I'm usually against the naming of streets, corners and freeways in Los Angeles after people, living or dead. There's way too much of it, for the flimsiest of reasons, by politicians who just want to win a few points with this or that group. Once in a while, it's actually legit. For me, this may be one of those times.
Rob Eshman, the former editor and publisher of the Jewish Journal, has an idea to create Jamal Khashoggi Square and put the name on official signs at the intersection of Sawtelle Boulevard and Mississippi Street. Khashoggi is the Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist who was brutally murdered by a team of official assassins inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul.
What does Khashoggi have to do with a street corner in Sawtelle Japantown best known for the crowds that line up pretty much all day outside Tsujita LA Artisan Noodles? Nothing at all. But the building just to the north of Tsujita has plenty to do with the slain journalist.
The plain, fortified structure at 2045 Sawtelle is the Royal Consulate of Saudi Arabia for Los Angeles. There is no big sign announcing the Saudi presence right on the Westside's most popular Japanese retail block. Most days, the only evidence that anything at all goes on inside is the plainclothes guard standing watch on the sidewalk.
The Saudis have changed their official story on what happened to Khashoggi a half-dozen times since the first lie that he had left the consulate in Turkey unharmed just hours after entering. It's clear now that the journalist was butchered by a squad sent to Istanbul for that purpose, and that we know about it largely because journalists were able to find out and report what really happened (thanks in a big way to disclosures by the government of Turkey, and no thanks to President Trump.)
Eshman has started a Change.org petition to get City Hall to dedicate Khashoggi Square on Sawtelle. The petition is directed to Mayor Eric Garcetti and Mike Bonin, the city councilman for the area.
"The brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of the Saudi regime must never be forgotten," the page begins.
"As Angelenos who hold dear the values of free speech, a free press, the rule of law and civil discourse, we call upon Mayor Eric Garcetti and civic representatives to designate the street corner beside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Los Angeles, 'Jamal Khashoggi Square.'
"An official sign will mark the memory of the brave journalist who died in the cause of truth and freedom. This square will be a lesson to despots here and abroad that the voices of conscience can never be exterminated, or ignored."
Eshman believes that the Saudi consulate on Sawtelle basically hides in plain sight, and I think he has a point that forever identifying the Los Angeles consulate with the murder of a regime critic may help in some way to keep this anti-press outrage, like so many others, from fading out of memory.
Eshman is having a productive week. In an LA Times op-ed piece over the weekend, about the murders of Jewish worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, he made the point that the killer was apparently motivated by that oldest form of hate -- anti-Semitism -- and fed in his indefensible racism by the cynical lies being told by President Trump and his surrogates about the migrant caravan that is located deep in Mexico, far from any U.S. border.
"Anti-Semitism, which is ancient, always appears dressed in the latest fashions," Eshman wrote. "During the Spanish Inquisition, Jew haters latched onto the idea that Jews and Muslims were subverting the true faith. During the Russian pogroms, the haters decreed that Jews were dangerous socialists. During Josef Stalin’s purges, Jews were targeted as unrepentant capitalists. After World War I, when Germans searched for the reason for their defeat, Adolf Hitler provided one: the Jews.... Although the problem the Jews are accused of causing changes with the times, the solution stays remarkably constant: kill them."
In the case of the Pittsburgh terrorist, the early facts seem to point to his fear of Mexicans and Central Americans seeking refuge in the United States. It’s not impossible to figure out what stoked that fear. President Trump and right-leaning news outlets have zeroed in on the march of asylum seekers from Honduras and El Salvador as if it were taking place on the Washington Mall rather than 1,000 miles away.
Trump is sending armed troops to “protect” our borders from these 7,000 or so souls, who are approaching at the blitzkrieg pace of 2 mph. You’d think the destitute asylum-seekers were Santa Anna’s army, and America the Alamo.
The Pittsburgh terrorist was a Jew hater in search of a reason. I, for one, am very proud of the reason some Jews gave him.
If adding a street sign on Sawtelle helps remind people that repressive regimes and anti-Semitism are all around us, I'm for that.