DILLON L. HOSIER: The real reason WeHo won’t screen Holocaust documentary ‘J’Accuse!’

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At the March 6th West Hollywood City Council meeting, an item was agendized by Councilmember Meister, at our organization’s request. This item would have the City screen a special documentary film to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day, similar to requests made by many organizations to recognize significant occasions.
To be clear, this wasn’t just any Holocaust film.

The documentary film that we requested to screen highlights the emerging issue of “state-sponsored Holocaust denial and distortion,” a phenomenon where governments in Europe today are denying their role in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust and attempting to rewrite this dark chapter in human history. Given West Hollywood’s record as a leader in taking stands and promoting positive change, we felt this would be the perfect venue to highlight this issue to educate and inspire residents to get involved to help combat Holocaust denial.

Unfortunately, we were informed by City staff that the item would be tabled due to objections from certain city council members due to the appearance of Grant Gochin in the documentary. Gochin is an internationally renowned Holocaust education advocate who participated in last year’s combating antisemitism summit in West Hollywood and asked tough questions regarding a candidate’s past policy positions on Jewish issues.

Grant Gochin (left), who appears in the Holocaust documentary “J’Accuse!”. The city was scheduled to screen the film for WeHo residents, but according to Dillon Hosier of ICAN, a member of City Council who faced tough questioning about her views on Israel at a forum last fall got the screening canceled.

After conferring with Councilmember Meister, she wisely suggested we table the item, and we fully agreed with and support this decision. The negative attention sought by those who opposed this specific screening would distract from the important underlying message we are working to promote.

In the end, given the highly corrosive nature of the emerging issue of government-sponsored Holocaust denial and distortion, our organization felt that agreeing to the demands of the opposition and showing another film would actually perpetuate denial and distortion. I alone made the difficult decision to choose another venue rather than choose another film.

Over the past several days, many in the community have unfairly blamed Councilmember Meister for tabling this item.

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We want to set the record straight.

First and foremost, Councilmember Meister has been a good friend to the Israeli-American and Jewish communities in West Hollywood.

Specifically, Councilmember Meister:

  • Sponsored last year’s combating antisemitism summit, which led to the City’s adoption of the antisemitism definition, which Meister also strongly supported,
  • Helped lead a celebration of the second anniversary of the Abraham Accords promoting Middle East peace that took place in West Hollywood last October,
  • Is leading now on issues related to Jewish community safety and security in the City of West Hollywood.

As an organization, we value our relationship with Councilmember Meister. She continues to demonstrate respect and awareness of the Israeli-American and Jewish communities and the range of issues we face. Those issues are serious, and the care and attention she demonstrates are more important to us than the venue where a documentary will be shown.

West Hollywood is important to us. Many might say that West Hollywood is a place where you are free to be who you are and where differences are tolerated. But that’s understating the value of this city. West Hollywood is important because differences are respected and celebrated, not simply tolerated.

And second, in that spirit, we would like to share some specific background as to specifically what happened leading up to the March 6th council meeting:

Last August 2022, we hosted the city’s first-ever combating antisemitism summit following months of elected leaders and commissioners in West Hollywood using dismissive and disrespectful language about Jewish people, perpetuating negative stereotypes about Jewish people, and the spread of intentional disinformation about Israel, thereby marginalizing the city’s Jewish and Israeli immigrant communities. Emotions were high, and during the summit and several people spoke up about a candidate who had refused to publicly address their past positions on issues important to members of West Hollywood’s Jewish community.

After the election and into the new year, we sought to continue raising awareness about the contemporary issues facing the Jewish community. We engaged with Councilmember Meister and asked if she would support screening a documentary about state-sponsored Holocaust distortion and denial, and she generously agreed.

State-sponsored Holocaust denial and distortion is an emerging issue, and while there are many documentaries about the Holocaust generally, there are only two that specifically discuss this contemporary issue, both were just released last year, and both feature two high-profile Holocaust history and education advocates, Grant Gochin and Silvia Foti.

Gochin is the descendant of Holocaust victims, and Foti is the descendant of the Lithuanian military leader who ordered the death of Gochin’s family.

Given their unique histories, both Gochin and Foti are recognized around the world as one of the leading examples of the threat that Holocaust denial and distortion poses: specifically if the wholesale murder of six million Jews can be covered up and that history is rewritten, there is nothing to discourage future dictators and despots from committing another genocide if their crimes against humanity can simply be erased and forgotten.

