The image projected on the walls of the Alcatraz prison, Sept. 17, 2023. (Photo/Haaretz-Courtesy UnXeptable
The image projected on the walls of the Alcatraz prison, Sept. 17, 2023. (Photo/Haaretz-Courtesy UnXeptable

‘Welcome to Alcatraz, Bibi’: projected image of Netanyahu behind bars greets PM in Bay Area

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A version of this article originally appeared on HaaretzSign up here to get Haaretz’s free Daily Brief newsletter delivered to your inbox.

J. News Editor Gabe Stutman is following the protests against Netanyahu around the Bay Area today. Keep checking for more updates, and follow Gabe as he goes on Twitter @JNewsGabe.

Ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s arrival in California on Monday, pro-democracy protesters projected an image of the prime minister behind bars on the walls of Alcatraz, the famous island prison.

“Welcome to Alcatraz, Bibi,” reads the image, which also shows Netanyahu in an orange prison uniform. The image was prepared by UnXeptable, an Israeli expat-led grassroots organization that initially formed in the Bay Area but has since expanded across the country and to cities outside the U.S.

The image projected on the Alcatraz prison in California, on Sunday. (Photo/Haaretz-Courtesy UnXeptable)
The image projected on the Alcatraz prison in California, on Sunday. (Photo/Haaretz-Courtesy UnXeptable)

High-tech entrepreneur Offir Gutelzon told Haaretz over the weekend that the Silicon Valley activists are planning “surprises” during Netanyahu’s brief visit, and promised an “interesting time.” The Israeli protests in Northern California have recently received significant backing from the local Jewish community.

Following Netanyahu’s departure to the U.S., Israel’s protest movement said: “While the home front is burning, Netanyahu is on his way to a visit in the U.S. Ahead of the arrival of the indicted one and his entourage in San Jose, activists from the global UnXeptable movement arranged an unforgettable welcome to remind the world who this is: a prime minister who is striving to turn Israel into a dictatorship. In a complex nighttime operation, the demonstrators projected ‘Welcome Bibi’ on the Alcatraz prison, one of the iconic symbols of the city.”

Netanyahu left Israel on Sunday night for a week-long trip, stopping first in San Francisco, where he will reportedly meet with Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of X (formerly Twitter), who has been accused of amplifying antisemitism on the social media platform.

The Prime Minister will then travel to New York where he will address the UN General Assembly and meet with a number of world leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden.

In anticipation for his visit, pro-democracy activists projected giant protest slogans onto U.N. Headquarters last weekend that read: “Don’t Believe Crime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu” and “Protect Israeli Democracy.”

In a statement, leaders of the New York protests warned that this was “just a small taste of what awaits the indicted defendant Netanyahu on his visit to NYC.”

The city will become the focal point of the protest movement throughout the week, with Nobel Prize laureate Daniel Kahneman and two prominent New York rabbis — Angela Buchdahl and Elliot Cosgrove — leading the protests next Friday outside the United Nations while Netanyahu delivers his speech.

Next Friday’s protest is expected to be the biggest outside Israel since Israel’s new government — the most religious and right-wing in history — took power and announced its plans to eviscerate the judiciary.

A version of this article first appeared on Haaretz and is reprinted with permission.

Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon

Amir Tibon is diplomatic correspondent for Haaretz. Follow him on Twitter.