The Beverly Hills City Council has spoken out in response to a number of possibly anti-Semitic incidents from the week. On the night of May 18, cellphones recorded a violent altercation between apparently pro-Palestinian men and Jewish diners at a Beverly Grove restaurant–this, one night after security footage captured a man who appeared to be an Orthodox Jew running from an SUV flying the Palestinian flag. The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating the first incident as a possible hate crime.
“There have been increased acts of antisemitism, including here in the Los Angeles area where people gathered for dinner were apparently attacked simply for being Jewish,” a statement signed by the five members of the City Council said.
Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, whose district the attacks took place in, went to the restaurant, Fumi Sushi, the night of the second incident.
“Last night, members of a caravan of pro-Palestinian protestors targeted innocent Jewish diners in a vicious attack while they were sitting outside a sushi restaurant, and a separate attempt was made by two drivers to run over a Jewish man who had to flee for his life,” Koretz said Wednesday. “Both incidents were captured on video. These were anti-Semitic hate crimes that are unconscionable.”
“We will never allow for anyone to strike fear into our hearts because we are Jews. We are not going to allow the violence in the Middle East to spill out onto the streets of Los Angeles. Everyone is entitled to express their opinion but never through violence. Pro-Palestinian protestors cannot be allowed to viciously assault random people on the street because they happen to look or be Jewish.”
These incidents took place in the context of mounting tensions over the conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas, the militant Islamist group that controls the strip. For nearly two weeks, Israeli forces have responded to volleys of rockets by Hamas with airstrikes and artillery with the intent of crippling Hamas’s military capacity.
The Israeli aerial assault has killed at least 230 Palestinians, including 65 children, according to medical officials in Gaza; in Israel, Hamas aggression has killed 12 people, including a 5-year-old.
Both Jews and Muslims have seen incidents of hate crimes targeted towards them go up in recent years. According to the Anti-Defamation League, California has experienced a 40% increase in anti-Semitic incidents over the last five years. A report released last year by the City of Los Angeles found that anti-Muslim hate crimes more than doubled.
Los Angeles has seen multiple large rallies in recent days in support of Palestine, with a May 15 march drawing thousands. At a West L.A. action on May 18, an SUV flying the Israeli flag passed by a crowd of pro-Palestinian demonstrators. Video and photos show a man inside the vehicle spitting at attendees before the car speeds away.
“The ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas is painful to witness,” said the Beverly Hills City Council. “After a peaceful period in recent years, lives are once again being lost in senseless violence emerging from a place of hate.”
“As one of the only Jewish-majority cities outside of Israel, we feel particularly concerned with the rise of antisemitism and call for an end to the assaults and rhetoric. Any calls to support BDS or call out Israel in a discriminatory fashion by encouraging a boycott are unjustifiable and should be rejected outright. This City Council will always speak out against discrimination against Jews or any other group.”
Stressing that countries “have the right to defend themselves,” the City Council called for “peace and security in the world and right here at home.” The Council assured residents that the Beverly Hills Police Department is “actively monitoring the situation and is prepared to keep our residents and visitors safe.”
City council members individually took to social media to express their sorrow and outrage at the attacks. “My mother survived the death camp Auschwitz and here we are today surrounded by Jew hatred. I am a proud Jew and will always stand up to hate of any kind,” Vice Mayor Lili Bosse posted on her Facebook.
In the comments of Bosse’s post, Councilmember John Mirisch encouraged fellow Jews to document any acts of violence and Jew hatred.
“Chaverim, have your cell phones and cameras ready,” he wrote. “We need to document every single incident of Jew-hatred and antisemitic violence wherever it may happen, especially in connection with anti-Israel protests. Many of us know all too well that Jew-hatred is all too often masked by an anti-Israel façade and it is up to all of us to document and expose these attempts to obscure and gaslight.”