May 20, 2019

LA Mayor’s Office: Downtown Mural ‘Shameful Act of Anti-Semitism’

Screenshot from Facebook.

A mural in downtown Los Angeles is a “shameful act of anti-Semitism,” according to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office.

The Journal’s Ryan Torok previously reported, that the mural on Vortex, the multi-use community center, depicts a grim reaper adorned in an American flag with Jewish Stars of David holding a dead baby and cradling a missile.

The image went viral on social media on Feb. 25.

Hey The Vortex, Is this a real thing on your building? If yes, why? It's wildly anti-Semitic. If not, you should probably clear up the confusion. Signed, Some confused and concerned community members

Posted by Progressive Zionists of the California Democratic Party on Monday, February 25, 2019

In a statement to the Journal, Alex Comisar, the press secretary for Garcetti’s office, said, “This mural is a shameful act of anti-Semitism. Imagery like this should have no place in our city.”

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL)’s Los Angeles chapter called for the mural to be taken down. “For a venue that purports to welcome the community, the Vortex should join us in condemning hateful imagery that invokes anti-Semitic canards conflating Jews with death, snakes, bombs and killing babies,” ADL LA tweeted.

Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal the mural is “straight out of Der Sturmer,” (the anti-Semitic tabloid that published Nazi propaganda from the 1920s to the end of World War II).

“It depicts Israel as a devil taking in a vortex of babies, obviously meaning attacking innocents,” Cooper said.  “You think about what the message is, it’s real simple: if Zionists, Israel, are the devil, and they’re killing innocent babies and spreading war and terror, what do you against such people? You take them out.”

Cooper called for the mural to be taken down. “How dare [the Vortex] allow this kind of activity on a public street in the city that’s home to the second largest Jewish community in the world?” Cooper said. “It’s an absolute outrage.”

Roz Rothstein, CEO and co-founder of StandWithUs, said in a statement, “There must be no place for imagery promoting blood libels and racist conspiracy theories about Jews or any other group for that matter.”

Jeff Norman, a representative for The Vortex, told Torok in an email that the mural was painted as part of the “the LA vs. WAR show to acknowledge 9/11 about 5-6 years ago.” Norman added that the mural was an example of “free expression” and the artist “did not intend to express an anti-Semitic message.”

“We believe his intent deserves considerable weight. We invite those who feel otherwise to paint another mural next to it,” Norman said. “We are also open to hosting a public discussion about this controversy at The Vortex.”

Cooper said in a statement, “Spare us the artistic freedom mantra – Vortex would never allow the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) or Nazis access to their facility.”

A Los Angeles artist known as Vyal Reyes appeared to take credit for the mural on his Instagram account in January 2018, when he wrote, “Same as it ever was….. #tbt A piece influenced by my trip to Palestine some years back, still running … #tbt#whocontrolsamerica #peopleoverprofit”

Screenshot from Instagram.

He also set the mural as his Facebook profile picture in July 2014:

Screenshot from Facebook.

Reyes told the Journal in an email that he isn’t anti-Semitic and that he intended the mural to be “critical of the US and it’s increasing focus on war.”

“That particular neighborhood that the mural was painted in was in worse shape at the time and homeless people lived all around there,” Reyes said. “It seemed to me at the time that the US was more into funding war than helping its homeless…. yes even at that time the US was funding massive amounts of money to Israel as they still are. That’s not anti-Semitic that’s just a fact.”

Reyes added, “It’s unfortunate that I can’t see through everyone’s eyes and some were offended by the piece.”

UPDATE: City Councilman Paul Koretz said in a statement to the Journal, “I strongly condemn the despicable anti-Semitic mural located at The Vortex.  Its symbolism clearly promotes hate and could be intended to incite violence.  Such artwork promoting clear hate and racism belongs in the same category as hate speech and has no place in the City of Los Angeles. If there is any way to have this abomination removed, I will work to see that done as soon as possible.”