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Israel Backers Confront Pro-Palestine Protest at L.A. Synagogue

Israel Backers Confront Pro-Palestine Protest at L.A. Synagogue

Israel Backers Confront Pro-Palestine Protest at L.A. Synagogue

A heavily Jewish Los Angeles neighborhood became a flashpoint of outrage over the Israel-Gaza conflict when a violent demonstration outside a synagogue over the weekend between pro-Palestine demonstrations and counterprotesters supportive of Israel ended with the deployment of dozens of police officers, one arrest and the condemnation of the city’s mayor and President Joe Biden.

“I’m appalled by the scenes outside of Adas Torah synagogue in Los Angeles,” Biden wrote in on Monday. “Intimidating Jewish congregants is dangerous, unconscionable, antisemitic, and un-American. Americans have a right to peaceful protest. But blocking access to a house of worship — and engaging in violence — is never acceptable.”

Punches were thrown, protesters were seen being wrestled to the ground, and what appears to be bear spray doused multiple people in footage of the conflict, which started with verbal slurs and came to a head after the roughly 150 demonstrators arrived Sunday morning around 11 a.m. at Adas Torah synagogue in the Pico-Robertson area. The gathering of demonstrators began with a group of Palestine supporters arriving to protest a real estate event there, advertised as “housing projects in all the best Anglo neighborhoods in Israel.” 

Word of the ad, which seemingly appeared in the June 21 issue of the Jewish Journal, spread online, and soon flyers announcing the direct action event at Adas Torah synagogue emblazoned with statements like, “Our Land Is Not For Sale” and calling the event a form of land theft appeared online.  

An Israeli real estate agency told Israel Hyom that he was hosting an aliyah info session — “making aliyah” being the term for moving to Israel — for potentially interested L.A. residents The event featured mortgage advisers, attorneys and real estate agents, the outlet reported, and prospective client meetings began at noon.

“They targeted our event because they think we’re showing Palestinian land for sale,” Avi Nefoussi told Israel Hyom, adding that his company had to quickly call for extra security. “Even a helicopter showed up.”

Though he cast the decision to protest his event as an error, it’s unclear if the properties that Nefoussi was pitching to clients on Sunday are located in Israel or Israeli-occupied territories. However, several companies do sell properties in occupied territories to Americans considering “making aliyah,” as Curbed reported earlier this year. 

Reports indicate that the group of protesters who arrived to disrupt the real estate event were quickly met by a group of pro-Israel adversaries shortly after they’d arrived and, at some point during the morning skirmish, had attempted to block the entrance to the synagogue. The Hollywood Reporter reached out to the Southern California chapter of the Palestinian Youth Movement to clarify the goal of the demonstration. 

Roughly 60 police officers arrived at the scene, the Los Angeles Police Department told the LA Times, adding that a similar protest at a North Hollywood synagogue brought 25 protesters, a fraction of the number at Sunday’s kerfuffle in Pico-Robertson. 

“The Los Angeles Police Department responded to a protest in the Pico-Robertson area yesterday afternoon. There were several physical altercations between the two groups protesting, which resulted in two reports of battery,” the LAPD wrote in an official statement on Monday that was obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. “Also, one arrest was made for having [sic] spiked post at a protest. This individual was cited at West Los Angeles station and released.”

The LAPD added that it will be investigating the two reported batteries further and that additional patrols will be conducted around sensitive religious sites to ensure the safety “of all.”

“We will always protect the First Amendment rights of those wanting to protest. Violence and crime, however, will not be tolerated,” the statement from the LAPD reads. 

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A message sent Monday to the Los Angeles Police Department’s public information officer by The Hollywood Reporter seeking further details on the incident and arrests at Adas Torah synagogue was not immediately returned. 

Leaders from President Biden to a local rabbi focused mostly on the blocking of the door to the synagogue, while they omitted mention of the reason behind the protest and the demonstrators concerns about the possibly illegal activities occurring at the event inside. Rabbi Hertzel Illulian, founder of the JEM Community Center in Beverly Hills, told KCAL: “I don’t think the Jewish would go in front of a mosque or the Christian people would go in front of a mosque to do such a thing.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote in a post that “the violent clashes outside the Adas Torah synagogue in Los Angeles are appalling. There is no excuse for targeting a house of worship. Such antisemitic hatred has no place in California.”

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass released a damning statement Sunday night following the incident, saying that she will not allow the city to become a place of antisemitism.

“Today’s violence in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood was abhorrent, and blocking access to a place of worship is unacceptable,” Bass said. “I’ve called on LAPD to provide additional patrols in the Pico-Robertson community as well as outside of houses of worship throughout the city. I’ll be meeting with [interim] Chief [Dominic] Choi tomorrow to further discuss the safety of Angelenos.

“I want to be clear that Los Angeles will not be a harbor for antisemitism and violence. Those responsible for either will be found and held accountable. I will be joining Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky, the chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation Los Angeles Rabbi Noah Farkas and other law enforcement and faith leaders in a community meeting as we talk about steps forward, together.”

Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip has now left a reported 38,000 mostly civilians dead since the start of the war, according to Gaza health authorities. Along with its ongoing occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the annexation of the Golan Heights and occupation and blockade of the Gaza Strip are major points of contention in the years-long conflict. The growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which often involve the confiscation of land and resources from Palestinians, frequently leads to violence between displaced people and Israeli military not unlike what took place in L.A. on Sunday. 

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