A beloved falafel restaurant in Astoria has been getting sha-warmed by Saudi loyalist trolls in response to its owner’s criticism of the crown prince.
King of Falafel & Shawarma, a restaurant with a brick-and-mortar site at 30-15 Broadway and food trucks in Manhattan and Astoria, got over 37,000 scathing one-star reviews within a span of 30 hours earlier this week, according to its owner, Freddy Zeideia.
Zeideia said the reviews came from trolls who targeted KOFS after @Columbuos, a pro-Saudi social media account, shared a video of the restaurant’s social-distancing sidewalk decal with pictures of Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, and Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the ruler of the United Arab Emirates, and an invitation to step on their faces.
The KOFS patron who originally filmed the video made an inflammatory attack on the people of Saudi Arabia in Arabic after entering the restaurant, according to a translation of the video that a Saudi Arabian Twitter user posted online.
The pro-Saudi influencer shared a link to the restaurant’s Google page and encouraged his followers to give it a one-star rating.
Zeideia, who is originally from the Israel-occupied Palestinian West Bank, has not shied away from openly displaying his political beliefs. In response to the Israel-Hamas violence in May, he displayed a Palestinian flag in the front window.
Earlier in the summer, he installed a similar floor decal with Andrew Yang’s face after the mayoral hopeful pledged solidarity with Israel in the conflict.
The floor piece that upset the influencer was aimed at criticizing the Saudi Arabian-led war in Yemen and the UAE’s military intervention in Libya’s civil war. Zeideia said that the trolls were also aggrieved that he had posted a Pride flag honoring the LGBTQ awareness month of June.
Contacted by the Chronicle last Friday morning, Zeideia was remarkably unflustered by the attacks on his business.
“I’m not gonna stress myself. I know my Astoria. I know my people out here and they know who we are. We’ve been serving them for the last 20 years,” he said.
Google has picked up on the sudden influx of reviews and temporarily suspended anyone from making reviews of the restaurant, and it appears that Yelp has done the same as it investigates the recent reviews. As of Tuesday, the reviews did not seem to appear on its Google page.
The remaining problem, Zeideia said, was the inundation of international phone calls.
“They said they’re going to chop me to pieces the way they did to Jamal Khashoggi,” Zeideia said.
Other callers threatened to burn down the store. All are nonsense, Zeideia said.
While he didn’t seem to believe that the threats to his life, or to his business for that matter, were credible, he did admit that it was a pain to have his phone line constantly tied up.
“It’s going to take a couple of weeks before things have slowed down. I’m going to let them bark on their own for a while,” Zeideia said.