Breaking News Today

Jewish Victim on Restaurant Attack in L.A.: “These Guys Were Looking to Hurt People”

Published: (Updated: ) in Jewish News by .

The Journal spoke with one Jewish victim, a 32-year-old Los Angeles resident, who preferred to use the pseudonym, “Michael.”

The post Jewish Victim on Restaurant Attack in L.A.: “These Guys Were Looking to Hurt People” appeared first on Jewish Journal.

On the evening of May 18, a pro-Palestinian mob attacked a group of diners at the Sushi Fumi restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard. Video footage showed the assailants shouting racial slurs and throwing glass bottles before physically assaulting several diners, three of whom were young Iranian American Jewish men; the fourth, a local photographer, was a young man who identifies as an Armenian-Lebanese Christian named Mher (who, in another interview, gave the Journal permission to use his first name). A witness told CBSLA that dozens of assailants stepped out of their vehicles and that one of them asked diners, “Are you Jewish?” On May 21, the police, with the help of the U.S. Marshal Service, arrested the primary suspect on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, and the LAPD is investigating the incident as a hate crime. The Journal spoke with one Jewish victim, a 32-year-old Los Angeles resident, who preferred to use the pseudonym, “Michael.” Born in Los Angeles, Michael’s family left Iran immediately before the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

Jewish Journal: Let’s start with the most important question: How are you feeling, physically and emotionally?

Michael: I still feel really locked out of my emotions. There are a lot of things I feel about the event, not least of which is anger. But in another sense, I recognize that some good is coming of it.

JJ: Some good?

M: Yes, because I’m seeing the recognition start to seep into the greater cultural awareness about how scared Jews are now and how insecure the community feels. With all of the other social issues this past year, Jews have been allies for so many other communities, but I haven’t seen other communities be our allies. Not in any real sense. I noticed this trend even before the social changes of the last year. Since college, especially during times of heightened conflict in Israel, I noticed that it became okay for people to engage in antisemitism, and it was just overlooked.

With all of the other social issues this past year, Jews have been allies for so many other communities, but I haven’t seen other communities be our allies.

When you tell your non-Jewish friends about antisemitism, they don’t get it. And some Jewish friends hide their Jewishness. There’s definitely some kind of double standard out there. I’m afraid that even those with the best hearts don’t know they’re doing it. It’s scary. During the last administration, a lot of Jews felt fear because of the extreme-right. It’s understandable. But I worried more about the foothold antisemitism has found on the left, because unlike the right, where it’s on the fringe and the political leadership denounces it, on the left, it’s political — the lines between anti-Zionism and antisemitism are repeatedly blurred. There’s political agency now with some newer members of Congress, and antisemitic and anti-Zionist rhetoric now is interchangeable. It’s a signal to that side of the political aisle that that sort of speech is okay. That worries me more. I’m also worried about elements within local Palestinian supporters that are all too willing to be violent. Young people on the left are now posting ignorant, antisemitic tropes under the guise of pro-Palestinian activism. They are, unintentionally perhaps, providing political cover for the violent extremists in the pro-Palestinian camp.

READ:  These Jewish Women-Owned Bakeries Will Ship the Best Treats to Your Door

JJ: What happened the night of the attack?

M: There were four of us at the table. One of us is getting married and we were there to grab some sushi and talk about the wedding. I remember three separate tables of Jewish diners that night, including a table of girls with whom I’d attended Milken High School.

We saw the first car from the caravan, and a few people hanging out the windows, waving Palestinian flags, and we quickly realized it was a whole party of them. I thought they’d keep driving, but they slowed down next to us. One of them had a megaphone and was shouting, “Are you for Palestine? Are you down with Palestine? You’re either with us or against us.” It was clear that they weren’t going to leave. We told them to keep it moving. Things got heated, but eventually, they started to drive away slowly. We turned to sit back down and a bottle was thrown in our direction that shattered all over the sidewalk. Men in keffiyehs, some of them with their faces covered, and all of them dressed in black, jumped out of the cars. Mher speaks Arabic and started telling them to get out of there in Arabic. At least one of them asked, “Are you Jewish?” We said, “We are.”

JJ: Given the imminent danger, what compelled you to respond in the affirmative?

M: Should it be dangerous to say you’re Jewish? I was frustrated by their aggression. Maybe I felt that we had safety in numbers (until I actually saw how many of them there were). What are these guys actually going to do, I wondered. Yeah, I’m Jewish. Who cares? And who cares that you’re Palestinian? When Jews rally for Israel we don’t go around demanding random civilians take on our cause by threat of violence. I really didn’t expect it to turn into something physical. Alot of Jews have forgotten to be proud of Israel; they feel like they have to distance themselves from Israel’s actions. But I always keep a connection to Judaism, Israel and pride in our history. And in this one instance, we decided not to shy away from that truth.

JJ: Were you afraid?

