‘Anarchistic mobs’ that blockaded California synagogue using Israel-Hamas war as ‘excuse’ for violence: expert

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A violent anti-Israel demonstration that quickly devolved into chaos near a Los Angeles synagogue will likely have the opposite effect from what those who support Palestinians had intended, one expert tells Fox News Digital.

Violence broke out in front of the Adas Torah synagogue on June 23 between supporters of Israel and those opposed to its war against Hamas. Clashes in the heavily Jewish Pico-Robertson neighborhood turned into a brawl and at least one person was arrested after the agitators allegedly tried to physically block the building entrance, and harassed and intimidated those trying to enter the synagogue. 

“What you’re seeing is something that does absolutely nothing for the Palestinian people,” Adam Swart, the CEO and founder of Crowds on Demand, a California-based company that specializes in providing on-demand crowds for protests, told Fox News Digital. “They’re alienating one of their potential major allies, which is left-leaning Jewish-Americans,” who Swart noted are often opposed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and don’t support Israel’s war in Gaza. 

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Demonstrations in support of Palestinians have raged for months since Hamas attacked Israel, killed 1,200 people and kidnapped hundreds more, including some Americans. The conflict has fueled a humanitarian crisis in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. 

The June 23 event, however, prompted President Biden to condemn threats to Jewish members of the Adas Torah synagogue. 

“I’m appalled by the scenes outside of Adas Torah synagogue in Los Angeles. Intimidating Jewish congregants is dangerous, unconscionable, antisemitic and un-American,” Biden said in a post on X. 

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and the Los Angeles Police Department have taken heat from protesters on both sides for not preventing the demonstration from escalating. 

“A more proactive response – by initially keeping the demonstrators on the other side of the street and separate from any counter protesters would have prevented the violence we witnessed at the end of the demonstration,” Adas Torah said in a statement to Fox News Digital.

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However, the police are correct in being reluctant to arrest protesters, no matter how misguided they may be, because the department wants to encourage free speech, Swart said. 

“The challenge is when that gets into being permissive of violent activity,” he said. “The police are looking at it as a pro-Palestinian protest, so we have to treat it like a protest as opposed to a mob, a racist mob attacking passersby. As someone who organizes protests for a living, I hate to see this called a protest.”

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Justice Department will investigate the weekend demonstration. He said the agency’s Civil Rights Division, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California are collecting evidence on the matter.

“Let me promise to the Jewish community that this Justice Department will do everything within its power, working with federal partners and state and local partners, to secure the community’s safety,” he said during a news conference on antisemitic crimes. “And as attorney general, I will do everything in my power to do that.”

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Swart noted that violent or illegal actions by protesters against Israel actually do a “disservice” to Palestinians by alienating potential supporters and partners who may get turned off by their hard-nosed and confrontational tactics. 

“This is no longer about Palestine,” he said. “This is an excuse by ‘anarchistic mobs’ to commit violence and commit property destruction and somehow justify it behind the suffering of people 8,000 miles away who gain absolutely nothing from their actions.”

Crowds on Demand has received some 200 requests to be involved in protests regarding the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Swart said.

 “This is an excuse by ‘anarchistic mobs’ to commit violence and commit property destruction and somehow justify it behind the suffering of people 8,000 miles away…” 

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“We’re staying out of that issue for now because we don’t see a constructive way to get involved,” he said, adding that the company has turned down other lucrative requests that don’t align with its values, which include making the United States and the world a better place, he said. 

Fox News Digital’s Bradford Betz contributed to this report.