July 20, 2007

Local lore...

Cinnamon Stillwell, on a bit of the rich cultural diversity of San Francisco...

...So when I went off to the Rainbow Grocery protest, [in 2002] 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....

As ever, I find myself much more interested in what's going on under the surface than in the actual events. Why does Rainbow hate Jews? (I will take it we are agreed that the Palestinians are just a transparent excuse; When Arabs oppress Palestinians nobody at Rainbow Grocery cares.)

I won't bore you again with my theories, but isn't it just fascinating to watch this stuff in action? And fascinating to watch our liberal Jews ignore it. (Sort of like those movies, where the people decide to go in and explore the haunted house. And then they split up, and go in different directions...)

Posted by John Weidner at July 20, 2007 7:08 AM
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