Palo Alto-based entrepreneur Offir Gutelzon led a massive, five-part protest Monday, Sept. 18, across the Bay Area, to boo Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with Elon Musk, owner of social media platform X (formerly Twitter) because the latter allows antisemitic hate speech to go unchecked on his network, Gutelzon said.
Gutelzon is co-founder of UnXeptable, a grassroots movement launched by a group of Israelis residing in the San Francisco Bay Area, in support of a democratic Israel.
Overall, about 2,000 people, mostly Israeli Americans and Jewish Americans, participated in these Bay Area protests, he said.
The group made stops in San Jose at the San Jose Mineta International Airport and Signia by Hilton hotel; Fremont outside the Tesla factory; and San Francisco's Union Square. The airport leg of the protest had two parts, a "welcome protest" at 5:30 a.m. when Netanyahu landed and a "send off protest" at around 4 p.m. when he left.
Netanyahu is in the United States to speak at the United Nations General Assembly.
“The heart of the cause is to try and save Israeli democracy. There is a judicial overhaul happening in Israel since January and there is a very extreme, right-wing party run by Netanyahu. The reason we were protesting today is – he came for a very short meeting here on his way to the UN week," Gutelzon said in a phone interview with this publication.
"He was basically trying to show 'business as usual' in the Bay Area by meeting Elon Musk. Our goal was to ensure he didn’t land here on an empty field. We wanted to make sure everyone knows he is an indicted prime minister who is in the process of turning Israel from a democracy and startup nation to a messianic dictatorship.”
Protesters also went on boats to Alcatraz, projecting messages like “Welcome Bibi” along with a picture of Netanyahu behind bars. Gutelzon likens Netanyahu to an “indicted potential president we might have in America.”
Gutelzon clarified that the protest is about much more than just the single meeting between Netanyahu and Musk.
"Yes, Elon Musk is being accused of antisemitism and other issues because of his actions against the ADL (anti-defamation league). But it’s not about Elon Musk. It’s not about this specific meeting only. Our protest is to stand in solidarity with protesters in Israel and with Jewish Americans,” he said.
In Israel, over the last seven months, hundreds of thousands of citizens have been protesting the recent judicial overhaul that Netanyahu has put in place.
"About 20% of Israel’s population has taken to the streets. What we need is stability in the country, but Netanyahu is turning Israel into a very unstable place," he added.
Gutelzon was very pleased with the support for Monday's protest.
“We were surprised. It was an amazing turnout,” he said about the participation. “We’ve been holding rallies for several months now; usually we have like a 100 or so, but this was a historic event. Our WhatsApp group was tripled in less than three days.”
Gutelzon plans to go to New York to continue his rallies as Netanyahu prepares to meet President Joe Biden at the UN Assembly.
UnXeptable has about 40 chapters around North America, of which the largest is in New York.
“This is our most innovative protest fighting for democracy," he said.