the first to order a drink.

Instead, by some false equivalency, he compares all Zionists to Klan members and fans the flames of division. As a former bar owner, I know how hard it is to get customers into your club. One slip up and your entire investment can go down the drain. Business tactics like such is the quickest way to end up in bankruptcy court and sued for discrimination.

Zionism is a political philosophy for the self-determination and statehood for the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland, Israel. There is a real connection of Jews and a kinship with Israel. Grouping all those who believe in a Jewish state to be agents of violence and hate is to minimize the connection of all those who support a sovereign Israel.

Sure, bar owners can ban an individual, but wholesale prohibitions on a group he couldn’t identify without an in-depth questionnaire is ludicrous. Instead of breaking bread, he’s building barriers. Incendiary comments might be good for a weekend’s crowd of looky loos but acts like this normalize antisemitic behavior. And if we fail to identify and call out these subtle acts of hate, we’re just as bad as Valentine.

It’s not lost on me the irony of banning Zionists in a bar opened in the American Zion (Utah). In Hebrew, Zion means “sanctuary” or “refuge,” and sadly, Weathered Vanes offers neither. By banking on antisemitic platitudes, I’ll be ordering my drink someplace else.

Ben Raskin, Salt Lake City

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