California Jewish Man Dies in Israel-Palestine Protest Altercation
A Jewish man died on Monday after collapsing during pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian street protests in California, and his death was ruled a homicide, according to law police and a Jewish organization.
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said Paul Kessler, 69, died of blunt force head trauma a day after the altercation on Sunday, adding that witnesses classified the incident as violence.
As of Monday night, no suspects were in jail in what the sheriff’s office described as “an isolated incident that does not appear to be part of a larger effort,” though it had not ruled out a hate crime.
The event occurred as tensions in the United States have risen due to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, with US officials and civil rights organizations warning of rising threats against Jews, Muslims, and Arab Americans since combat erupted on Oct. 7.
Last month, an Illinois man was charged with hate crimes after stabbing a 6-year-old Muslim kid to death and injuring his mother in an incident that officials said was motivated by the war and targeted them because of their religion.
The victim was recognized as a Jewish man by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, and the incident was the fourth act of antisemitic violence in the Los Angeles area this year, and the second since Oct. 7.
Separate pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrations took place on Sunday in Thousand Oaks, roughly 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Los Angeles, according to the sheriff’s office.
According to witness accounts, Kessler was involved in a physical brawl among counter-protesters. It was not stated which side started the fight.
“During the fight, Kessler fell backward and hit his head on the ground.” Kessler was sent to a nearby hospital for intensive medical care. “Kessler died as a result of his injuries on November 6, 2023,” according to the statement.
Deputies urged the public for assistance in what they described as “an active and ongoing investigation.” The sheriff’s office announced a news conference about the event would be held on Tuesday.
According to the leader of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, who spoke with local government officials, a pro-Palestinian activist hit the victim in the head with a megaphone.
The group’s president and CEO, Rabbi Noah Farkas, said detectives had identified the person but had not made an arrest because the investigation was ongoing.
“This is what’s going on in America right now.” “There is a fear culture and a terror culture against the Jewish community,” Farkas added.
Farkas said Kessler, who was holding an Israeli flag at the protest, hailed from a family of benefactors who were grieved by his death.
The Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights organization, likewise expressed regret over the “tragic and shocking loss,” but urged people to “refrain from jumping to conclusions” or “sensationalizing such a tragedy for political gains.”
“CAIR-LA and the Muslim community stand with the Jewish community in rejecting any and all violence, antisemitism, Islamophobia, or incitement of hatred,” the organization said in a statement.