A Jewish man, identified as Paul Kessler, died following a physical altercation during protests over the Israel-Hamas war in Thousand Oaks, California. The incident occurred on Monday, and Kessler, 69, succumbed to a head injury after reportedly falling backward and hitting his head while engaging with pro-Palestine protesters. The police have not made any arrests as of late Monday and are yet to determine if the incident will be classified as a hate crime. The death has been ruled a homicide.
Rabbi Michael Barclay of Temple Ner Simcha in Westlake Village, near Thousand Oaks, urged caution and discouraged jumping to conclusions about the incident. He mentioned conflicting witness reports and the absence of video evidence capturing the events leading up to Kessler’s fall. Barclay expressed confidence in the ongoing investigation and called for faith in the pursuit of justice. Police have spoken to a suspect but have not reached a conclusion regarding the sequence of events between Kessler and the protesters.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued a statement expressing condolences for Kessler’s death. They described it as a tragic and shocking loss and emphasized their support for the Jewish community, rejecting violence, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and incitement of hatred.
Protests both in favor and against Israel’s actions in the war against Hamas have been ongoing since the conflict began last month. Tens of thousands of people marched on Saturday, advocating for a cease-fire in the war. The conflict, which started on October 7, resulted in over 1,000 civilian deaths from the initial surprise attack by Hamas. Subsequent Israeli strikes and ground attacks on Gaza have claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people, including over 4,000 children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.