Suit filed after camera shop rejects Jewish Zionist terrorist photos

Are Mitch Cutler’s relatives “Jewish Zionist terrorists”? If so, it’s news to him. But not to the guy at the local photo store.

Cutler says he doesn’t even know his relatives’ names. Yet according to the proprietor of a Los Gatos camera shop, Cutler boasted of his family’s “Jewish Zionist terrorist” roots, which led to a refusal to work on a pile of sepia-toned family snapshots.

“Mr. Cutler came in showing about seven or eight photos to my sales manager and he was boasting that some of them were family members and others were members of unknown groups who were terrorists in Israel, committed acts of terror and had to flee to France,” claimed David Muston, owner of Los Gatos Camera.

“I am very politically minded and very anti-terror, whether it’s committed by Islamic groups, CIA-co-opted black guys or Zionists. I have no interest in doing up any terror groups so he can hang [the pictures] on the wall and honor terrorists.”

Among the photos, mustachioed men drink coffee at a well-set table or recline in overstuffed chairs while reading books. Culter’s family photos were taken sometime in the early 20th century in Belarus and pre-state Israel. He says he has absolutely no idea how Muston got the idea that these are terrorists who fled to France, given that many were slaughtered by Cossacks or Nazis before they could even flee the former Soviet Union.

And while Cutler says Muston’s story is laughable, he’s not laughing.

On Tuesday, Sept. 20, he filed a lawsuit in Santa Clara County Superior Court claiming under the state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act that Muston refused to serve him because of his family’s Israeli Jewish background.

“To claim I said these people were terrorists is the ultimate in reverse mean-spiritedness, because some of them never even made it out of Russia,” said Cutler, 43, a Saratoga restaurateur.

Cutler’s lawyer, Allan Nudelman, said it was preposterous to assert that his client walked into a photo shop and boasted that his family members were bloodthirsty terrorists. “When was the last time you referred to your beloved kin as ‘Jewish Zionist terrorists’?”

When asked if Muston’s claim was a stretch, Nudelman shot back that “you could get a hernia on that stretch.”

Muston, meanwhile, noted that he’s “been in the retail business for years, and the things that come out of people’s mouths when they’re talking about family pictures, it never ceases to amaze me.”

He added, “Mr. Cutler will deeply and profoundly regret defaming me and my store.”

Describing himself as “a liberal with a capital ‘L’,” Muston said he was a lifelong “fanatical anti-bigot.”

Cutler, a naturalized Canadian American dual citizen, said he was shocked to be discriminated against so blatantly in Northern California in the present day.

“This is not the kind of thing that is tolerated in America. One of the reasons I’ve stayed here is the personal freedom in this country is so much greater than anywhere I’ve ever been, even Canada,” he said.

Nudelman said his client is seeking statutory damages of not less than $4,000 in addition to possible general and punitive damages. He will also seek an injunction preventing such an incident from ever occurring again under penalty of law.

Cutler, who said he’ll donate any money that comes his way to charity, also expressed a hope that Muston will be mandated to attend an ethics class — “and pass it.”

Muston, for his part, was unrepentant.

“Three times I explained to him this has absolutely nothing with him being Jewish,” he said.

“I don’t tolerate any intolerance or bigotry.”

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.