Dubai restaurateur apologises for sharing offensive pro-Israel video

Wild & The Moon founder Emma Sawko has faced backlash for promoting misinformation about Israelis and Palestinians

Emma Sawko is the restaurateur behind Wild & The Moon and Comptoir ​​​​​​​102. Photo: Wild & The Moon
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A Dubai entrepreneur has apologised after she shared a pro-Israel video produced by PragerU, an American conservative group that has been described as a "political propaganda machine".

Emma Sawko, who co-founded popular vegan restaurant chain Wild & The Moon, as well as organic cafe Comptoir 102, posted a statement of apology on her Instagram account on Tuesday.

The clip she shared is from a series called Stories of Us, produced by PragerU, who say they "promote American values through the creative use of educational videos" and offer "a free alternative to the dominant left-wing ideology".

The video titled "My Life in Israel as an Arab Muslim", features Sophia Salma Khalifa, whom PragerU refers to as "the first Muslim Arab to enrol in the Israel Defense Forces's Atuda programme in electrical engineering".

Khalifa, who now lives in the US, makes several claims during the professionally produced clip, including that Palestinians are brainwashed to hate, as well as asserting that one of her childhood Arab Muslim friends expressed a desire to become a suicide bomber.

An Education Week report into PragerU's activities last year, quoted one academic as saying the organisation was a "political propaganda machine" that "promotes mistruths about climate change, slavery and a whole host of other things.”

On Tuesday, Sawko apologised for sharing the clip.

"I was standing by the fact that we must find a way towards peace, and this is the only message I have been meaning to convey," she wrote on Instagram.

"I am deeply shaken by the loss of innocent Palestinian lives and as the conflict extends over time, as the situation gets direst by the day, as the anguish grows, I also feel our hearts harden and I feel we are losing the ability to communicate and find the ways towards peace and dialogue."

Sawko, who was born in New York and raised in Paris, co-founded Wild & The Moon with chef Sati Faulks in Dubai in 2016. The restaurant now operates several branches in the city and in Paris along with many franchises.

Sawko is not the only restaurateur facing backlash.

In Bahrain, Italian-Canadian chef Susy Massetti was forced to apologise over the weekend after a social media comment in which she questioned that many Palestinians were starving due to Israel's restriction of aid.

Screengrabs of Massetti liking pro-Israeli posts on social media were then widely shared.

Massetti, who has lived in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, has called Bahrain home for more than 15 years. She runs a number of popular restaurants, including L'Orto and L'Una, as well as the Roots and Shoots organic shop.

Following the backlash, she posted a series of videos, apologising for her comments.

"This was the wrong thing to do and I regret it deeply," she says in one video, holding back tears. "There was no malignant intent.

"There is no way any human being can stay in a country for as long as I have been without respecting, loving and supporting the people and the country. I deeply love this place and if I have a hope it's that this will be forgiven one day and that we go back to be what we was. I am sorry."

Updated: March 20, 2024, 2:09 PM