Two Palestinian men, Xavier Pabon and Samer Jayylusi, have been charged in a Jewish hate crime in Los Angeles, on Tuesday.
The attack occurred last spring in May, when the suspects participated in a pro-Palestinian caravan that waved flags out of the vehicle and stopped at a restaurant on North La Cienega Boulevard in L.A.
Seated outdoors due to the pandemic, the two men walked up to the Sushi Fumi diners declaring “death to all Jews” and “Free Palestine.”
When the suspects started asking who at the restaurants was Jewish, two diners identified themselves, and a brawl erupted shortly after. Xavier Pabon, 30, and Samer Jayylusi, 36, were later arrested and charged Tuesday with assault by means of force, including allegations of a hate crime.
“A hate crime is a crime against all of us,” L.A. District Attorney George Gascón said. “My office is committed to doing all we can to make Los Angeles County a place where our diversity is embraced and protected.”
Attorneys have not been immediately identified for the men, who will appear separately before the Los Angeles court. Xavier Pabon will be arraigned later on Tuesday, with Samer Jayylusi to appear on Thursday. The two have since been freed on bond as they await their court dates.
According to authorities the L.A. incident occurred right after Israel’s latest bombing of Gaza, which killed at least 200 Palestians. Pro-Palestian rallies had been common in Los Angeles that weekend, where many Jewish Americans found themselves incidentally drawn into the conflict based on their faith.
“Jewish Angelenos, like all residents, should always feel safe in our city,” said L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. “L.A. is a city of belonging, not of hate. There is simply no place for antisemitism, discrimination or prejudice of any kind in Los Angeles. And we will never tolerate bigotry and violence in our communities.”
An eyewitness, who did not identify as Jewish, spoke to CBS News back in May and said that he was also attacked by the group when he approached them and they started throwing bottles at them. “Relax, why are they doing that?” he recalled thinking. “Just protest peacefully.”
“It was a hate crime,” he said, remembering that the group had been yelling antisemitic slurs. “It was prepared, they came to fight with Jewish people.”
The two diners who identified themselves to the suspects as Jewish were not seriously injured in the brawl. Investigators are still on the lookout for three other men they believe were part of the group that attacked them with Xavier Pabon and Samer Jayylusi.
Amani Barakat, an organizer for the Palestinian Youth Movement, condemned the violence, telling CBS News that “we had more than 20,000 people that showed up [for protests in Los Angeles] and not one single incident.”
In a national address back in May, when Israel was bombing Palestine during an 11-day conflict, President Joe Biden spoke about the rise of antisemitism in the U.S.
“The recent attacks on the Jewish community are despicable, and they must stop,” President Biden said. “I condemn this hateful behavior at home and abroad. It’s up to all of us to give hate no safe harbor.”
The issue is very complicated in the United States where Jewish religious identity and support for Israel are often conflated, especially in politics and criticism of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We all support demonstrations,” Israeli-American Civic Action Network CEO Dillon Hosier told CBS News, “but there’s never any excuse for violence due to what is happening a world away.”