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Ventura County DA: Paul Kessler death does not ‘meet the elements of a hate crime,’ though investigation is ongoing

(JTA) — After a suspect was arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter and battery in the death of a pro-Israel protester near Los Angeles earlier this month, Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko said that his office has “not ruled out a hate crime” in the case.

But he added that at present, based on what the police know, the death does not appear to be a hate crime.

“Simply put, looking at the statements as well as the words that accompany this act, we cannot at this time meet the elements of a hate crime,” he said at a Friday morning press conference. “But nevertheless, we will continue to explore and investigate that offense as well as that special allegation.”

Kessler’s death has received widespread attention as it has come during Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza as well as during a reported spike in antisemitism in the United States following the outbreak of the war. A number of prominent pro-Israel activists have claimed that his death was motivated by antisemitism.

Loay Abdelfattah Alnaji, 50, of Moorpark, California, was arrested Thursday morning in the case and charged with two felony counts — involuntary manslaughter and battery causing serious bodily injury. His bail was set for $1 million, and he will be arraigned Friday afternoon. The charge of involuntary manslaughter implies that there was no proven intent to murder, Nasarenko said.

But Nasarenko said each count was accompanied by the “special allegation that in the commission of those crimes, the defendant personally inflicted great bodily injury upon Paul Kessler.” Nasarenko added that those allegations “elevate these offenses to strikes under California’s three-strikes law, which makes punishment prison-eligible.”

Regarding the hate crime determination, Nasarenko said the investigators are specifically looking into “whether or not the acts, the impact, the force, was accompanied by specific hate speech, specific statements or words that demonstrate antipathy or hatred toward a specific group.” He said there are still outstanding search warrants in the case, and nine have so far been executed.

Sheriff James Fryhoff said the investigation has thus far gotten statements from 60 witnesses and that his team has reviewed 600 pieces of evidence. He said the investigation, which began within 24 hours of Kessler’s death on Nov. 5, has so far comprised more than 2,000 hours of work by his investigators. He encouraged anyone with information or footage of the incident to come forward.

Nasarenko also thanked Ventura County’s Jewish and Muslim leaders, saying that they have “shown restraint” and respect as the investigation is underway.

Fryhoff and Nasarenko also met virtually with Kessler’s family on Thursday, they said.

“They are mourning. They are grieving. And they are asking for privacy for this very difficult period,” Nasarenko said.

He added that while Kessler’s Israel advocacy has received considerable attention since the altercation took place nearly two weeks ago, he wanted to share additional information about Kessler, “because in this process, we should never forget that human life was taken, and that a victim exists.”

Nasarenko highlighted that Kessler had worked in medical sales for decades and had taught sales and marketing at a number of colleges. He was a pilot, and had been married for 43 years. He left behind a son.

“We want to continue to remember and honor Paul Kessler, and the tragic loss of life that has occurred,” Nasarenko said.


The post Ventura County DA: Paul Kessler death does not ‘meet the elements of a hate crime,’ though investigation is ongoing appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Poland Bans Israeli Soccer Teams From Major City Due to ‘Safety’ Concerns

Stadion Widzewa is a multi-use stadium in Łódź, Poland. It is currently used mostly for football matches and serves as the home stadium of Widzew Łódź. Photo: maps.pomocnik.com.

Two Israeli soccer teams — Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Beer Sheva — that were set to play their European Championship matches in the Polish city of Łódź have been banned by the hosting country, after widespread outrage from Poles.

The Union of European Football Associations previously announced that Israel will not be allowed to host UEFA-sanctioned matches due to the ongoing war against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

As a result, the Israeli clubs announced on Sunday that their new “home stadiums” would be the Władysław Król Municipal Stadium and the Stadion Widzewa in Łódź. Soon afterward, two Polish clubs that play at the stadiums released statements distancing themselves from the decision, with many fans expressing antisemitic outrage on social media against Israel and support for the Palestinians.

The Polish city’s Cultural and Sport authority then released a statement saying that no Israeli teams would play at any facilities in Łódz because “the safety of Łódź residents and visitors is the highest priority for the city.”

Yacov Livne, the Israeli Ambassador to Poland, slammed the decision and lodged a complaint with the Polish city.

“One should not give in to such threats. Lodz needs to remain a place of tolerance, not fear,” Livne said in a statement on X/Twitter.

Maccabi Haifa took second place in the Israeli top league, giving it the opportunity to play in the qualifying rounds for the European Conference League, while Hapoen Beer Sheva came third in the Israeli premier league.

One of the Polish clubs based in Łódz has a history of antisemitism.

In 2016, a group of ŁKS Łódz hooligans set fire to “Jewish” effigies and paraded a banner calling for the burning of Jews. Years earlier in 2013, fans of the same team invited visitors to an indoor tournament to play a game in which they could throw objects at “Jews,” models dressed in uniforms of the club’s rival, Widzew Łódź. A sign next to the game informed players that for a meager price they would be given “three throws at the Jews.”

