Elderly Jewish Man Killed In California After Confrontation With Pro-Palestinian Protesters

Hate Crime
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A 69 year-old Jewish man was killed in California on Sunday after a confrontation with pro-Palestinian protesters in what many are considering to be a “hate crime.”

Elderly Jewish Man Killed During Protest

The victim has been identified as Paul Kessler, 69, who has been described as a “man committed to peace and committed to Israel,” according to Daily Mail. Kessler found himself caught between rival rallies in Thousand Oaks, California on Sunday, with one supporting Israel and the other supporting Palestine.

Reports allege that Kessler was involved in an altercation with another person that resulted in him falling backward and hitting his head on the ground. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles is claiming that Kessler was “struck in the head by a megaphone wielded by a pro-Palestinian protestor.”

Kessler was rushed to the hospital, where he ultimately died of injuries that were ruled to come from a blunt force head injury.

“The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident and has not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime,” the VCSO said in a statement.

Kessler was reportedly at the pro-Israel rally with his wife, who is said to be “in a state of total shock.” Witnesses told ABC Los Angeles that both sides had been antagonizing each other before things got physical.

“They were both on an even ground, and they were yelling at each other, and then the man brought his megaphone up and hit Paul, and Paul went down,” said one witness who wished not to be named.

Local Rabbi Moshe Bryski said that Kessler’s death is “just a tragedy.”

“It never should come to this … We have a funeral coming up of someone who simply wanted to wave an Israeli flag,” he added.

Related: ‘Jeopardy’ Host Mayim Bialik Defends Israel As Her ‘Homeland’ – Slams Alma Mater UCLA For Anti-Semitism

Jewish Community Demands Action

The Anti-Defamation League is demanding that law enforcement “launch a thorough investigation to determine who is responsible,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles released a statement as well, saying: 

“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. Our hearts are with the family of the victim.”

“While we wait for more information from our law enforcement partners, we remind you that this is the fourth major antisemitic crime committed in Los Angeles this year alone. 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.”

Amy Spitalnick, CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, warned that there has been a disturbing rise in antisemitic attacks after the conflict between Israel and Hamas broke out last month.

“We are devastated by reports that an elderly Jewish man has died after being struck in the head by a megaphone wielded by a pro-Palestinian protester in LA,” Spitalnick said. “People have a right to protest Israeli policies and actions — but in far too many cases of late, we’ve seen protesters veer into explicit and dangerous extremism and antisemitism. Paul Kessler’s death appears to be the sadly inevitable result.”

“We need all decent people to unequivocally reject the hate and violence that has spiraled since October 7th, no matter their opinions on the conflict or who that hate and violence targets,” she continued.

Related: Prior to Hamas Attack on Israel, Antisemitic Incidents in US at Historic Levels

CAIR Speaks Out 

Meanwhile, the Council on American–Islamic Relations released a statement of its own saying that it is “deeply saddened by this tragic and shocking loss. We join local Jewish leaders in calling on all individuals to refrain from jumping to conclusions, sensationalizing such a tragedy for political gains, or spreading rumors that could unnecessarily escalate tensions that are already at an all-time high.”

“We urge everyone to wait for the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office to complete its investigation before drawing any conclusions,” the statement continued. “Our thoughts are with the family and the Jewish community during this difficult time.”

At the time of this writing, no arrests have been made regarding Kessler’s death. It remains to be seen if it will actually be classified as a hate crime.

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