M: Yes. But we all stood our ground. They came with aggression and were obviously looking for a confrontation. I wasn’t looking for a fight. But my internal dialogue said, “You know what? You’re gonna ask me if I’m Jewish? Yeah, I am Jewish. What are you gonna do about it?” This is our city. We’ve looked on in relative comfort while Jews in other cities like Paris and London and Brooklyn are repeatedly antagonized and attacked. L.A. cannot go down that same road. That Jews should have to watch their back for thugs out to make a political point should be a reality that never takes hold in L.A. So when they asked if we were Israeli, we said, “Yes.”

We’ve looked on in relative comfort while Jews in other cities like Paris and London and Brooklyn are repeatedly antagonized and attacked. L.A. cannot go down that same road.[/SPEAKER-MUTE]

JJ: Why?

READ:  Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue selects Daniel Libeskind as lead architect for major renovation campaign

M: I don’t know. I’m not Israeli. It might have been the heat of the moment. But maybe I can answer that question by sharing something that happened the morning after the attack: One of my friends at the Israeli Consulate asked if I would be willing to speak with Eitan Weiss [Deputy Chief of Mission] and Jonathan Bar-El [Consul for Public Diplomacy] on Zoom. I was honored. Weiss asked me if anyone from the local government had contacted me to see how I was doing. I told him that nobody had, and that I didn’t think anybody would. There’s too much going on for them to make this part of their day. I might not be Israeli, but because I’m Jewish, the Israeli government gives me agency when my own local government is too busy to notice. I wouldn’t have expected it of my government, let alone Israel, but it should tell all Jews the world over something that before my own local American representatives interceded — before they even heard of the incident — the Israelis were already on the case, trying to get in touch with me and offer me any support and assistance they knew to be diplomatically appropriate.

Given the last 12 months of social uprising, and the defacing of local synagogues and Jewish neighborhoods that has coincided with the riots in Los Angeles, the brazen robberies of diners in Beverly Hills, there have been lots of conversations around our Shabbat tables this year about moving out of LA and about Jews feeling less safe in New York and elsewhere. It’s sad. It’s really sad. I’m an Iranian Jew. We were uprooted from our home of 2,700 years and moved to America. And within just one generation, the threat of Islamic persecution that our parents fled is now on our doorstep here in America. Wrap your head around that.

JJ: What else happened during the attack?

M: When they got out of their cars and I saw their actual numbers, I froze and thought, “What did we just do?”

JJ: How many were part of the mob?

M: I don’t remember. I think about a dozen. Possibly more. We were outnumbered, and they were big guys. Mher ran ahead to stop them from getting to the rest of us. My cousin was on the same side of the table as him, and understood that Mher was outnumbered, so he went to pull him out of there. As soon as my cousin ran out, one of the guys assaulted him, knocked him down and proceeded to kick him. Mher did some quick thinking, grabbed a stanchion and chased them back to keep their attention on him and away from my cousin, who was on the ground. They all turned back and started pursuing him, so it worked. That’s why he grabbed the pole. There was a group of female diners behind us. Mher’s instincts told him to do the right thing. When all of the men then rushed him, there was nothing I could do to pull them off of him, and I focused on pulling my cousin off the ground and away from the repeated kicks he was taking. As soon as I stepped up to grab him, the guy stopped kicking him and began punching me. But it gave my cousin enough time to stand up and get away.

READ:  Hanan Amiur: Guide to Manipulate Public Opinion

JJ: What stopped the attack?

M: The attackers knew the cops were probably coming, and their peers still parked in the cars were telling them to get out of there. I got punched in the jaw by one of the guys twice. He got me good. I was in a daze. The first punch did most of the damage. The second one was to keep me on the ground. They had the numbers; there was no way we were going to fend them off. But Mher was really the heart of all of it. He didn’t have to do what he did. None of us did. These guys were looking to hurt people. My cousin went to pull him out of there, and he got pushed and kicked in the head. I got really concerned when I saw that.

JJ: What happened when the Los Angeles Police Department arrived at the scene?

M: They collected a police report. I was very impressed with the way the police came and the questions they asked, and with the amount of compassion and the calm, supportive energy they had. They said, right at the scene, this likely needed to be investigated as a hate crime. The police didn’t need any prompting to look at it that way. I really respect the police who responded thoroughly.

JJ: The police, with the help of the U.S. Marshal Service, have arrested the primary suspect outside of Los Angeles, on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon. How are you planning on moving forward?

M: I can’t say any more about the investigation, but I am happy that they found one guy. Hopefully his arrest and interrogation lead to the others. We have found fingerprints on the car against which the attackers teamed up on Mher. Investigators have decided not to run the prints and I can’t figure out why. Still, I trust that LAPD is making good progress. I’m just still a little dizzy.


Tabby Refael is a Los Angeles-based writer, speaker and activist. Follow her on Twitter @RefaelTabby

The post Jewish Victim on Restaurant Attack in L.A.: “These Guys Were Looking to Hurt People” appeared first on Jewish Journal.

Source: Jewish Journal https://jewishjournal.com/commentary/columnist/336972/jewish-victim-on-restaurant-attack-in-l-a-these-guys-were-looking-to-hurt-people/

Shares
Share This
Finance Advice 2021