This is a developing story.
(JTA) — A Jewish man has died after a pro-Palestinian protester struck him in the head with a megaphone on Sunday, according to the local Jewish federation.
The altercation occurred at a pro-Palestinian protest on Sunday in Westlake Village in the Los Angeles area. According to a statement by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the man was struck in the head with a megaphone held by one of the protesters and died of his wounds on Monday. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency has confirmed that the man’s name is Paul Kessler. A Jewish security official confirmed the account of how he died.
A brief video circulating on social media shows an elderly man in a blue-and-white striped shirt and jeans lying on a sidewalk and clutching his head in a pool of blood. A woman wearing pro-Palestinian symbols crouches down to tend to him, as does another man. An Israeli flag is leaning against a nearby wall.
JTA calls to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office and Misaskim, a local group that assists with Jewish burial, were not immediately returned. The federation said in its statement that it is awaiting more information from law enforcement.
“We are devastated to learn of the tragic death of an elderly Jewish man who was struck in the head by a megaphone wielded by a pro-Palestinian protestor in Westlake Village,” the federation statement says. “Our hearts are with the family of the victim.”
The man’s death occurred a month into a war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, which began after the terror group invaded Israel on Oct. 7, killing and wounding thousands. Mass pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrations have occurred nationwide and globally, and officials have warned of rising antisemitism and islamophobia in the weeks since Oct. 7. While other physical altercations and assaults have taken place surrounding protests or the hanging of posters, this is the first death reported due to a protest connected to the war.
The federation’s statement also referenced previous antisemitic incidents in the area this year, including the arrest of a man in February who shot two men outside their synagogues. On Oct. 26, a man was arrested after breaking into a Jewish family’s home and saying he wanted to kill Jews. The suspect in that case did not injure anyone.
“We remind you that this is the fourth major antisemitic crime committed in Los Angeles this year alone,” the statement said. “Violence against our people has no place in civilized society. We demand safety. We will not tolerate violence against our community. We will do everything in our power to prevent it.”
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Canadians whose families are still captive in Gaza watch with hope as the first group of hostages is released
Canadians whose loved ones are still being held captive by Hamas in Gaza after the Oct. 7 attack watched the release of the first group of hostages on Nov. 24 with hope, even though their own family members weren’t among the initial group. The first group of hostages included 13 Israeli women and children, along […]
‘Your Move’: Anti-Israel Harvard University Students Issue Demands to School President, Give Monday Deadline
Dozens of anti-Israel student groups at Harvard University, along with several allied campus groups across the US, have issued a set of demands to Harvard President Claudine Gay and given her until Monday to respond, adding further to fuel what’s become an explosive situation at one of the world’s most elite universities over the Israel-Hamas war.
Earlier this week, students protested on campus and issued the list of demands, which included the reinstatement of a student proctor who last month participated in mobbing a Jewish student and screaming “Shame!” into his ears.
According to The Harvard Crimson, the campus newspaper, the university had suspended indefinitely Elom Tettey-Tamaklo, a second year student at the Harvard Divinity School, from his role as a proctor over his involvement in the incident, video of which went viral earlier this month. Tettey-Tamaklo reportedly has been ordered to vacate free housing he received as compensation for holding the position, which gives graduates the opportunity to mentor freshmen.
The students also demanded that Gay commit to pursue no disciplinary or punitive actions against “pro-Palestinian students and workers engaging in non-violent protest.” The letter came as, according to The Harvard Crimson, eight undergraduates students had been summoned to hearings as part of disciplinary proceedings against students who last week occupied University Hall on campus for 24-hours.
The third demand in the letter to Gay was for Harvard to “disclose [its] investments in the internationally recognized illegal settlements in Palestine and divest from those holdings” — an apparent nod to the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. The BDS campaign seeks to isolate Israel from the international community as a step toward the Jewish state’s eventual elimination.
“Harvard University continues to attempt to silence the voices of those who refuse to watch idly by as crimes against humanity are committed against the Palestinian people,” said the letter containing the demands. “The university continually wants to ‘affirm their commitment to protecting all members of our community from harassment and marginalization.’ However, they are currently attempting to fire a Black first year proctor, Elom, for standing on the side of justice.”
