A San Francisco prosecutor’s email calling Arabs “hate mongers” who should leave Israel and “go back to their homeland” has been condemned by the district attorney, who has opened an inquiry into the matter.
Prosecutor Michael Menesini, who was the former mayor of Martinez, sent two emails from his work account to the left-wing publication CounterPunch earlier this year in what appears to be a reaction to several articles about the war in Gaza.
Although Menesini is not involved, the San Francisco DA is currently prosecuting 80 pro-Palestinian protesters who blocked the Bay Bridge on Nov. 16. An activist group said the email undermines their trust in the office to fairly prosecute protesters who blocked the bridge.
The correspondence, which was sent in January and February, appears to be the latest salvo in a virulent debate gripping the Bay Area and much of the nation since the war in Gaza began with a Hamas attack on Israel in October and has had severe legal and professional consequences.
Now part of that debate, Menesini’s emails both characterized the magazine’s critique of Israel’s actions in Gaza as antisemitic and attacked Arabs.
“You are so virulently antisemitic that all of what you publish has no credibility,” Menesini emailed CounterPunch on Jan. 31.
The email was in response to the publication's daily email blast, which led with a headline about South Africa’s International Criminal Court case alleging Israel committed genocide in Gaza.
Menesini then sent another email on Feb. 5, replying to another emailed newsletter titled “Are Palestinians the New Jews?” That story by Evan Jones compared Israel’s war in Gaza to the Holocaust.
“Brutal Arab invaders need to be sent back to their native homelands and out of Israel and Judea where they can freely engage in their hate fests along with other anti-Jewish hate mongers, the Nazis, fascists and…Ask the Berbers of North Africa about their experience with oppressive Arab invaders,” Menesini wrote.
Berbers are the Indigenous people of North Africa, whose lands were invaded by Muslim Arab armies in the 8th Century.
CounterPunch managing editor Joshua Frank posted both emails on Twitter on Feb. 7. The tweet has received nearly 18,000 impressions since.
"Obviously he was offended by something that we published,” Frank said, adding that calling someone antisemitic because they critique Israel is an unfair and old tool to silence dissent.
“I find it insulting,” Frank said. “I find it appalling—those opinions in general—and I find it extraordinarily problematic given the fact that he sent those from his work email.”
Menesini’s employer, the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, has condemned his actions and said the matter is being reviewed.
“Mr. Menesini’s communications regarding his personal views with Counterpunch do not reflect the views of the District Attorney or the District Attorney’s Office,” the agency spokesperson Randy Quezada said in a statement.
The matter is being reviewed in “accordance with the Department and City policies regarding the use of City resources.”
Lara Kiswani, with the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, said such anti-Arab statements by a prosecutor cast doubt on whether pro-Palestinian protesters will be treated fairly by the San Francisco DA.
"It calls into question how the direct bias is being used against the 78 peace activists," Kiswani said. The email is one more example of an office that has "exhibited anti-Palestinian sentiment and vitriol."
In October, DA Brooke Jenkins herself got into hot water when she tweeted that a pro-Palestinian march in San Francisco was pro-Hamas. "This weekend a pro-Hamas rally was held downtown, where 'Death 2 Israel,' amongst other hateful rhetoric, was graffitied across a building," Jenkins wrote. She later removed the tweet.
Menesini did not respond to a request for comment about his emails to CounterPunch.