The Newsagent who does not want Israeli Customers

One of the most distinctive characteristics of New York is that it is a microcosm of the world, a place full of people of different countries, races and religions. The residents of the city share one destiny. All that is necessary is toleration between peoples, even if the city is not standing complete.

Last week the thin line of toleration in New York was broken. Navah Yakov, an Israeli who lives on the Upper East Side, went one morning to buy a copy of Yedioth Ahronot from her neighborhood newsstand. Ms. Yakov had bought newspapers from this store on a regular basis and, often, the owners and workers would greet her.

That day’s paper had bad news, on the front page there were horrifying pictures of the terrorist attack in Afula, and Ms. Yakov had trouble looking at them. When the sales clerk asked her how she felt, she said that the pictures in the paper depressed her. Much to her astonishment the clerk said, “it’s good that they are killing Israelis, they should kill all Israelis.” The clerk’s statement was magnified when he repeated the abusive comment a second time. Navah explained, “I thought I wasn’t hearing correctly, because he said it in a normal tone of voice, as if it was normal to say such things. I asked for my money back, but he refused. I put the paper on the counter and said, ‘eat the paper!’”

“When I returned to my building,” continued Ms. Yakov, “I was enraged. I decided to go back to the store in order to get more details. The clerk was not there but someone else was. When I asked him the address of the store, he began to make belly-dancing moves in front of me and refused to give me the exact address.”

An enraged Ms. Yakov explained what happened to the doorman who works in her building. In her neighborhood, there are a lot of Israelis and Jews. When some of them heard about the incident, they told Navah that they intended to boycott the store.

“A neighbor of mine thought that a boycott would not work and wanted to beat up the clerk who made these comments to me,” she said. “I was in shock. I shopped at this store for four months, and never did I notice even a hint of this type of behavior from the sales clerks. The local rabbi in the neighborhood said he would ask people at Friday prayers to refrain from buying from this store.”

It must be said that the two sales clerks whose actions are reported here were employees of the store. After the interference of the editorial board of Yedioth Ahronot, the manager of the store called Navah at home in order to apologize, however, she refused to speak with him.

The store does not have a sign with its name outside. It is on First Avenue, number 1239, close to the corner of 67th Street. The distribution manager of this paper spoke with the owner of the store on the phone.

“He told me that ‘were talking about an employee who is not especially clever’, and promised to deal with the situation. The owner emphasized, ‘I do business with everybody.’ We wanted to sever business ties with the store, but he asked that we reconsider because he did not want to stop doing business with Yedioth Ahronot. We made clear that as far as we are concerned he has two options: to dismiss the employee so that we can continue to work with him or we will take extreme measures against the employee.”

Two years ago, a dispute broke out between the billing department of Yedioth Ahronot and the owner of a store in Queens. The dispute came to an end when a clerk said to one of the billing agents, “Hitler should have finished what he started. We cut off business with the store on the spot and only restarted our relations after the owner apologized,” said the distribution manager of the paper.

During the brief conversation that we had with the owner of the store on the Upper East Side, the owner said that as far as Ms. Yakov’s complaints were concerned, “there were no witnesses.”

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