Photo Credit: Manny’s Café's Facebook cover photo
Manny’s Café

Manny Yekutiel, owner of Manny’s Café in San Francisco’s Mission District, has been targeted by a radical leftist group calling to boycott his café because he is a “Zionist gentrifier,” Gay Star News reported on Sunday.

Yekutiel, the gay son of a Jewish Afghan refugee, who says he is a religious Jew, opened his space in November 2016, and attracted cultural and intellectual activities with speakers supporting many social justice causes, including Black Lives Matter.

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“I’m a religious Jew and proud of it,” he wrote in a Jan. 1 op-d in the San Francisco Chronicle. “My father escaped persecution in Afghanistan and journeyed, partly on foot, to Israel to reunite with family who had previously escaped oppression and found safety there. My little sister was almost blown up by a suicide bomber at a bus stop in Jerusalem.”

That love of Israel and the US was too much for a group calling itself The Lucy Parsons Project, which describe itself as a “radical black queer direct action group fighting anti-blackness in the Bay Area.” They sent a letter to the media stating that “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!’’

We looked it up: woke washing describes businesses that use social justice as a marketing strategy.

The Lucy Parsons Project meets every Wednesday since December to condemn Yekutiel as a “Zionist gentrifier.” The group’s signs include slogans like “Zionists out of the Mission,” “Free Palestine,” and “Manny’s = homelessness.”

Yekutiel explained his predicament: “Megaphones have been placed in the hands of trolls, bigots and at the fringes of public discourse, weaponizing their hate and disrupting our democracy with surprising efficacy.”

He related that after Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016, he “gathered a community to build a physical civic events space called Manny’s at the corner of 16th and Valencia streets in San Francisco. […] Since then, the response to Manny’s has been overwhelming, with civic programming almost every night, and the space booked solid.”

“The kitchen is staffed with formerly homeless individuals and run by the nonprofit Farming Hope,” he added. “We’ve already given free or low-cost space to more than 25 nonprofits such as Mission Graduates, Indivisible, Citizen’s Climate Lobby and the Instituto Familiar de la Raza, who need to spend their money on programs, not expensive rental fees. Our coffee is $1.75 and you can have a healthy square meal for $6.”

Since then, Yekutiel wrote, “the far-right has attacked the business and me when they’ve disapproved of a guest speaker. The alt-left has pushed vitriolic lies and hatred on social media. Claims such as the space is a Zionist takeover of the Mission have 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,” he wrote.

It’s not easy being a pro-Israel, religious Jewish, gay, socially conscious café owner in the Mission district…

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