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Hamas Supporters Riot Against Holocaust Survivor During California Municipal Gathering

A Holocaust survivor was heckled and a mother relating her son’s experience with antisemitism was laughed at by pro-Palestinian protesters as they disrupted a Berkeley city council meeting on Tuesday, according to municipality recordings and videos shared by the Jewish Community Relations Council.

The over three hour session, which included agenda items for a Proclamation in Honor of City of Berkeley Holocaust Remembrance Day and a budget item for the 2024 Virtual Holocaust Remembrance Day, saw a bevy of pro-Palestinian speakers accusing the council of being bought off by Jewish organizations and interrupting proceedings. According to a JCRC video, a Jewish man’s video was thrown by an anti-Israel activist at the dias.

Speaker Susanne Dewitt, an 89-year-old who had been sent to the Dachau concentration camp with her family when she was four-years-old, was jeered after she said the surge of antisemitism in the wake of the October 7 Massacre made passing the Holocaust remembrance proclamations all the more important.

“We are currently witnessing a horrendous surge in antisemitism,” said Dewitt. “Jews are now under existential threat the invasion of Hamas which broke a ceasefire in 2029[sic] led to the murder of 1200 Israeli and the brutal torture and rape of women the destruction of property.”

Dewitt ran over the time allotted to her to speak, and pro-Palestinian protesters shouted “time,” “lies,” and “stop lying,” to push her to stop making comments about Hamas atrocities.

At one point Dewitt told a group of activists that encircled her that they were acting like a mob. One woman said that she shouldn’t be part of a genocidal entity, and that she should know better.

The watchdog group StopAntisemitism identified the above heckler as Tareq Samman

Melissa Chapman said on Zoom that “The Jewish community and Holocaust survivors in particular feel more isolated and afraid than ever. The climate here has reignited deep trauma suffered by survivors.”

A speaker and proclaimed anti-zionist Jew named Henry addressed the Proclamation in Honor of City of Berkeley Holocaust Remembrance Day and the budget item for the 2024 Virtual Holocaust Remembrance Day Program, by saying that the lessons of the Holocaust that he had learned from his own Holocaust survivor parents brought him to recognize similar dehumanization, mass slaughter, and genocide was currently occurring against the Palestinians.

“If you continue to pass this proclamation without calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, without recognizing the fascist state that is and always has been Israel, without recognizing the genocide being committed against the Palestinians, without passing the people’s ceasefire resolution, you are speaking out of both sides of your mouth,” said Henry.

He finished his speech by claiming that the council was dealing in double standards, and that the only reason that they cared about Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s crimes was that he committed atrocities against “other white people.”

One man in a watermelon kippa said to the council that “My Jewish blood burned because of people like you.”

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin said on Thursday that they would not be intimidated, and that he was outraged over the “hateful and deeply antisemitic behavior” at the meeting. A banner was held by anti-Israel activists at the meeting calling him “genocide Jesse.”

“Heckling people including Holocaust survivors, then co-opting its message for an anti-Jewish agenda, threats and hate speech will not be tolerated,” Arreguin said on X.

At the Tuesday meeting, Jessica Pearlman called on the council to keep the focus on local issues, such as the escalation of Jew-hatred in Berkeley. She said it was not a matter of politics, but protecting all citizens equally including Jews. Pearlman was interrupted and heckled after making this statement. She explained that her young son said at a recent dinner that he wished he was not Jewish because people disliked Jews and he was afraid that someone at school was going to hurt him. When she brought her concerns to the boy’s principal, he dismissed them, saying that there had only been a handful of antisemitic incidents.

When Pearlman gave the example of how “Last week my 7 year old Jewish son told me he heard a group of kids at his school say that Jews are stupid,” the protesters laughed.

“Zionists are!” said the activists. “Zionists are stupider.”

As with every speaker, once Pearlman had finished the protesters chanted pro-Palestinian slogans.

Resident Jeannine Cohen rejected that the council should be discussing antisemitism with the state of foreign affairs.

“In this moment, with more than 30,000 Palestinian people martyred, murdered, we are talking about antisemitism in this country and here. How does it compare? How is it that we are talking about antisemitism and not calling for a ceasefire?” said Cohen.

Speakers repeatedly demanded that the council adopt a resolution calling for a “permanent ceasefire” in Gaza. 12-year-old Nayla Haradi accused the council of letting Palestinian children die because they refused to hold a ceasefire vote. Speakers like the Jewish resident who identified themselves as Last said that they were not motivated by hate, but sought justice and tikkun olam — Hebrew for “repairing the world.”

Speakers Christina Harp and Erica said that council members had promised at the “pro-genocide” JCRC’s fundraiser that they would not pass such a resolutions. Erica and other speakers suggested that the council was bought by AIPAC and JCRC.

“Are you being physically threatened by someone?” said one woman. “Are you that reliant on funding from those that oppose the human rights of Palestinians?”

A man in a Keffiyeh called out during the meeting “How much money did these assholes give you? Cowards, go chase the money! You money suckers.”

“You are traitors to this country,” said a woman in a brown coat. “You are spies for Israel.”

The council was accused of being a “Zionist stronghold” by a woman in a black shirt and keffiyeh on her head, and a woman identified as Astor called them “all racist Zionists.” A woman named Sheryl, said that the black and minority members of the council were acting traitorously against the interests of minorities, noting that “All skinfolk ain’t kinfolk.”

“Being around Zionists really gets your blood going, and you’re hiding behind Zionists,” said Sheryl. “Zionism is equal to hatred and bigotry, and that’s what you guys are standing for.”

Activists chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” and the black shirted woman called to “End Zionism! End Israel! Free Palestine.”

“Get the f**k out of here you Zionist pig,” one man was recorded saying. “F**k you, Zionist pig.”

Speaker Zeev Newmeyer said on Zoom that the meeting was uncivilized, and that regardless of what they were advocating for, they were behaving like “thugs.”

Don’t come into our city council meeting every week and disrupt it,” said Newmeyer.

A March 19 meeting was also heavily protested, with activists calling for the council to adopt a pro-ceasefire resolution. Dewitt spoke at the meeting, saying that there could not be a ceasefire without the release of hostages, noting that there was a ceasefire before October 7, and that Hamas had vowed to attack in the same manner again. The Holocaust survivor said that Israel had a right to defend itself from an unprovoked attack.

“Occupiers have no right to defense,” said a protester. Activists called out that she was lying when she brought up the tortures and rapes committed by Hamas on October 7.