Given his international stature and global work, we were lucky to have Gochin attend last year’s combating antisemitism summit. As one may imagine, given his personal history, Gochin was particularly concerned about the antisemitic rhetoric surging in West Hollywood, the role some candidates and councilmembers played in perpetuating that antisemitism, and asked tough questions during the event.

Minutes before the March 6th council meeting, city staff informed us that some council members referenced the summit and the perceived “hostile” questions asked of a candidate as the reason for not being supportive of Meister’s item to screen the documentary.

In subsequent conversations regarding the summit, there was a false claim that some extraordinary hostility took place at this public event – a tactic often used during the height of the City Council campaign in West Hollywood to silence critics. To be very clear, Los Angeles County Sheriffs, Los Angeles Police Department officers, and the City’s Block by Block security ambassadors were present for the entirety of the proceedings. There is no report of any activity that would demand the attention of law enforcement. The exchanges during the campaign and specifically during the summit may have been inartful from all involved and at the time I took it upon myself to apologize to some attendees for the environment. Still, despite false claims to the contrary, unfriendly speech does not rise to any level beyond that protected by the First Amendment.

It never occurred to our community that any City official would boycott Gochin, a Jewish member of the LGBTQIA+ community and the descendant of Holocaust victims.

Where no illegality occurred, this incident sets a dangerous precedent by some on the Council: specifically, if they don’t agree with or face criticism from a member of the public, then they will take action to silence those critics. This is a clear example of viewpoint discrimination, an obvious violation of the First Amendment, and their oaths of office.

It is clear that significant work still needs to be done in West Hollywood to raise awareness about the issues facing the Israeli-American Jewish communities.

We will continue that work with tenacity and unwavering dedication.


Dillon L. Hosier
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

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Stephanie Harker
Stephanie Harker
11 months ago

@Dillon L. Hosier- how can someone contact you for further discussion? What is your email?

West
11 months ago

It’s a good idea to showcase films that offer different perspectives— while not necessarily endorsing all of the content. We should seek out and consider views that challenge our own. I’ve supported film screenings in Weho that others have considered controversial, but the trouble with free speech is it goes both ways!

As for the IHRA definition adoption in WeHo, it was met with strong community support AND pushback. Human rights leaders share concerns with the IHRA definition here: https://amp.theguardian.com/news/2020/nov/29/palestinian-rights-and-the-ihra-definition-of-antisemitism

Think for Yourself
Think for Yourself
11 months ago
Reply to  West

Thank you West for attaching this important link. Wehoville could be helpful and informative if they chose to publish this as a main article. People might be encouraged to think more than adopt easily disguised philosophies. The sooner this is discussed the sooner we will have a greater understanding.

Eric
Eric
11 months ago
Reply to  West

I don’t believe it has anything to do with the content of the film, the issue is with Grant Gochin, which is completely unacceptable and falls in lines with the new MO of CC, to silence those who speak out against SEB. The push back you speak of, and that which I saw, is ignorance and utter stupidity, especially because most/all of this pushback was from LGBTQ+ who wouldn’t stand a chance of survival in a land that does not tolerate LGTBQ+. Speaking out for the very same people that would have you on a chopping board doesn’t make much… Read more »

Pushyjew
Pushyjew
11 months ago

The City Council needs to take a public vote so we know who exactly is blocking an educational film about the Holocaust. Additionally, the comments here about Sepi Shyne reek of anti-muslim/Arab sentiment. Sepi went to Isreal last year and voted in favor of adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism. Chelsea on the other hand was given multiple opportunities to clarify her antisemitic past and never did. She is not only clearly showing her antizionist beliefs but only proving that antizionism and antisemitism are often one in the same.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
11 months ago

My first reading of WEHOville’s reporting on this matter convinced me immediately that something about this cancellation did not pass the smell test. In reality it is a stench that permeates the actions of some on council who haven’t risen to the intellectual heft demanded of robust public service. They play the parlor game of incestuous cabal politics in this provincial town where personal relationships trump sound municipal governance. Sadly, we have too many who succumb to the threats and bullying and fear speaking out to avoid retribution and reprisal. We have seen it far too many times in recent… Read more »

Jake Lee
Jake Lee
11 months ago

If you needed more proof that anti-Israel/anti-Zionism sentiment is synonymous with pure unadulterated antisemitism, here you go.

censorship
censorship
11 months ago

The screening would have been approved if John Duran been elected and had a vote. Anti-Jewish activist Chelsea Byers definitely had a hand in this.

