Jewish Defense League counter-protests turn violent outside AIPAC conference

Counter-protestors in black and yellow Jewish Defense League shirts kick someone on the ground outside the AIPAC conference on Sunday.
Screenshot from Twitter

Protestors wearing sweatshirts with the logo of the right-wing Jewish Defense League attacked members of two groups protesting peacefully outside the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington on Sunday, leading to two arrests.

As 15,000 people attended sessions inside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the annual gathering of protesters including groups that want Israel to be replaced by a Palestinian state, critics of Israeli settlement building and Satmar chasidim who believe Israel is an affront to God, was augmented by 1,000 members of IfNotNow, a Jewish group advocating an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

Tensions began when IfNotNow demonstrators arrived at the convention center. About 20 people carrying Israeli flags and yellow flags with the fist logo of the JDL began yelling at them, calling the IfNotNow protestors anti-Semites and the pejorative “kapos,” and at one point chanting “Donald Trump.”

Meanwhile, a couple dozen IfNotNow members chained themselves together in front of two main entrances to the convention center. As the group beat drums and chanted “Which side are you on?” shoving matches broke out with members of the JDL.
Members of the Jewish activist group IfNotNow lock arms in front of the AIPAC conference on Sunday.
Photo by George Altshuler


Police separated the two groups. But hostilities escalated a few hours later when several hundred pro-Palestinian demonstrators arrived and were addressed by activist and Union Theological Seminary professor Cornel West.

Video posted on Twitter by a French TV station shows a scuffle in which a man is on the ground, another man hits him with a flag pole and two men in black JDL sweatshirts with yellow writing kick the man on the ground.

The Metropolitan Police Department identified the two people who were arrested as Yosef Steynovitz of Vaughan, Ont., and Rami Lubranicki of Howell, N.J. An article on the conservative news website Politichicks described Lubranicki as an “Israeli-born Jewish American and a proud American patriot” and the creator of the group American Bikers United against Jihad.

William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, said Steynovitz was charged Monday with assault with significant bodily injury, which is a felony, and Lubranicki was charged with simple assault, a misdemeanor.

Kamal Nayfeh, 55, who was identified in police documents as the man who was attacked, told WJW that he received treatment in the George Washington University emergency room for a cut near his eye and other injuries. He said the video posted on Twitter was the video of the event.

Nayfeh, who lives in North Carolina and teaches at a community college, described himself as Palestinian-American. He said that he was in Washington to visit his daughter, a law student, and he went to the protest to make sure she was safe.

The JDL did not respond to a request for comment.

Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the JDL’s violence is typical of the group, founded in the 1960s by Rabbi Meir Kahane.

“The JDL’s position and activities have always been violent counter-protests,” she said. “Their attitude is to take it to the streets and do in-your-face protest actions.”

Meir Weinstein, who described himself as the coordinator of the JDL, told WJW before most of the violence occurred that his organization was “primarily here to counter the anti-Israel mobs that are going to show up” and to protect Jews attending the conference, who he said were in danger of being attacked.

Earlier in the day, Weinstein posted a video to his Facebook page of himself on a flight from Toronto to Washington in which he said that “we operate 100 percent within the law, but we prevent people from being harmed.” He told WJW that members of his group had traveled to Washington from Canada, New Jersey and Philadelphia.

The Forward and other news outlets reported that the JDL is seeking to re-establish itself in the United States after a few years of inactivity.

Yonah Lieberman, a 25-year-old leader of IfNotNow, called their attackers “the worst of humanity. They’re holding onto a worldview that promotes nationalism and violence while we are furthering a worldview that supports freedom and dignity for all.”

On Sunday morning in front of the convention center, IfNotNow leaders read out names of the politicians who were scheduled to speak at AIPAC, and the crowd yelled, “shanda,” Yiddish for shame, in response.

On Monday night, they projected a large image of people protesting and the words “IfNotNow Jews reject Islamophobia” and “IfNotNow Jews reject AIPAC” onto AIPAC’s office building in Washington.

AIPAC spokesperson Marshall Wittmann declined to comment for this story.

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  1. Your article is dripping with sympathy for the far-left, ANTI-ISRAEL IfNotNow group. You failed to note that they are aligned with and brought Black Bloq anarchists with them to start the fights with the JDL, that they support the cutting of Jerusalem and Israel in half to create another jihadi terror state, and the importation of tens of thousands of unvetted muslims into the U.S.

    You are a disgrace as a Jewish publication. I hope you enjoy the jihad you help the Left instigate.

  2. Mr. or Ms. LW, please demonstrate that there is anything in IfNotNow’s statements or actions that is anti-Israel (even in lowercase letters). Otherwise, the only negative I could see here was ADL members violently attacking other Jews, which is not exactly a recommendation for their point of view. Remember, the last thing we need is sinat chinam. We know where baseless hatred among Jews leads.

  3. It appears the leftists who are activating for another tyrannical Islamic state are the instigators of the violence since they came in huge numbers to demonstrate against AIPAC. The JDL are not a terrorist group and are not the same people who participated in activism years ago. Fortunately they represent those Jews and their allies who are against being bullied by the useful idiots who think that a Palestinian state would be democratic. The Palestinian leadership is not democratic nor are a significant percentage of them interested in democracy based on past and present experience.

  4. Reading this article, I can only say “well done” to the JDL, and I’m glad that someone has the backbone to stand up to those who are a disgrace to our community.

  5. Amazing to see the dripping hatred for those that oppose the violence of the Israeli state …violence is ok as ling as you are the ones dishing it out ? If they are so tough why aren’t those JDL [members] off fighting isis?

  6. I was there and I posted these videos of the #IfNotNow protesters singing, praying (?) and attempting to blog egress in front of and behind one of the Washington Convention Center buildings. You can observe that there is no way there were 1000 #IfNotNow people there. I would estimate there were 150 of them.

    There were also protesters who were not #IfNotNow, such as the Palestinian man who was beaten. Even if you include the non-Jews there weren’t 1000 #IfNotNow protesters there.

    Here’s the view in front of the Washington Convention Center:

    And here’s the view in a street going through the Washington Convention Center. The only people in this video were #IfNotNow people but there weren’t remotely 1000 of them.

  7. The JDL is nothing more than a gang. The members are thugs and misfits and their sociopathic criminality is on display for all to see in the video. I hope the perpetrators of hate and violence receive the prison sentence they deserve.

  8. Isn’t it possible to be pro-Israel and against violence? I don’t know why reasonable people would support the thuggery, violence, and hooliganism of the JDL. I support the position of the counter protestors but the facts of this situation are on the side of the victim of this barbaric attack. The gentleman did nothing to provoke the crowd they descended upon him like a pack of wolves. Shame on the JDL for giving the pro-Israel side a black eye! SHAME


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