Antisemitism is increasingly creeping into Polish politics as well.

Last week a virulently antisemitic member of the Polish parliament who extinguished the candles of a lit Hanukkah menorah with a fire extinguisher won a seat in the European Parliament elections, riding a wave of far-right success across the continent.

The post Poland Bans Israeli Soccer Teams From Major City Due to ‘Safety’ Concerns first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino Harassed in NYC by Anti-Israel Media Personality For Being a ‘Zionist’

Quentin Tarantino being harassed by anti-Israel media personality “Crackhead Barney.” Photo: YouTube screenshot

A notorious anti-Israel social media personality accosted filmmaker Quentin Tarantino at a New York City restaurant and called him a “Zionist piece of s–t.”

A woman known online as “Crackhead Barney” shared a video on Saturday of her confrontation with the “Django Unchained” director, 61, as he was eating alone inside a restaurant on St. Marks Place. She approached his table and shouted, “Quentin Tarantino, say ‘Free Palestine!’ Why are you a Zionist piece of s__t?!” Tarantino remained silent as Barney repeated herself and then asked him, “Going to Israel?” as workers from the establishment tried to make her leave the restaurant.

When Tarantino left the eatery, a rowdy crowd awaited him outside including Barney, who confronted him again. She repeatedly shouted “Free Palestine” and asked the director to “say ni–er” multiple times while also exposing herself to the “Pulp Fiction” director. The crowd of people outside the restaurant also chanted “Toes! Toes!” which is seemingly a nod to the director’s fixation with showcasing feet in his movies.

Tarantino is married to Israeli singer Daniella Pick, who is the daughter of legendary Israeli pop musician Svika Pick. The couple live in Tel Aviv with their two children and Tarantino spoke in 2021 about learning Hebrew. In 2022, he received an honorary degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Shortly after the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel, Tarantino visited an army base in southern Israel and met with Israel Defense Force (IDF) troops.

Earlier this year, Barney harassed actor Alec Baldwin inside a coffee shop in New York City and recorded their confrontation on her cellphone. She told the actor, “Free Palestine … F–k Israel, F–k Zionism.” She repeatedly asked Baldwin to also say “Free Palestine” and when she would not back down, Baldwin eventually knocked Barney’s phone from her hands.

The post Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino Harassed in NYC by Anti-Israel Media Personality For Being a ‘Zionist’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks

A protester wrapped in an Israeli flag at a rally against antisemitism at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Photo: Reuters/Lisi Niesner

A live web service provided by Aish.com that allows users to speak directly with one of the Jewish organization’s leading rabbis has seen a 300 percent increase in usage since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.

More than 5,000 chat responses (over 225 per day) are received each month, according to Aish, which added in a press release that many of the chats turn into extended conversations, sometimes on WhatsApp, in which rabbis help unaffiliated or disconnected Jewish users reconnect with their Jewish identities and form bonds with other Jews.

The Jewish organization said it believes the increase in usage of its live web chat service is due to the global rise in antisemitism and a newfound curiosity about Israel following Oct. 7, as well as a “yearning for meaning and community in the face of life’s uncertainties, and a desire for deeper meaning and spirituality in the face of a fast-paced modern culture where spiritual needs have been put on a backburner for too long.”

“We’re hearing from so many Jews who feel profoundly disconnected, whether due to living in areas with little Jewish community or lack of affiliation growing up,” said Rabbi Tzvi Broker, who oversees Aish.com‘s Live Chat. “The personal nature of these interactions, coupled with their anonymity, creates a safe space to ask questions and begin exploring. Having a live rabbi to connect and share with, has been a draw for many, and we’re seeing lives transformed as a result.”

Among their efforts, Broker and his team have helped people on the chat slowly incorporate Jewish rituals and traditions into their lives, and have connected them with peers through the organization’s new online community Aish+ so they can continue learning and engaging with other Jews.

“It’s amazing to witness lives being transformed in such profound ways,” said Broker. “Jews around the world are finding threads of connection to their heritage, and tapping into the depth and wisdom of our tradition to find meaning, community, and resilience in these challenging times.”

Bob Diener, the founder of hotels.com and the seed funder of Aish.com’s live chat, added in a statement: “The chat has been a powerful way for people to connect one-on-one with a spiritual leader and have their unique questions answered in a non-threatening and non-intimidating way. The chat’s rabbis are connecting so many people to their roots who otherwise don’t know where to go for guidance.”

“The chats have had a deep impact on many disconnected from the Jewish community,” said Aish CEO Rabbi Steven Burg. “Each of the people we connect with demonstrates a broad yearning to explore Jewish spirituality, peoplehood, and identity and that is why they have been turning to Aish for connection and guidance. We are happy to provide both while connecting them with local Jewish communities in their area, if there is one, to continue their journey.”

The post Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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