DNC Chair Candidate Forum Abandons Anti-Israel Venue After Free Beacon Report

Anti-Israel restaurant nixed following Free Beacon report

Democratic National Convention at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia / AP

A forum hosting candidates for chair of the Democratic National Committee changed venues following a Washington Free Beacon report revealing the original venue was owned by an individual with a long record of anti-Israel activism, according to new information obtained by the Free Beacon.

Candidates vying for chair of the DNC were scheduled to attend a forum Monday evening hosted at Busboys and Poets, a Washington, D.C. restaurant owned by anti-Israel advocate Andy Shallal.

The venue was switched early Monday to George Washington University, according to information obtained by the Free Beacon.

An advisory sent to members of the press on Monday said the event would now be held at George Washington University, but failed to mention the name of the previous venue.

The DNC forum "was originally at Busboys and Poets," according to Daniel Herrera, a press liaison at the Raben Group, which is handling communications for Democracy in Color, the left-wing advocacy organization hosting the forum. "But after getting a lot of interest in the event, we decided to look for a larger space, and GWU was super helpful putting this together in a short amount of time."

Herrera sidestepped further questions about whether organizers were aware of Shallal's controversial views and if this played a role in the venue change.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D. Minn.), a DNC chair candidate who has been engulfed in controversy over his critical views on Israel, is scheduled to attend the forum.

New Hampshire Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley, South Carolina Democratic Party chair Jaime Harrison, and Idaho Democratic Party official Sally Boynton Brown also are scheduled to attend the forum. 

The Free Beacon first reported Shallal's history of anti-Israel statements earlier this month.

Shallal, an Iraqi-born activist, has been a vocal critic of Israel. He has said the Jewish state is engaged in "occupation" and is "terrorizing the Middle East," asserting that Palestinians are being "ethnically cleansed, humiliated, harassed, imprisoned, serially murdered, and assassinated." He has also claimed that the U.S. government receives "marching orders from Tel-Aviv."

The staff at Busboys and Poets often has echoed Shallal's views.

A group of customers complained in 2013 that a waitress was wearing an anti-Israel shirt bearing the slogan, "Occupation isn't pretty." The shirt, created by the anti-Israel activist group Code Pink, is for sale at Busboys and Poets.

The restaurant said in response to the complaint that management "encourages" staff to wear clothing expressing sentiments "in line with the beliefs of Busboys and Poets owner Andy Shallal."

"We're a restaurant with a specific political point of view," according to the restaurant's marketing director.

Busboys and Poets has hosted events organized by Code Pink, as well as domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, the communist Venezuelan government of former President Hugo Chavez, and groups alleging U.S. involvement in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Shallal hosted a fundraiser at his restaurant on behalf of a terrorist killed while attempting to stab an Israeli soldier during the 2010 Turkish flotilla to Gaza.

Event staff affiliated with Busboys said the event had been cancelled by the organizer, but no reason was provided.

Pro-Israel officials and Democratic insiders expressed approval at the group's decision to abandon Busboys & Poets.

"Good for them for making the right decision," said one pro-Israel Democratic strategist who would only speak on background so as not to offend the candidates participating. "The virulently anti-Israel politics of Busboys & Poets should have excluded it from consideration in the first place, but maybe once and for all we can see the venue for what it is."

One senior official affiliated with a Jewish organization led by Democrats told the Free Beacon that the DNC is working to counter charges it has become less supportive of Israel under Obama's leadership.

"The Democratic Party is desperately trying to convince the American public, which is overwhelmingly pro-Israel, that the party will break with the Obama administration's anti-Israel diplomacy," the source said. "They've already got a problem with Ellison. Apparently they decided they didn't want another ostentatiously anti-Israel controversy."

Published under: DNC