By Ben Sales
November 6, 2023
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. JTA 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 laying on a sidewalk and clutching his head in a pool of blood. A person wearing pro-Palestinian symbols crouches down to tend to him, as does another man wearing the same outfit as him. 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.”