The letter additionally chastised Gay for earlier this month condemning the popular chant “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” — a slogan that has been widely interpreted as a call for the destruction of Israel, which is located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
“We request a response by the end of Thanksgiving break on Monday, November 27th,” the letter concluded. “The whole of Boston and the broader movement is behind us — your move.”
During last week’s occupation at University Hall, Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana told the students, who were members of Harvard Jews for Palestine, to leave the building. The students demanded in exchange guarantees that they would not be punished, written responses to their demands for a ceasefire in Gaza, a statement declaring that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism, and a meeting between the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) and Gay. Khurana refused to accede to their demands.
The incident followed weeks of Harvard receiving criticism for hesitating to condemn a letter that PSC and 31 other student groups signed blaming Israel for Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israeli communities. Hamas terrorists murdered over 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped more than 240 others as hostages.
Harvard’s response angered major donors to the university, some of whom said they were considering or outright ended their relationships with the school.
Jewish alumni spoke out as well. Earlier this month, more than 1,200 Jewish alumni of Harvard signed a letter to the university’s president and dean demanding action to combat rising antisemitism on campus. The graduates formed the first Jewish alumni association in the history of Harvard.
Gay, who was appointed as Harvard’s first Black president last December, has since announced the formation of an Antisemitism Advisory Group.
The group, she explained, plans to implement several reforms, including a historical examination of the roots of antisemitism at Harvard, educational programming highlighting the antisemitic origins of anti-Israel rhetoric, raising awareness of anonymous reporting of antisemitic incidents, forging relationships with external groups, and for the first time ever incorporating Holocaust Remembrance Day and Jewish American Heritage Month into the school’s calendar.
“Harvard was founded to advance human dignity through education,” Gay said. “We inherited a faith in reason to overcome ignorance, in truth to surmount hate. Antisemitism is destructive to our mission. We will not solve every disagreement, bridge every divide, heal every wound. But if we shrink from this struggle, we betray our ideals.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.
Ahead of historic UK rally against antisemitism, BBC journalists complain that they are barred from marching
(JTA) — Ahead of what could be the largest British gathering against antisemitism in nearly 90 years, Jewish journalists at the BBC say the corporation’s rules prohibit them from marching this weekend.
Multiple journalists at the BBC who sought permission to march in the London demonstration organized by the Campaign Against Antisemitism on Sunday told the British press they were referred to the company’s “impartiality rules.”
According to those rules, editorial, current affairs and some other staff “should not participate in public demonstrations or gatherings about controversial issues.”
Jewish journalists who pressed back have argued that protesting against discrimination should not be considered a political or controversial issue. They told their supervisors that “racism is racism,” the Telegraph reported, and that if the BBC disapproves of racism, its employees should be allowed to demonstrate against it.
“The BBC is clear that anti-Semitism is abhorrent,” a BBC spokesman said in a statement. “We have established guidance around marches, which explains that different considerations apply depending on what you do for the BBC.”
“Corporately, we have not issued any staff communication on any specific march this weekend, but this does not mean discussions which consider the guidance have not taken place between colleagues,” the spokesman added.
Sunday’s demonstration is expected to bring crowds of about 40,000, including a significant presence of non-Jews.
“We have witnessed mass criminality, including glorification of terrorism, support for banned terrorist organizations such as Hamas, and incitement to racial or religious hatred against Jews,” Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, told the Jewish Chronicle. “The sad truth is that Jews do not feel safe in our capital city.”
The march is being billed as the biggest demonstration of British Jews since the 1936 Battle of Cable Street, during which anti-fascist Jews united with neighbors in the East End to block the entrance of the British Union of Fascists. Approximately a quarter-million people — a mix of Jews, Irish dock workers, the local working-class and communists — gathered to prevent the fascists’ government-sanctioned march through a Jewish neighborhood in London.
Like other countries across Europe, Britain has seen a sharp spike in antisemitic incidents since the Israel-Hamas war started on Oct. 7. Some incidents have taken place at pro-Palestinian protests worldwide, at which rally-goers have chanted antisemitic phrases.
Some British Jews have also taken issue with the BBC’s policy of calling Hamas a “militant” group instead of a terrorist group. Thousands protested outside of BBC headquarters in London on Oct. 16.