Tense scenes erupted on the streets of Melbourne on Friday afternoon after a “suspicious fire” ripped through a burger restaurant owned by a pro-Palestinian supporter.
Footage filmed on Friday afternoon outside the Falafel Omisi restaurant in Caulfield, in Melbourne’s south-east, shows a group of supposedly pro-Palestinian supporters arguing with several people.
Shouts of “Let’s not fight” and “They’ve started it” can be heard as the two groups clash. A man appears to throw a water bottle at another man as police intervene.
Falafel Omisi is next to the Burgertory restaurant which burned down overnight in a fire that police are treating as “suspicious”.
Victoria Police arrested several people after the fight to “keep the peace”.
Burgertory’s Caulfield branch in Melbourne’s south-east burned down at around 4am on Friday (pictured)
“Police responded to reports of clashes in Caulfield on November 10,” a Victoria Police spokeswoman told Daily Mail Australia.
“It is believed a verbal altercation took place between around 15 people on Glen Huntly Road just after 2.30pm.
“A number of people were detained briefly in order to maintain order. A woman was briefly arrested for failing to show identification.
“No one was injured during the incident.
“Police will maintain a presence in the area to ensure the safety of the community and prevent any breaches of the peace.”
A man is taken away by police following tense scenes on the streets of Melbourne on Friday afternoon. Several people were arrested for “keeping the peace”
Police consider the fire ‘suspicious’
Ten fire crews battled for about half an hour to put out the fire at the Burgertory restaurant, which appeared to have gutted the establishment and shattered its windows.
Hash Tayeh, who grew his business into Australia’s largest independent burger chain after founding it in 2018, sparked controversy for shouting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” during from a rally in Melbourne a fortnight ago.
Many interpret this song as a call for the destruction of Israel.
Mr Tayeh vehemently denies being anti-Semitic and has since said he has the deepest sympathy for civilian victims in Palestine and Israel.
A Victoria Police spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia detectives were currently investigating the inferno.
“Emergency services were called to the fire on Glenhuntly Road just after 4.15am,” the spokesperson said.
Hash Tayeh (pictured with his wife), 32 – who founded Burgertory in 2018, which has since become Australia’s largest independent burger chain – was filmed at a pro-Palestinian protest in Melbourne a fortnight ago .
“There was no one inside at the time. The exact cause of the fire is under investigation but is considered suspicious at this stage.
“Anyone who witnessed the incident, has CCTV, dashcam footage or any other information that could assist police is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.”
Mr. Tayeh called the fire “arson” and said it “would not derail my call for peace or silence me.”
“We are working closely with the authorities to investigate this alarming incident and we are determined to help in any way we can,” he said.
“As an Australian of Palestinian heritage and CEO of Burgertory, and as someone who cherishes life in our multicultural Australian society, I am deeply troubled by the spread of rumors suggesting that we harbor anti-Semitic sentiments.
“I cannot stress enough that this could not be further from the truth. My participation in pro-Palestinian rallies was motivated by a desire for peace and a ceasefire, not violence or division. I have lost 38 loved ones in Palestine and I want the violence to stop.
He added: “I want to state unequivocally that we oppose violence in all its forms.
“Burgertory has always been a place that celebrates diversity and promotes unity.”
The suburb of Caulfield is home to approximately 20,000 Australian Jews. Daily Mail Australia is in no way suggesting that the alleged arson was committed by a member of the Jewish population.
Police have appealed for any witnesses or anyone with CCTV or dashcam footage to come forward as detectives investigate the “suspicious” fire.
Mr Tayeh, 32, was filmed at a pro-Palestinian protest in Melbourne on October 29, holding a loudspeaker and chanting “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.
Some interpret this rallying cry as anti-Semitic, as it actually calls for the abolition of Israel by expanding the Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
“This is an anti-Semitic accusation that denies the right of Jews to self-determination, including through the expulsion of Jews from their ancestral homeland,” according to the Anti-Defamation League.
It was also used by the terrorist organization Hamas as a rallying cry to drive Jews out of the State of Israel.
Mr Tayeh (pictured) vehemently denies having anti-Semitic views and has repeatedly called for “peace and unity, an end to the killing and suffering on both sides”.
Mr Tayeh, who also sang “Shame, shame on America, how many children have you killed today”, initially shared the footage on his Instagram page before deleting it after being inundated with criticism.
The day after the protest, the Jordanian-born entrepreneur wrote “an open letter to my Jewish friends” following calls from many in the Jewish community to boycott his restaurants.
He vehemently rejected allegations that he held anti-Semitic views and claimed he was a “voice for peace”.
“At no time have I called for harm to anyone, and I want to emphasize that I have deep and meaningful friendships with members of the Jewish community.”
Burgertory has 18 stores in Melbourne, including one in the suburb of Caulfield which is home to 20,000 Jews.
The most recent post on Burgertory’s Instagram page is an interview with Mr. Tayeh in which he addresses the “hatred, attacks and criticism” he has received.
“Unity is the spark that lights the flame of progress, transforming a single voice into a powerful chorus,” reads the caption.