Jewish man dies after confrontation during pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrations

An autopsy Monday said Kessler died from a blunt force head injury and concluded it was homicide

By AP

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Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Published: Tue 7 Nov 2023, 11:12 AM

A Jewish man in California has died after getting into a confrontation during dueling protests over the Israel-Hamas war, authorities said.

Paul Kessler, 69, died at a hospital on Monday, a day after he was struck during pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrations at an intersection in Thousand Oaks, a suburb northwest of Los Angeles, authorities said.

Witnesses said Kessler was involved in a “physical altercation” with one or more counter-protesters, fell backward and struck his head on the ground, according to a statement from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.

An autopsy Monday said Kessler died from a blunt force head injury and it was homicide, according to the Sheriff’s Department, which said investigators hadn’t ruled out the possibility that the act was a hate crime.

No arrests had been made and details of the confrontation weren’t immediately released, although the Sheriff’s Department scheduled a news conference for Tuesday morning.

Rabbi Noah Farkas, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, said the group had heard reports that Kessler was struck in the head by a megaphone held by a pro-Palestinian demonstrator. However, he said federation officials weren’t at the scene or involved in the demonstrations.

Other unconfirmed reports suggested that Kessler may have been pushed and fallen.

Rabbi Michael Barclay of Temple Ner Simcha in Westlake Village, near Thousand Oaks, urged people to avoid jumping to conclusions about what happened.

“I just got off the phone with the Chief of Police,” he posted on X, formerly Twitter. “They have conflicting reports of what happened, and they did interview the suspect that is identified in social media at the event. They have no video.”

He said police are being cautious before making accusations. “We need to do the same; and not let this become a spark that starts an inferno,” he wrote.

The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations issued a statement calling Kessler’s death a “tragic and shocking loss.”

“While we strongly support the right of political debate, CAIR-LA and the Muslim community stand with the Jewish community in rejecting any and all violence, antisemitism, Islamophobia, or incitement of hatred,” the statement said.

Since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out last month protests have been held around the world over the deaths of thousands. Hamas militants have been condemned for invading Israel and killing and kidnapping civilians while Israel has been accused of indiscriminate bombing that has killed many civilians in Gaza.

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