Jacksonville business owner says flying Nazi flag as anti-Israel protest isn’t antisemitic

Photo by WJAX-TV

By David Swindle

(JNS) — Radi Ahmad, who owns a tire store in Jacksonville, Fla., insists that he isn’t a Jew-hater despite flying a Nazi flag on a busy street with a large Jewish community.

Ahmad said the flag display “is his way of reminding people that what Palestinians are going through in Gaza is supposedly the same as what Jewish people experienced during World War II under Nazi Germany,” the New York Post reported.

“Antisemitism has no place in Florida and must be condemned by all who understand the horrific evils of the Holocaust,” wrote Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in response to the CBS affiliate WJAX-TV that broke the story.

Mariam Feist, CEO of the Jewish Federation and Foundation of Northeast Florida, told JNS that Federation decided to speak out about the flag with full knowledge that it could give the hateful symbol more attention.

“In this instance, when someone publicly displays a Nazi flag in an area that is heavily trafficked, in an area that is heavily populated by our Jewish community, and evokes such pain, especially on the day of National Holocaust Survivor Day [June 4], that’s when we decided to respond when asked by media,” she said.

Federation gets daily calls from reporters asking for comments about anti-Israel protests on college campuses, Feist told JNS. “I would respond, ‘There’s nothing new, so why do I want to continue to talk about this?’”

But the flag at the tire shop is “an act we haven’t seen — that type of affront — in many years,” she continued. “This isn’t something that is done every day. The protests were happening every week.”

The Federation leader dismissed the tire-shop owner’s justification for his actions.

Ahmad told WJAX that the Israeli flag “stands for the same thing” as the Nazi flag, which he says is not inherently antisemitic.

“What we find so offensive is the fact that one would compare contemporary Israeli policy with that of Nazis,” she said. “I mean that is outright unequivocally antisemitism and Jew-hate. Comparing Israel’s actions to Nazi Germany is among the examples in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Working Definition of Antisemitism.

“What we’re sharing is that people of moral conscience need to come together to condemn this act” and that such a display “anywhere will not be tolerated,” Feist added. “This crosses the boundaries.”

Sheriffs and the FBI are investigating whether Ahmad poses a threat to the Jewish community, she said.

Donna Deegan, the mayor of Jacksonville and a Democrat, appeared to universalize the incident.

“I strongly condemn the flying of a Nazi flag in Jacksonville. This symbol of antisemitism—and all symbols of hate that seek to divide us—are never welcome in our diverse and inclusive city,” she wrote.

“Jacksonville’s greatest strength is that we are a beautiful mosaic of people from all walks of life, which includes our Jewish and Palestinian citizens who are experiencing immense pain right now,” she added.