The Qatari public launched a boycott campaign against Pura Vida Miami’s Doha branch after its CEO publicised his pro-Israel stance and called Palestinians “terrorists”.
The Qatari partner of a popular cafe that has faced controversy over the last week has ended his partnership with the owner of the establishment in a show of solidarity with Palestinians, local media reported.
Pura Vida Miami, located on Al Maha Island, faced a wave of boycott calls in recent days after its CEO made pro-Israel remarks as Tel Aviv launched a deadly bombardment on Gaza on Saturday.
Omer Horev shared an image of the Israeli flag with the slogan: “Now and always, we stand with the people of Israel!”
The Miami-based cafe opened a branch in Al Maha Island in Lusail city late last year, serving as a hotspot for foreign and local visitors.
However, the cafe’s link with Israel only emerged this weekend after Horev’s posts made the rounds on social media.
Shortly after, Horev posted a reel shared by an Israeli page showing Palestinians capturing Israeli occupation forces.
In the post, he described the Palestinians as “terrorists” before another post called Hamas “animals”.
Below the reel, Horev commented: “This is a dark day. Pray for Israel.”
The Qatari public quickly responded on social media with calls to boycott his company Pura Vida. Some called the branch’s opening in Doha as “a betrayal of the cause of the Islamic nation” while others slammed Horev’s posts as “audacious”.
“Audacious. He continues to provoke Arabs as he continues to profit from their money,” an outraged local social media user said on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Other social media users called on Qatari authorities to permanently shut down the branch cafe in Qatar.
“Shame on us if the Ministry of Commerce does not shut it down. This is in line with the law of insulting and provoking society. This restaurant should be shut down and removed from Qatar,” a concerned Qatari user said.
In a statement announcing the closure on Thursday, Horev said: “I want to acknowledge that the situation in the Middle East is complex and sensitive, and my comments may have led to controversy at our restaurant in Doha.”
However, the Israeli-born business owner appeared to suggest the decision to cease operations in Doha was his to make.
“It is with a profound sense of responsibility and a heavy heart that I have made the difficult decision to cease the operations of Pura Vida Doha. This decision was not made lightly, but I believe it is the appropriate course of action for the time being.”
In response, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to local outlet Marsal Qatar that Horev’s Qatari partner had ended the partnership following popular calls for boycott.
The announced closure was met with a wave of support online.
“There is no loss, God willing.. The design is in place and the place is ready. He can change the name and possibly the quality of the dishes. And all the people will support him and stand with him…and he will come back stronger than before. (Whoever abandons something for the sake of God, God will replace it with something better than it),” one social media user said.
“If anyone still has any doubt that popular campaigns have no effect. Pura Vida closed four days after the start of the campaign against it,” one person said.
“Well done, God will compensate them,” another user said.
An ‘extension of Israel’
Born in Israel, Horev emigrated from Tel Aviv to the United States at the age of 21 before starting his business.
The Israeli-born regularly mentions his early memories in Israel and points to the so-called Israeli cuisine as an influence for his decision to open Pura Vida.
In one interview, Horev described Pura Vida as “an extension” of Israel.
“Pura Vida is so personal, because Jen [Horev’s wife] makes it an extension of our home,” Omer told South Florida Business & Wealth in 2021.
The ingredients used in some of the menu items on Pura Vida include staples of the Palestinian cuisine, including hummus and Za’aatar or thyme—both of which Israel has repeatedly claimed to be part of its own cuisine.
Under its ethnic cleansing campaign, Israel goes as far as altering Palestinian recipes, most famously hummus, labelling the levantine delicacy as Israeli, which in turn has made the preservation of food among Palestinians an important act of resistance.
Israel launched its largest ever bombing campaign on the Gaza Strip on Saturday and has since levelled entire neighbourhoods in the besieged enclave, where more than 2 million Palestinians live in one of the world’s most densely populated areas.
On Monday, Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant ordered a complete siege on Gaza while describing Palestinians in the Strip as “human animals”.
“I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we act accordingly,” Gallant said during the announcement.
Israeli says it has dropped some 6,000 bombs on Gaza since the start of the bombardment. So far, at least 1,537 Palestinians – including 500 children and 276 women – have been killed.