To activists in the Mission District of San Francisco, it doesn’t matter if your liberal credentials include working in President Obama’s administration and for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign: if you support Israel, you’re not welcome and your business deserves to be destroyed. Manny’s, a restaurant, café, and community space hybrid has been facing weekly protests because of the owner’s support for Israel. The local activists have reportedly even resorted to breaking a window and spray-painting a Star of David on the outside of the “Zionist”-owned business.
Speaking to Hoodline about his background, owner Emanuel Yekutiel said, “My first job in San Francisco was as a street canvasser for same-sex marriage, and I worked on the Obama campaign in New Hampshire and on Hillary Clinton’s campaign in SF as well.”
According to Yekutiel’s LinkedIn page, his past political experience includes working as a field manager for Organizing for America (formerly known as Obama for America), interning in former President Obama’s White House, and acting as a deputy finance director for Hillary for America. In 2015, the Hill reported Yekutiel resigned from his position as a Silicon Valley fundraiser liaison for the Clinton campaign, telling the news outlet that he “just came to the realization that I didn’t want to be in political fundraising at this time in my life anymore.”
When creating Manny’s, Yekutiel said he wanted to provide an answer to the question “where do you physically go to become a better citizen?” The doubly-successful Kickstarter campaign to fund Manny’s references Yekutiel’s activism history throughout, while providing pictures of pivotal liberal movements, such as Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March. Explicitly inspired as a reaction to President Trump’s victory, and hailing the slogan “What will you do about it?” Manny’s certainly had the trappings to become the meeting ground for the next, new generation of San Francisco liberal activists.
The Lucy Parsons Project, a self-described “radical black queer direct action group fighting anti-blackness in the Bay Area,” has promised to boycott and picket Manny’s every Wednesday until the restaurant is out of business. In a media letter reviewed by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, a representative of the Lucy Parsons Project wrote, “the proprietor of Manny’s, Emmanuel Yekutiel, has unequivocally espoused racist, Zionist, pro-Israel ideals that we will not tolerate or accept in our community.…We will not tolerate gentrifiers and Zionists attempts at invading and destroying our community through ‘woke-washing’!!”
In an announcement about the group’s “action against Manny’s,” the Lucy Parsons Project created a list of grievances against Manny’s:
Today our group had an action against Manny’s a Zionist pro-gentrification pro-tech and worst of all “pro-dialogue” liberal hell-space at 3092 16th. st Read our attached statement and join us in boycotting Manny and driving that gentrifying tool out of SF!!!!✊🏿✊🏿✊🏿 pic.twitter.com/sS22wwtAIv
— LucyParsonsProject (@LucyParsonsProj) November 16, 2018
The group ended its list of problems with Manny’s by saying it “will not tolerate Zionists and Gentrifiers invading our community!!!”
Yekutiel has reportedly met almost all of the requirements from United to Save the Mission, a self-described “coalition of a dozen longtime neighborhood groups and organizations that works to enhance and protect the lives of low-to-moderate income residents, Latinx culture, artists, community-serving businesses, and blue-collar workers.” According to Mission Local, Yekutiel has a Memorandum of Understanding with United to Save the Mission for satisfying almost all of the group’s needs, which include bilingual signs, diverse and gay staff, and ”moderate price points.”
The protests against Manny’s—while often including comments about gentrification—are aimed at Yekutiel for his personal beliefs about Israel’s existence.
Footage of a December 27, 2018, protest against Manny’s features people chanting “Zionists out of the Mission!” and “Free, free Palestine!”
Join our boycott and picket line every Wednesday at 6:30pm, Zionists out of Palestine and Zionists out of the Mission!!! pic.twitter.com/8XUFVlYbkF
— LucyParsonsProject (@LucyParsonsProj) December 27, 2018
According to the Lucy Parsons Project, the group has been joined by Black and Brown for Justice, Peace, and Equality, and Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT), a gay boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) group. The post about the December 27 protest claimed that while they protested outside against “Zionist-Gentrification,” “white supremacist Zionists ate a meal in support of Manny’s.”
A group called Gay Shame is also involved in the protests. In a post supporting the violent protests on the Gaza border in support of the Right of Return for Palestinians, Gay Shame said the group wants to similarly “run Zionist [sic] out of the Mission”:
— GAY SHAME (@Evict_Twit_ter) March 30, 2019
In response to the protests, Yekutiel penned a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle. In the article, Yekutiel detailed what has happened to his business and others in the Mission District:
Claims such as the space is a Zionist takeover of the Mission has emboldened people to walk in off the street and demand to know if the owner is Jewish.
The building has been vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti, is the target of weekly protests, and the business has been ideologically extorted: tell us if you’re a Zionist so we can try to drive you out of business. 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.
Mission Local similarly reported, “Someone painted a Star of David on Manny’s exterior along with the words ‘Fuck Zionism.’ A window was broken.”
In his piece, Yekutiel also discussed his family history, including his father escaping from Afghanistan to Israel, “partly on foot.” He also described how he has his own “complicated feelings about Israel” and does “not support everything that its government does (nor everything our American government does).” He continued:
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.
Even though it has been months since Manny’s has opened, it appears the protests are still occurring. In a recent piece in the Indybay, the Lucy Parsons Project, Gay Shame, and other groups penned an op-ed justifying the protests by claiming Yekutiel—a clear liberal—actually supports a right-wing ideology:
Manny’s owner, Emanuel “Manny” Yekutiel, is a self-proclaimed Zionist who has a long history of working with Zionist organizations like A Wider Bridge. As a rightwing racist ideology, Zionism claims Palestinian people have no right to their land. The so-called nation of Israel enforces this ideology by murdering, arresting, torturing, and displacing Palestinians—creating an apartheid state not unlike South Africa’s.
Despite the social-justice oriented protests outside, Manny’s has maintained its own social justice theme inside. Yekutiel’s summary of the first month of business includes photos of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi giving a talk at Manny’s, while on Facebook, the space’s past events have included a discussion with the founder of the Black Lives Matter movement and a conversation with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
While the article in the Indybat gloats that some of the planned events at Manny’s have been canceled because of the protests, Manny’s, like the Jewish people in Israel, continues to thrive.