A Jewish student on the campus of Temple University was assaulted on Wednesday afternoon, August 19th, and called “kike” and “baby killer” by alleged members of the anti-Semitic student group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). Daniel Vessal, a Camera on Campus fellow and a member of the Jewish fraternity AEPi, was punched in the face by a violent alleged member of the anti-Israel organization SJP at “Templefest” which is organized for students on campus to gain new information about campus clubs a week before the start of classes. Vessal is a managing information systems major at the Fox School of Business at the university.
“I’m walking down Polett Walk, one of the main walkways through Temple University and I see the SJP table,” Vessal told TruthRevolt from a local area hospital. “I go up to them and I really just wanted to see what angle they were coming from. I went up to the table and started talking to them. I said, ‘listen, you shouldn’t be protesting Israel- if anything protest the terrorists.’”
“At that point I walked away and after a little back and forth,” Vessal explained. “I came back to the table after a little while and explained that the Palestinians have a right to a state just like anyone else but that SJP should come at the right people. I said, ‘when Hamas stops sending the rockets, that’s when there can be peace. That’s when we can start.’”
“This one girl sitting at the end of the table was just laughing and laughing at me,” he explained “As she was laughing at me, people at the table were calling me a ‘baby killer,’ I said when she stops then maybe we could have a genuinely peaceful conversation.”
“And then this kid just rocks me in the face as hard as he can. My glasses flew off. After a two-second blur I had no clue what had happened. I couldn’t believe the kid actually hit me,” said Vessal who added that he needs to obtain a new pair of glasses due to the extensive damage.
Vessal told Truth Revolt that the alleged student who punched him was one of four or five individuals at the table.
“When the police came over and were filing the report the kids at the table were screaming ‘You Zionist pig, you racist, that’s what you get,’” Vessal explained. “If anything, I thought they would be apologetic for someone in their organization doing something like that.”
Vessal told TruthRevolt that the campus police took the assailant and sent him home but did not detain him, which confused the victim.
“I don’t understand why after physical assault he just got sent home. This was not anti-Israel at all, it was completely anti-Semitic.”
Vessal proceeded quickly to the head of student activities on campus who immediately stated that SJP’s table needed to be shut down. The campus police disagreed and said they wouldn’t shut down the table only because they already sent the kid home according to Vessal. He said, “They should have shut down the table, especially when they are laughing and calling me a Zionist pig.”
A short time later, after experiencing a headache and neck stiffness, Vessal sought medical attention at the Temple University Hospital. He spoke to TruthRevolt just prior to undergoing a medical evaluation.
A copy of the medical evaluation provided exclusively to Truth Revolt listed mandibular pain, cervical sprain, and closed head injury.
Josh Josephs and Alex Winokur witnessed the assault and confirm Vessal’s account and added that they heard members of Students for Justice in Palestine call Vessal a “kike” while he lay on the ground.
“Daniel went up to talk to them and have an educated conversation, and try to rationalize their opinions,“ explained Josephs. “Alex and I, being not as educated on this topic, stood to the side and let them converse. The ‘conversation’ shortly escalated to the Palestine group being very arrogant and irrational. The people behind the table started attacking Daniel calling him a “Zionist, racist, baby killer.” Daniel asked the people behind if they could keep the name calling out of it, and just try to have a calm talk about their opinions.”
“Out of nowhere, a member of the group strikes Daniel, straight in the jaw with a closed fist. This led to Daniel going straight to the ground, losing his glasses and in immediate pain.”
“While on the ground, the members in this group were just pointing at Daniel and were laughing at him,” Josephs told TruthRevolt. “In addition, names including kike, stupid Jew, and Zionist, were used by the members in reference to Daniel.”
“This was unacceptable, uncalled for, and a clear act of anti-Semitism. The organization ‘Students for Justice in Palestin’ at Temple is a disgrace to this University, clearly shown by acts like this,” Josephs and Winokur told TruthRevolt in a joint statement. “Temple University should be embarrassed to allow this type of behavior to happen right on campus, especially at a big event like this.”
“The Simon Wiesenthal Center calls on the university President to condemn this violent anti-Semitic act,” Aron Hier Director of Campus Outreach for the Simon Wisenthal Center told TruthRevolt. He also insisted that the university “launch a full investigation into the alleged SJP member and his parent organization.”
Aviva Slomich, Director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) Campus Department told TruthRevolt that “this type of physical harassment and intimidation coming from members of Students for Justice in Palestine is becoming more and more common across US campuses and it should not be tolerated.”
“Those who participate in such violent, criminal activity should be immediately held accountable for their actions. We expect Temple University to address this outrageous behavior and stand up for and protect the civil rights of their students,” she concluded.
In the aftermath of the incident Vessal pulled the blinds on the Israeli flag in his window, no longer feeling safe. “I do not feel that it’s OK for someone to physically assault me on campus.”
Vessal is in the process of assembling a legal team to pursue legal action and has a meeting scheduled for Thursday with a campus detective. He said, “Before this I just thought Students for Justice in Palestine was crazy but I didn’t know it would lead to violence.”
In May of 2014, Temple University spokesman Brandon Lausch told the Washington Free Beacon that Temple University welcomed the controversial views on campus of Adjunct Temple University Professor Alessio Lerro, who, on a secret listserv, accused “Jewish scholars” of having “humungous influence” over the entirety of academia and stated, “It is time that Zionists are asked to finally account for their support to the illegal occupation of Palestine since 1967.”
Repeated phone calls to Temple University and an email to a campus spokesperson went unanswered.
UPDATE: Temple University told TruthRevolt that it now condemns Lerro’s views:
“It is Temple University’s position that the ample historical evidence, scholarship and research regarding the horrific impact of the Holocaust on the Jewish people is a strong counterpoint to Mr. Lerro’s statements. Mr. Lerro’s opinion is solely his own and not that of Temple University. Temple University condemns in the strongest possible terms the disparagement of any person or persons based on religion, nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation or identity.”
UPDATE II: SJP has denied that the perpetrator in the attack was a member of SJP. This article has been updated to add “alleged” to descriptions of the attacker. SJP says the attacker is an “acquaintance” of SJP but is not a member.
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