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What the LA synagogue pro-Palestinian protest was really about

President Biden said he was ‘appalled’ by the scenes outside Adas Torah

Louis Keene spent several hours reporting from the protest in Los Angeles on Sunday.

LOS ANGELES — A pro-Palestinian protest outside an Orthodox synagogue here in Los Angeles drew President Biden’s condemnation Monday after videos of fighting with counterprotesters spread on social media.

The protest was organized by Palestinian Youth Movement, a national activist group, in response to an Israeli real estate seminar held Sunday at the Adas Torah synagogue. Scores of protesters, clad in face masks or keffiyehs and chanting slogans like “Zionism’s got to go,” assembled near the synagogue’s front door with signs and Palestinian flags.

Because the synagogue is located at the heart of Pico-Robertson, an Orthodox enclave on the city’s Westside, Jewish community notices were shared widely in advance of the protest. Hundreds of counter-protesters — toting their own flags and megaphones — were present when it began at 12 p.m. 

The LAPD announced Monday said it had arrested and cited one person in connection with the protest who was carrying a “spiked post” — it did not say who the person was or their affiliation — and was investigating two reports of battery.

An ad for the Sunday event at Adas Torah distributed online and appearing in local Jewish publications. Photo by

Why did pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrate outside Adas Torah?

The event at Adas Torah was organized by My Home In Israel, a real estate company that specializes in helping American Jews buy property in Israel. The organization’s website lists Israeli homes ranging from between $435,000 and $4.1 million, the vast majority of which are inside the Green Line, the pre-1967 Israeli border.

At least one piece of property was for sale on the company’s website at the time of publication. It’s located in Efrat, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. David Waghalter, who attended the event, said none of the properties mentioned during the event were located in the West Bank.

It’s not clear whether the distinction between internationally recognized Israeli land and West Bank settlements — generally considered in violation of international law, though Israel disputes that — would make a difference to the protest’s organizers. On a digital flyer announcing the protest, Palestinian Youth Movement said the seminar promoted “settler expansion.”

Posting the flyer June 20, People’s City Council Los Angeles, a local leftist group, called it a “blatant example of land theft,” adding, “Racist settler expansionists aren’t welcome in LA!” 

A My Home In Israel event at a Teaneck, N.J., synagogue in March also drew a protest. But it was smaller, and certainly not as violent, as what unfolded Sunday in one of the largest pockets of Jewish life in the country.

A request to Adas Torah for comment was not returned.

What happened at the protest?

Waghalter said protesters were blocking the synagogue’s main entrance when he arrived, forcing him to enter through a rear alley door. (A video posted to X at 12:08 p.m. shows protesters blocking the synagogue.) About a dozen police officers soon arrived to clear the entrance.

For about an hour after the protest began, the scene was tense and combative but with mostly verbal confrontations. 

When those confrontations eventually turned violent, the police seemed to do little to intervene. Brawling in the street outside the synagogue left one pro-Israel protester bloodied, though some present said he had been instigating fights. Others described being pepper sprayed, and in one video a woman leading pro-Palestinian chants was hit in the face with a raw egg.

After officers pushed the crowd away from the synagogue, pro-Palestinian protesters spilled into the surrounding areas, where they were followed by the pro-Israel contingent. Some walked into the residential area south of the synagogue, where more fighting broke out.

Others marched outside neighboring Jewish businesses. Some that appeared to be trying to enter the Beverly Hills Bagel Company, a kosher restaurant across the street from Adas Torah, were thwarted by a horde of pro-Israel protesters.

Multiple videos also captured pro-Israel protesters attacking a videographer

The scene recalled a fracas at a pro-Palestinian encampment at UCLA the night of April 30 which began when a pro-Israel mob arriving after the conclusion of Passover lobbed fireworks, poles and other items at the encampment and tried to tear down its makeshift walls. That incident was condemned by the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles and UCLA’s Hillel, who said the agitators did not represent the community or the pro-Israel cause.

Some of the pro-Israel protesters present at the UCLA encampment riot were also at the Adas Torah protest, based on my observations at the scene of  both protests and texts I received from participants. 

How did President Biden, California leaders react?

President Biden said Monday on the social platform X that he was “appalled by the scenes outside Adas Torah.”

“Intimidating Jewish congregants is dangerous, unconscionable, antisemitic, and un-American. Americans have a right to peaceful protest,” Biden wrote. “But blocking access to a house of worship – and engaging in violence — is never acceptable.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom and Mayor Karen Bass also issued statements critical of the protesters for targeting a synagogue. Newsom called it “antisemitic hatred.”

The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles called the incident an example of “protests that devolve into excuses to target and harm Jews.”

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