Palestine demonstrators heckle Holocaust survivor at Berkeley City Council meeting

Demonstrators called Israel supporters ‘Zionist pigs’ and ‘money suckers’ at a routine council meeting


A Berkeley City Council meeting on Tuesday descended into chaos as a mob of pro-Palestine demonstrators harassed council members and Israel supporters, calling them “Zionist pigs”, “genocide enablers”, “murderers” and “money suckers”.

Jewish News of Northern California reported that a group of about 10 Israel supporters sat at the front of the room while roughly 30 demonstrators held signs with the faces of Gazans who have been killed and chanted between every speech “murdered by Israel”.

Susanne DeWitt, 89, chairman of the Israel Action Committee of the East Bay and a Holocaust survivor from Germany, was shouted down while speaking about the October 7 attacks and rising antisemitism in the US, with one protester shouting, “Lies!”

During the twice monthly meeting, the council met to discuss, among a number of other items, a declaration to honour Yom HaShoah, the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day which will fall on 5 May this year, and the allocation of funds for the city’s virtual event.

Both items, proposed by council member Susan Wengraf, were passed unanimously, but Wengraf said that discussing the Holocaust with anti-Israel demonstrators led to an escalation of hostility.

Council member Wengraf told Jewish News of Northern California that since October, council meetings have been “horrendous.” Demonstrators have been particularly enraged by Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, who refused to bring a ceasefire resolution before the council in November. He put out a statement at the time which said: “These resolutions will not end the violence abroad, but they do fan the flames of hatred here at home. That’s a threat I cannot ignore.”

Protesters at the council meeting on Tuesday waved a sign which read “Genocide Jesse.” The incident became increasingly hostile as one protester threw the lectern microphone at the man who had set it up, and a staff member with the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area had his phone grabbed and thrown across the room when he tried to record the demonstrators.

Wengraf told Jewish News of Northern California: “There are many people who are intimidated and will not come to our meetings in person because they don’t feel safe.”

She added that conducting city business has become increasingly difficult due to the demonstrations at council meetings, with Tuesday’s incident being a perfect example; the council, which had to call for several recesses to calm the crowd, was not able to address an important item concerning demolition rules despite the meeting having gone on more than six hours.

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