Townhouse owner target of online attacks
By Lisa Brody
The latest Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become local, with Townhouse owner Jeremy Sasson, who is Jewish, becoming the target of anti-Semitic and hate-based social media attacks on him, his family and his restaurants after he posted an Instagram post featuring an Israeli flag last weekend.
Sasson said on Friday, May 14, he put up a story on Instagram featuring an Israeli flag with the Hebrew words, “Om Yisroel Chai,” that loosely translate to “Let Israel live in peace.” Sasson is the son of an Israeli father.
“That got picked up by the world of social media, and within hours, I had about 350 direct messages, and by the weekend I had a 1,000 direct messages (on Instagram),” Sasson said.
He said his restaurants, Townhouse Birmingham and Prime + Proper, were flooded with phone calls, voice mails and emails, “to the point where we had to shut off the phones at the restaurants because some were anti-Israel, some were pro-Palestinian, some were anti-Jewish. There was just tons of hate. Some were threatening my wife and family.”
Sasson said there were so many random postings of terrible one-star Yelp and Google reviews online for his restaurants, such as, “I bit into my steak and there was an Israeli flag in it,” that Yelp shut itself down, and Google is in the midst of taking them down.
On Tuesday, May 18, Sasson said he received a call from the Detroit Health Department, who said they had just received three inquiries regarding rat infestations in the last day at Townhouse Detroit.
“Townhouse Detroit isn't even open,” he exclaimed, noting the restaurant is closed for remodeling. That has not stopped thousands of people from anonymously posting one-star reviews of meals they have allegedly eaten there recently, he said.
He said he put out a new Instagram statement that “I am a proud American Jew, the son of an Israeli father, and I support the humanity,” in the Middle East. “My original post was misconstrued. It was like saying God Bless America.”
He made clear he has no issues with individuals of Palestinian heritage or descent, but only terrorist organizations of any form.
The original Instagram post has been picked up and shared thousands of times, he said, including by an Instagram page from a group in Dearborn that said, “Jeremy Sasson supports the killing of women and children.”
“I'm in the hospitality business – I'm in the business of making people feel great. My job is to take care of the people who want to be my guests,” he said of the business which is rebounding after a difficult year with the COVID-19 pandemic.
He would not speculate if his establishments have suffered an economic hit from the social media campaign attacks.