As noted previously
, I spent several years after my post-9/11 political transformation
as a Bay Area counter-protester/protester (depending on the event at hand), an experience that was instrumental in opening my eyes up further to the true face
of the local left and its Islamist allies. In particular, the anti-Semitism on display
across the board (sometimes, but not always, cloaked under anti-Zionism) became a very personal reminder of why I no longer wanted to associate myself with today's alleged "progressives."
It was at one just of these protests that an incident occurred that recently took on new meaning. The local Jewish, pro-Israel (the two are not necessarily synonymous) community had organized a protest outside the San Francisco health food store cooperative Rainbow Grocery in 2002. The reason being that several of its departments, in all their tolerant, granola glory, had decided to boycott
Israeli goods. Not Saudi Arabian goods, North Korean goods, or Chinese goods (remember "Free Tibet"?), mind you, but Israeli goods.
Just as similar boycotts or threatened boycotts in the years since, this one was based on nothing more than a steady stream of anti-Israel propaganda to which those with no grasp of history are particularly vulnerable. And yet I felt then, and still do, that willful ignorance is no excuse and that those who perpetrate discrimination or hatred as a result are as responsible for their actions as anyone else.
So I marched off to the protest with a purposefully shocking sign in tow. While the typical signage at protests organized by the local Jewish community tended to be quite mild (some might even say meek), a couple of fellow activists and I made a point of shaking things up with a more direct message. In particular, we often carried a sign that basically read, "Fill-in-the-blank Hates Jews." Conveniently, in a macabre sort of way, there were so many cases of obvious Jew-hatred around that the sign was really quite apt to a number of occasions and had only to be altered in terms of its subject.
For instance, at a rally outside San Francisco's Egyptian embassy in 2002 to protest Egyptian state television's airing of a month-long series
(planned to coincide with Ramadan when the most viewers would be at home), that was based on the Czarist forgery and anti-Semitic classic "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," my companion carried a sign that read simply, "Egypt Hates Jews." Some of our fellow protesters looked on with consternation, while a few of the elderly Jews, who had undoubtedly experienced anti-Semitism up close and personal on a number of occasions, nodded approvingly. Others there lit candles, held hands, and sang songs of peace, but it was our signs that got the point across. Peace had absolutely nothing to do with it.
So when I went off to the Rainbow Grocery protest, I took along a sign that read, "Rainbow Hates Jews." Because at the heart of the unfair singling out of Israel among all nations, not merely for criticism, but for persecution and, ultimately, annihilation, is nothing more than hatred of Jews.
As usual, my fellow protesters didn't quite see it that way and I received more than a few disapproving looks from those quarters. But it was a Rainbow Grocery employee who really couldn't handle the truth, as they say. She and several other employees had been circling around my sign and looking ever-more shocked by the minute, she marched up to me and declared, "I'm offended by your sign!" I suppose that was the signal for me to crumble in abject embarrassment (this is, after all, a city where giving offense is seen as the ultimate crime), but instead, in a wonderfully satisfying moment, I responded slowly and with great emphasis, "I don't care!" An astounded bystander couldn't seem to believe her ears and starting laughing. The Rainbow employee looked completely stunned and after I added, "I'm offended by your Jew-hatred," she stomped off in a state of perpetual indignation. Adding to the triumphant nature of the experience, Rainbow called off
the boycott soon after, although it has reared its ugly head
more than once since.
This story is just one little vignette among many other funny and outrageous moments of street theater
from my counter-protesting/protesting days, but I never forgot it. And when I stumbled upon an article in the current issue of J: The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California
(to which I have contributed in the past) titled "Alleged anti-Jewish tirade at Rainbow sparks probe
," it all came back.
It seems freelance writer and Sephardic Jew David Alexander Nahmod got a taste of the sort of "open mindedness" and "diversity" San Francisco is famous for when he had comments such as "Jews need to be killed, it's the only way to get them off Palestinian land" and "You’re just a stupid Jew" hurled at him by a woman working at the checkout line of, you guessed it, Rainbow Grocery.
When Nahmod tried to complain to customer relations, he was told by the charming employee to "leave him alone or he'd 'whoop' him. So Nahmod took his discrimination complaint to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission and, if it pans out, it looks like Rainbow Grocery will be the only one getting whooped around here. Especially since the reaction thus far of Rainbow's employees has been anything but professional.
The J. article
Rainbow officials declined to field j.’s numerous phone calls. One member of the store’s board abruptly hung up during a phone interview, while another demanded that an interview request be submitted in writing. It was. We then received a fax claiming Nahmod was banned from the store because of his "continued documented harassment."
Ed Ilumin, an officer at the Human Rights Coalition, said that if Nahmod’s complaint is true, Rainbow would be in violation of a San Francisco municipal code prohibiting discrimination by a business or public accommodation based on race, ethnicity or religion.
Thousands of dollars in fines could be levied against the store. In addition, the co-op could lose its city contracts. But the HRC’s most powerful weapon may be the negative publicity that comes with a finding of discrimination.
"Certainly it would be damaging for a business if we found willful discrimination conducted there," Ilumin said. He expects the HRC to issue a decision by early August.
So it appears the sunny, little co-op known as Rainbow Grocery is reaping what it has sown. And my sign has been vindicated.
It turns out Rainbow really does hate Jews.