On Thursday, police shot a machete-wielding west African man dead after he went on a rampage in a Christian-owned Middle Eastern deli in Columbus, Ohio. The man, Mohammad Barry, slashed several patrons, sending four to the hospital (at least one with very serious injuries).
Barry’s motive is unclear but substantial evidence points to anger about the Israeli flag prominently displayed in the window of the Nazareth Restaurant and Deli — right next to an American flag as well as a sign bearing a greeting in Arabic.
Hany Baransi, the deli owner, said Barry came by less than an hour before the attack asking a server where Baransi is from. The server told Barry that Baransi is a native of Israel.
In an interview with The Tower, an English-language news site that focuses on the Middle East, Baransi said he has no plans to stop displaying an Israeli flag at his restaurant. Quite to the contrary, he said, he plans to make the flag more prominent.
“Actually I have another flag, and I am going to get a bigger flag, and I am going to get a Star of David necklace and put it on my chest, and I am going to get a tattoo,” the restaurateur told The Tower. “Honest to God, I am not kidding. They don’t scare me. We are Israelis. We are Israelis. We are resilient, we fight back.”
“We are used to these bastards,” Baransi also explained. “We are used to these kinds of attacks, that they hate us just for what we are. They don’t know us, they don’t know anything about us, and they do that. You know, I don’t care if I was an Arab or not, because I am an Israeli, and if you don’t like Israelis you don’t like me.”
Baransi, 50, has been serving up falafel, hummus and gyros in Columbus for 27 years. He moved to the United States from Haifa in 1983.
In an interview with The Columbus Dispatch, Baransi noted that his status as an Israeli national who is both Arab and Christian makes him fairly unusual. “I am the minor, minor, minor of the minority,” he quipped. “So nobody likes me.”
He has closed the Nazareth Restaurant and Deli temporarily but vows to re-open soon.
Investigators say Barry, the 30-year-old machete-wielding attacker, may have traveled to Dubai in 2012. (RELATED: Machete-Wielding Maniac Shot Dead After Attack On Ohio Deli)
Employees and the 20 or so patrons in the restaurant tried stop Barry, some by throwing chairs. Eventually he fled in a car, leading police on a short chase before he was forced off the road. He allegedly lunged at police with a machete and a knife, and they then killed him.