UPDATE: Marshall Wittmann of AIPAC has denied that his organization was the sponsor of the trip. WEHOville has reached out to the councilmembers for clarification and awaits their reply.
UPDATE 8/21 WEHOville has confirmed that Chelsea Byers accompanied Sepi Shyne on the trip. The secrecy behind their trip remains a puzzle.
UPDATE:8/20 FROM SEPI SHYNES INSTAGRAM: Just wanted to share that last wee, I had the chance to go to Israel as part of a delegation of elected officials from all over California, tans to @projectinterchange. The trip was eye opening to say the least. We got to experience Israel, Arab, and Palestinian life, culture and politics first hand. From Tel Aviv to Haifa, teh Lebanon-Israel border to Jerusalem and Ramallah, we covered a lot of ground. Meeting experts, elected officials, and folks from various industries gave us a diverse perspective on things.
You know, it’s always crucial to see things from your own vantage point rather than relying solely on others’ opinions. The situation in Israel is seriously complex. What’s happening there is soemthing we need to pay attention to, especially because it’s about more than just one country’s fate. The risk of Israel losing its democracy is concerning, and we need to take it seriously because the same can happen to us.
Council member Byers still has not returned any calls for comment.
WEHOville stands corrected about who paid for Shyne’s trip, but the all expense trip was paid for by project interchange. In addition Shyne was secretive until WEHOville exposed her trip and it took over a week for the elected official to confirm her trip abrroad.
Mayor Sepi Shyne and Council member Chelsea Byers arrived back from an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel courtesy of AIPAC. AIPAC is the largest pro-Israel advocacy organization in the United States. From the AIPAC website: We supported 365 pro-Israel Democratic and Republican candidates in 2022 with more than $17 million in direct support through AIPAC.
The two traveled together quietly under the radar. There are no photos of the trip on either social media account. Texts to and from public officials confirm a lack of transparency about their trip. Texts from one city council member confirmed both will be in attendance for Monday’s Public Safety Meeting.
Byers and Shyne have both been accused of anti-Semitism. Byers has a long and comprehensive history of supporting extremist anti-Semitic and anti-Israel positions, including as a founding member of Students for Justice in Palestine or SJP. Byer’s leadership at SJP came at a time when the organization took an active role in denying the indigenous Jewish connection to the land of Israel and strengthened ties to international terrorist organizations like Hamas and other violent movements. During the 2022 election, ICAN, the Israel Civic Action Network, opposed Byers. Shyne is running for Congress to replace Congressman Adam Schiff and needed to burnish her credentials within the Jewish Community.
Shyne, along with Byers and Mayor Pro Tem Erickson, worked behind the scenes to stop the screening of J’Accuse, a Holocaust education documentary featuring a Jewish LGBT civil rights activist and former West Hollywood resident. The item, brought forward by the only city council member of Jewish descent, Lauren Meister, was rejected by the trio. ICAN was forced to pull the movie.
Mayor Shyne has appointed only one current Jewish board member or Commissioner out of seventeen appointments, fewer than any other Council member. Shyne has repeatedly attacked members of the Jewish Community in West Hollywood, including Mikie Friedman, who was forced to resign from the Disability Advisory Board, and Keith Kaplan, a former Chair of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Kaplan filed a grievance with the Los Angeles County Public Integrity Division. Shyne also attacked the only Jewish member of the City Council, Lauren Meister, and called for the resignation of her Planning Commissioner over a comment about Persian weddings.
The trip, during a time of crisis in Israel would appear to support the hard line Netanyahu government and resembles luxury trips taken by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, which progressive Democrats call inappropriate.