A video showing a Palestinian-American professor being violently beaten by members of the Jewish Defense League (JDL) during a protest on March 26 in the United States has been circulating on social media. The JDL is an extremist Jewish movement founded in the US and was categorised as a terrorist organisation by the FBI in 2001.
The protest in Washington, D.C., was organised alongside the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a powerful pro-Israel lobby in the country, in order to protest against its support of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.
The video shows the professor, later identifed as Kamal Nayfeh, huddled on the ground. A group of men surround him and aim kicks and blows at his body, also hitting him with American and JDL flags. The police eventually intervene and manage to push the violent crowd away from Nayfeh.
"I saw the hate in their eyes"
We were going to visit my daughter Danya, who is a student at Georgetown, in Washington D.C. We had spent a few days together as a family and were about to leave. She wanted to go to the protest. I dropped her off in the car and then got worried. I wanted to make sure that she was alright. When I got closer to the crowd, I started talking to a woman who had an Israeli flag. She was chanting, "Palestine does not exist!" I told her that it existed through me. I'm Palestinian, I grew up in Kuwait but my family comes from a village near Tulkarem [a village in the West Bank]."I never expected to be a victim of such violence in the United States"
A group of men had heard me say that I was Palestinian and lashed out at me. They hit me in the head. I was on the ground and trying to protect myself. I could see the pole of the flag that one of them was aiming at me. He could have taken out my eyes. I was hurt in one eye. I have 18 stitches in my eyelids, bruises on my head and all over my body. I couldn't walk for two days. Two men managed to pull me away from there, then the police came in and took me to an ambulance. My daughter, devastated by what she had just seen, wanted to come with me, but she stayed to try and identify my attackers. I don't normally go to protests. I never expected to be a victim of such violence in the United States. I saw the hate in their eyes but I refuse to be afraid. I've pressed charges.
"I was used to these kinds of groups in Israel but I didn't think I'd find them in the States"
I've been a member of If Not Now since last August. I was an active member when I was in Israel, and I was used to these kinds of groups and this type of attack. These extremist religious groups share a Kahanist ideology, inspired by the ideas of the Rabbi Meir Kahane, who founded the Jewish Defense League. They are deeply racist, anti-Arab, pushing an idea of Jewish supremacy and the ethnic cleansing of Israel. They go to protests against the Israeli occupation and try to stir up violence and hate. I never expected to find them in the United States."They were very organised, ready to attack"They were very well-organised, ready to attack, and very visible with the flags they were waving. I was debating with people from AIPAC when I saw a JDL member push a man to the ground. It was Kamal. I met him after the attack. Men were kicking him and hitting him with the flags. I tried to help him but I was pushed back by a JDL member. I saw extreme violence that day, carried out against a defenceless man. I am happy to act as a witness to help hm. There were so many people attacking him and only two of them have been arrested.
The two men have since been accused of hate crime.
"Depuis l’élection de Donald Trump, ils sont de retour"
Yonah Liberman is one of the founding members of If Not Now. He was also at the protest — and he says it was not the only case of violence.
It's worrying to see the resurgence of this movement in the US. They were mostly active in the 70s and the 80s, and since Donald Trump was elected, they've come back. I've never seen them before. They are Trump supporters. Their slogan was "Trump, Trump, Trump". There weren't many JDL members in comparison to us, but they were organised and ready to stir trouble. We stayed peaceful even when they were insulting us. The called us anti-Semites, because we criticise Israel's policies. One of our members, Ben, was even attacked. A video proves it.The JDL members say that they're acting to defend Jews, but they're quick to lash out at us who are Jewish. I don't understand why they support Trump, when there's been a rise in anti-Semitic attacks since he was elected. We're calling on the AIPAC to condemn the attack. Lots of members of the lobby shook hands with JDL members. But they're a terrorist group according to the American government.Video of the violence against a membre of If Not Now.
"We're calling on AIPAC to condemn the violence"
On its website, the JDL says that self-defence is the "Jewish right" and that there is "pervasive anti-Semitism" on college campuses. The organisation refers to the "BDS scourge", talking about the international movement Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, that calls for sanctions against Israel and the end of the occupation of Palestinian territory.
>> READ MORE ON THE OBSERVERS: Jewish communities in US rally against wave of bomb threats