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Violence erupts near Jewish synagogue in Los Angeles as polls show Americans increasingly neutral on Gaza War

California — A protest turned violent in Los Angeles on Sunday as pro-Palestinian protesters were met with an intense response by Israel supporters. The conflict began when pro-Palestinian demonstrators attempted to block the entrance to Abas Torah Synagogue in the Pico-Robertson area — a prominent Jewish neighborhood. 

What started as intense verbal confrontation, quickly turned physical, according to witnesses. Several fights related to the clash were reported on streets in the surrounding area. Dozens of LAPD officers were needed to contain the situation. 

In a blood-stained t-shirt following the incident, one Israel supporter told journalists, "One person just boom, straight to my nose."  Nafoli Sherman, continued  "I fell to the floor. I got hit many times on my head. I got kicked over here. I got full of blood."

Taking to social media, California Governor Gavin Newsom condemned the violence, posting, “There is no excuse for targeting a house of worship. Such antisemitic hatred has no place in California.”

The inciting pro-Palestinian protest was reportedly preplanned, with several LAPD officers initially stationed. The hours of chaos and pockets of violence that ensued are a picture of the continued polarization of people on the topic of the Israel-Hamas war. 

In October, just after the start of the war, 62% of voters said that the United States should support Israel. Pollster and analyst Scott Rasmussen points out that, “pretty quickly after the response began, support began to dip.” The number was nearly cut in half to 36% by February. 

As campus protests and the news of their disruptions to American higher education began to circulate, support for Israel did begin to rise again — going as high as 44% in May. This increase in support proved to be short lived, however, as that number quickly began to drop again, landing at 38% by June.

The drop in voters who say the United States should be supporting Israel in the current war is not equating to an increase in people who say we should be supporting Palestinian groups in the conflict.  Rasmussen points out, “Support is not going to Palestinians. It’s going to people who say we just shouldn’t get involved. We should not really be supporting either side.” 

In October of 2023, only 19% of people said that we shouldn’t support either side in the war. Over time that gap has closed, with 33% now expressing that sentiment. “Some of it has been the response. The fact of war makes people uncomfortable and they think we should just wash our hands of it,” says Rasmussen

U.S. approval of Israel’s response to the attack by Hamas has shifted over time as well. In October there was a 56% approval rating of Israel’s response to Hamas. That initial majority has steadily declined over time. Currently, only 41% of voters approve.

With the first Presidential debate of the election cycle looming, the question of how this will impact the race is on the minds of some political pundits. Rasmussen says the impact is more real-world than political. “When you look for the impact in America, look for the impact on American soil. The campus protest — the way people are dealing with situations in the United States — will have a bigger impact than the realities of the war in Israel.”

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