Offir Gutelzon (in the red bandana) helps organize the crowd at an anti-Benjamin Netanyahu protest at Crissy Field in San Francisco, Aug. 29, 2020. (Photo/Miri Ekshtein Prager)
Offir Gutelzon (in the red bandana) helps organize the crowd at an anti-Benjamin Netanyahu protest at Crissy Field in San Francisco, Aug. 29, 2020. (Photo/Miri Ekshtein Prager)

‘We won’t stop until Bibi resigns’: Bay Area Israelis join global protest

More than 150 protesters showed up at San Francisco’s Crissy Field on Saturday as part of a global demonstration calling for the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli expats in the Bay Area joined their compatriots in 18 cities around the world by demonstrating at 9 p.m. Israel time, in a coordinated effort that was broadcast live on social media. The San Francisco protest began at 11 a.m.

The other protests were in Atlanta, Amsterdam, Basel, Berlin, Boston, Cambridge, Chicago, Copenhagen, Los Angeles, Madrid, Miami, New York, Oslo, Paris, Toronto, Vancouver and Washington, D.C.

The main protest took place in Jerusalem, where some 20,000 people lined the streets in the 10th straight week of anti-Netanyahu demonstrations. It was the largest gathering yet by Israelis calling on the prime minister to resign, due to his ongoing corruption trial and his government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

The San Francisco protest was organized by UnXeptable, a grassroots group of Israeli expats formed in July to oppose what they consider to be undemocratic actions by Netanyahu. It was the fourth straight week of Bay Area protests — three in San Francisco and one in Palo Alto — and the largest yet.

Screenshot from the 18-city Zoom protest, Aug. 29, 2020. (Photo/Courtesy UnXeptable)
Screenshot from the 18-city Zoom protest, Aug. 29, 2020. (Photo/Courtesy UnXeptable)

“We had 50 percent more than last week, and there were a lot of people we didn’t know,” said Palo Alto entrepreneur Offir Gutelzon, an UnXeptable organizer. “It wasn’t just friends and family.”

At the Jerusalem protest, giant images from sister demonstrations around the globe were projected onto the side of a building in Paris Square, the epicenter of the anti-Netanyahu gatherings. That had an effect on the San Francisco demonstrators, Gutelzon said.

“The energy was totally different. We knew people all over the world were watching us, that it would be like standing with the protests in Jerusalem.”

The theme of the worldwide protest was “My Heart is in Balfour (HaLev Ba’Balfour),” referring to Balfour Street, where the prime minister’s residence is located. It’s also, said Gutelzon, a play on the Hebrew phrase “My body is in the West, but my heart is in the East.”

At the Jerusalem protests, in contrast to previous weeks, there were no clashes between police and protesters, and police did not attempt to disperse demonstrators until after midnight, an hour past the curfew set for speakers and microphones. Sixteen people were detained or arrested, according to Israeli media reports.

Asked how long he expects the weekly protests to continue, Gutelzon responded, “We won’t stop until Bibi resigns.”

Sue Fishkoff

Sue Fishkoff is the editor of J. She can be reached at [email protected].