A Canadian member of the Jewish Defence League was arrested in Washington, D.C., March 26 in connection with the brutal beating of a Palestinian-American man.
Yosef Steynovitz, 32, of Thornhill, Ont., was charged with assault with significant bodily injury, which is a felony, in connection with the beating of Kamal Nayfeh, a 55-year old Palestinian-American instructor at a community college in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Nayfeh was reportedly walking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference taking place in the U.S. capital when the attack happened.
Also charged was Rami Lubranicki, 59, of Howell, N.J., who faces a charge of simple assault, which is a misdemeanor.
Both men appeared March 27 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. They were released on their personal recognizance with orders to stay away from the victim and from the convention centre where the conference was taking place.
Steynovitz is due back in court in Washington on April 17, Bill Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, told The CJN.
In both instances, “suspected hate crime” based on “anti-Arab” bias was added as “other felony involved,” JTA reported. Hate crimes, if added to a conviction, automatically increase penalties.
Online videos show several members of the JDL, with “Never Again” printed on their backs and holding their distinctive yellow flags, swarming Nayfeh, then kicking him while he’s on the ground and beating him with a flagpole flying the U.S. flag before police intervened.
According to charging documents from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, obtained by The CJN, Steynovitz “was observed [in the video] knocking the complainant to the ground and striking the complainant while the complainant was on the ground.”
Citing a police report, JTA reported that Nayfeh said he got into a “verbal altercation” with Steynovitz, who then punched Nayfeh “about the face area.” Nayfeh fell to the ground, according to the report, and Lubranicki kicked him in his side and hit him in the right eye with a wooden pole.
The Washington Jewish Week reported that Nayfeh said he went to the protest to make sure his daughter was safe. His daughter Danya, a law student, can be heard screaming, “That’s my dad!” in the video.
Photos taken of Nayfeh after the beating that were posted online show his face bloodied and bruised. He was taken to hospital, where he received eight stitches around his eye, 972Mag reported.
Meir Weinstein, leader of the JDL in Canada, told The CJN that Steynovitz returned to Canada after his release. Efforts to reach Steynovitz were unsuccessful.
One of the videos show Weinstein near the scene of the beating, holding a JDL flag and being shoved back by a police officer.
“I witnessed part” of the attack, Weinstein said. “I wouldn’t say all.”
He said he arrived later and did not see how the incident started.
In a March 30 video posted to Facebook, Weinstein said “anti-Israel gangs calling for death to Israel” at the conference centre engaged members of the JDL, who were “assaulted.”
He said the JDL came to the conference “with the best of intentions, not looking for any violence. But we’re not going to allow ourselves to be assaulted.
“I don’t like violence.”
Weinstein alleged that videos of this and other incidents at the AIPAC conference were “selective” and “spliced.” JDL members “stood their ground and defended themselves.
“We’re going to be releasing a lot more information to put everything into context,” he said.