The council shoves all kinds of quasi-objectionable material in our faces, yet they block an honest discussion about the Holocaust–a topic that is very much of interest to the large Jewish community in West Hollywood.

This reeks of censorship and an attempt to promote views that are contrary to the welfare of the Jewish people–and all people, for that matter.

voter
voter
11 months ago

I want to know the names of the Council Members who object to this film. Stop prancing around and name names!!

Enough!
Enough!
11 months ago
Reply to  voter

Yes! We want to know who!!

Eastside Straight Girl
Eastside Straight Girl
11 months ago
Reply to  voter

Like I said before…..had Lauren Meister allowed the city council to vote, we would know who voted for it & who did not but she was asked to table it. Maybe it will come up again but it’s pretty apparent that we do have anti-semitism at least with CB with her background history on the city council.I thought I would never see that in the 20 years living here!

Scott Sigman
Scott Sigman
11 months ago

Play the movie. Or play at a theather and we pay. Kids and adults need to learn what really happened. So many deniers. I went to public school in Valley. We watched the movies at school. Did book reports and then would see even harsher films at religious school. The schools were 90% Jewish in elementary and middle and high school. We learned about other genocides crusades to current day Cambodia at the time. No holding back

Clean Sweep
Clean Sweep
11 months ago

While we are at it with the RECALL FOR SEPI SHYNE, why don’t we include her compatriot Chelsea Byers?

Joshua88
Joshua88
11 months ago
Reply to  Clean Sweep

Ridiculous.
On what grounds?

Being against Israels policies, many of which are horrendous, is not antisemitic.

Clean Sweep
Clean Sweep
11 months ago
Reply to  Joshua88

That was a sarcastic remark.🙄

Eastside Straight Girl
Eastside Straight Girl
11 months ago

Well, OK for setting the record straight, however we are still living in a city full of jewish people, straight people, besides all of the other genders,(look up the demographics). We are a mixed bag here but you sure would not know it by (appointed by Sepi) the Jackie Steel Show at the last Public Safety Commission meeting that goes on & on showing the continual train wreck of extreme “identity politics!” When I moved here from Atlantic City 20 years ago, I loved the all encompassing acceptance of everybody but it is NOT like that now. Today, everybody seems… Read more »

Desperate Gibberish
Desperate Gibberish
11 months ago

A lot of this nonsense we see on the city council and from commissioners is stuff that came out of the pandemic when people had nothing better to do or think about. Their minds started making things up like “LatinX”, “re-imagining” and “lens of intersectionality” (whatever the heck that means)

Joseph Balogna
Joseph Balogna
11 months ago

Exactly! Lets not forget the “unhoused.” Lots of delusions and virtue signaling.

Woke Up
Woke Up
11 months ago

Please include Ericsson when it comes to antisemitism. He’s part of the trio. It was the SHE. Now it’s the anti-Semitic BS+E. Byers, Shyne and Erickson. The big plus with this trio is the fact that social media and legacy Media have so much to play with. Exposing these political hacks. Ruining any future career in politics. Starting first with Shyne! Next is Byers. Then Erickson unless he disassociates himself completely with these two anti-Semitic women. That’s the pitch!

Eastside Straight Girl
Eastside Straight Girl
11 months ago
Reply to  Woke Up

Good pitch!

voter
voter
11 months ago
Reply to  Woke Up

Thank you, I agree. Erickson has been getting a pass on this for some reason. Shame on him for this and so many other things.

Eric
Eric
11 months ago
Reply to  voter

Make no mistake, Erickson is steering the ship when it comes to Byers and undoubtedly initiated pulling this, you can bet your bottom dollar on this.

hifi5000
hifi5000
11 months ago

Sorry to read about this controversy concerning the screening of the film,”J’Accuse!” Antisemitism is on the rise in our country and that includes West Hollywood.

West Hollywood residents need to be more cautious selecting their city council-members.Too bad councilperson Byers can’t face the truth about her beliefs.

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