Manny's, the politically engaged Mission cafe owned by newly named SFTMA board member Manny Yekutiel, was tagged over the weekend with anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian graffiti — because Yekutiel is Jewish and critics believe he is anti-Palestinian.
Since it opened in 2018, Manny's has been targeted for graffiti in the past, largely because Yekutiel his family emigrated from Israel, and he has spoken publicly about his belief in Israel's right to exist — while, like many leftist American Jews, he denounces many of the actions of the Israeli government against the Palestinian people.
The place was last vandalized last September, just as Yekutiel was crowdfunding funds to build outdoor "victory booths" for phone banking ahead of the November election. That tagging simply said "FUCK YOU."
And, over the weekend, Manny's was once again tagged with the phrases "Racist pigz," "Zionist pigz," and "Free Palestine," as KTVU reports.
Yekutiel hasn't commented on the recent graffiti or posted about it anywhere on social media, but he wrote an op-ed in the Chronicle in January 2019 after a similar tagging, expressing his thoughts.
He denied being a Zionist and said the business had been "ideologically extorted" by leftist activists in the neighborhood. "Given the mission of Manny’s, we have invited these individuals into the space for dialogue, but their goal is to shut down discourse, not engage in it," he wrote at the time.
He added that the "ideological absolutists on the left and the right" and the toxicity of most online discourse was what inspired him to open Manny's in the first place, as a place to gather in-person to have "vibrant" and productive political discussions.
I’m a religious Jew and proud of it. My father escaped persecution in Afghanistan and journeyed, partly on foot, to Israel to reunite with family who had previously escaped oppression and found safety there. My little sister was almost blown up by a suicide bomber at a bus stop in Jerusalem. As a liberal American Jew, I have complicated feelings about Israel. I do not support everything that its government does (nor everything our American government does). Israel and the United States have provided my family with safety when other countries haven’t, but that doesn’t mean I support the ending of innocent life. My hope for the Israeli and Palestinian people is to soon live in peace with mutual recognition in sovereign and safe borders. This complex issue is a perfect example of the need for high-quality discourse.
Mission Local covered the story at the time, noting that, "This is not an ideal story for straightforward, both-sides, he-said-she-said coverage — all the more so because one of the sides is a diminutive group of attention-seekers going on about Zionist gentrifiers in the Mission and using Jew-as-interloper-and-parasite language."
Anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian sentiments have bubbled back to the surface for activists on the left in recent weeks after the most recent fighting in Israel, with Bay Area activists also targeting an Israeli cargo ship at the Port of Oakland last week. So perhaps it should be no surprise that Manny's would get tagged yet again.
Yekutiel has been accused by activists of being a "proud Zionist," and it's true that unlike some liberal Jews he does not denounce out of hand everything the Israeli government has done. But like many Jews, he believes in Israel's right to exist, which many leftists conflate with Zionism and right-wing Israeli thought.
Lately, Yekutiel has also been seen as anti-progressive, and in bed with Mayor London Breed — especially after she nominated him late last year to fill an empty seat on the SFMTA board. But, as Mission Local pointed out, he had previously served as finance director for Breed's more progressive rival, Mark Leno. Prior to that he worked as an intern in the Obama White House.
One of Yekutiel's foes has been The Lucy Parsons Project, a self-described "radical black queer direct action group fighting anti-blackness in the Bay Area." But Ralowe Ampu of the Lucy Parsons Project told the Examiner in 2019 that the group's attacks on Manny's shouldn't be seen as racist.
"Being anti-Zionist is not being anti-Semitic," Ampu said. And the group has further called the cafe "a gentrifying wine-bar, cafe and fake ‘social justice’ space in the Mission District [that] will only accelerate the raising of rents and the displacement of Black, Latinx, disabled and trans/queer people in the Mission." They also have called Yekutiel a racist because of his support of Israel.
No suspects have been named in the latest tagging, which KTVU has referred to as a hate crime — and they've reposted the SFPD's new multi-lingual tip line for reporting hate crimes, which is 415-558-5588. The SFPD has not confirmed that this graffiti is being investigated as a hate crime.