Kamal Nayfeh, 55, was an out-of-towner waiting to hug goodbye his daughter who lives in Washington DC, in the moments before he was beaten by affiliates of an extremist group on Sunday outside of a policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). It was the close of a family trip from North Carolina, four days of sightseeing and dinners out that included a stop at the Holocaust museum.
The AIPAC conference coincided with the vacation. Nayfeh saw news reports about protests around the event and thought his daughter Danya, a law student at Georgetown University should not be close to the commotion. She wanted to attend. They compromised. Minding the heavy afternoon traffic, the plan was Nayfeh would drive the family to the AIPAC event, drop off his wife and children, park the car alone, then they would all meet on the street to say goodbye. It was a last fatherly duty before motoring down to North Carolina.
Nayfeh saw a group waving yellow flags. He did not know that was the symbol for the Jewish Defense League (JDL), which the FBI designated a domestic terror organization nearly two decades ago; the family had unknowingly found themselves in the middle of a cohort from an anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hate group.
“To be honest with you, I was completely unaware. I didn’t know who they were. I was trying to make out what the chants were. I saw the Israeli flag, I saw the yellow flags, but I didn’t know what they were,” Nayfeh told Mondoweiss over the phone from North Carolina.
The street was noisy. Nayfeh saw a woman shouting while carrying both the Israeli and Palestinian flags and was curious. Danya and her step-mother had caught snippets from the woman.
“She was absolutely nuts, and I was confused as well,” Danya said, “instantly accusations of anti-Semitism that I hate Jews,” “Palestinians are liars, Palestinians are terrorists, Don’t trust them, Don’t believe them,” and “Muslims kill girls like you.”
“My step-mom was really confused too because she heard the word ‘vagina’ during all of this,” Danya added.
Nayfeh overheard the woman say, “There is no such thing as Palestinians,” (This same woman identified as a Palestinian when interviewed by Ahmed Shihab-Eldin for AJ+ —“I am Palestinian myself[…] there is no Palestine, Palestinians are terrorists,” she said.)
The remark puzzled Nayfeh. “I turned to her and I said ‘look I am Palestinian,’” he explained.
“I can’t believe that anybody heard that but her, and somebody pushed me and told me not to talk to her,” he said.
Nayfeh then stepped to leave the scene, “as I turned I felt people hitting me and pushing me. I saw this white pole coming straight towards my eye,” he said.
“I fell down on the ground and I felt people hitting me and kicking me. And then the police got me [out]. It was all so fast,” he continued.
“They were yelling at me, I didn’t say a word to them,” he added, “I didn’t have a flag on, I didn’t come there to protest. My hands were in my pockets walking, actually,” he said.
Video footage taken by bystanders shows a throng of men toting yellow JDL flags beating Nayfeh while he was on the ground.
Nayfeh’s daughter Danya, 25, the law student, was standing nearby but the attack was out of view. “The next thing, I saw my step-mom running out screaming ‘it’s your dad! It’s your dad and I started running there to get my dad out,” Danya said.
By the time she reached the encounter police were pushing crowds back. The momentum knocked Danya on the ground. The family was split up among the rush of people.
“I was crying and screaming, I guess at the same time, saying ‘no, who did this?’ ‘who did this to my dad?’” she said. Police quickly scooped the family away to the side prepping them for transit in an ambulance.
“I remember my dad was trying to look for his glasses and his stuff and I remember thinking, ‘what is going on right now? Why are the police not going in there and trying to detain the people who did this?’” Danya said.
She recalled members of the JDL casually milling around the area after the attack. “I guess they did not feel the need to move.”
Only later at the hospital did Danya watch a video of the scene.
“I just felt sick, honestly, and sad. And every new video I see something else. It just rips your heart out. Of course, it’s my dad and I know him and love him, but to see anything against anyone like this it’s disturbing,” she said.
Nayfeh is an American citizen born in Kuwait and immigrated to the U.S. in 1986. He never lived in the occupied Palestinian territories, but is of Palestinian heritage.
He has visited the West Bank and Israel once, ten years ago and said he does not intend on returning. “I never felt so uncomfortable, so insecure. Once we crossed that border from Jordan to Israel, we weren’t treated right.”
“The outcome of this, what I really hope for, I don’t mind people protesting or using their speech, but they can’t use physical stuff,” he said, “people should be able to walk around and be by-passers on the street. They shouldn’t be hurt [for this].”
“I’ve been seeing a trend towards violence and all of those violent groups are re-emerging. The country is so divided, and all of those groups that never had a voice are popping out and showing their hate,” he said.
Attacker ran anti-Muslim hate site
Lubranicki is an administrator of the website “Islam Exposed” and the founder of the group American Bikers United Against Jihad. His organization staged a five-person protest against Muslim Americans living in Islamberg, New York in 2016.
He is also a frequent contributor to conservative and anti-Muslim websites.
A blog headed by the “Israeli administrator” for his group “Islam Exposed,” provided screen shots of Facebook temporarily disabling pages he moderates after users wrote racial epithets and advocated for the killing of Muslims. Lubranicki has also twice been suspended from Facebook for 30 day periods for posting inflammatory comments, according to his colleague.
The same blog includes admiration for the slain rabbi Meir Kahane, the founder of the JDL. The group was most active in the 70s and 80s. They are responsible for planning the bombing in the office of a congressman of Arab heritage and a mosque, and planting explosives in Carnegie Hall set to dentate during an orchestra performance. It has been relatively defunct in recent years, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, who states the organization has no current chapters in the U.S.
In January, the Forward reported the JDL had re-emerged with 20 from the group gathering in New York to celebrate President Donald Trump’s inauguration.