Police arrested a Fresno rabbi and former candidate for state Senate last week on a felony hate crime charge after a scuffle with Palestinian protesters at a freeway overpass.
Amnon Shor, leader of the Bet Shalom Messianic Congregation, allegedly got into a fight on Friday, Jan. 5, at Shaw Avenue and the Highway 41 overpass after ripping down a Palestinian flag attached to the fence.
“A 70-year-old man was driving by and saw the flag being displayed,” Fresno Police Lt. Bill Dooley told GV Wire. “He became angry and parked his vehicle. He got out of his car and attempted to cut it down off the fence. Before he could cut it down, a female protester ran up to him to stop him, and the suspect struck the female.”
Shor is alleged to have then cut the flag off the fence and struck two men before leaving the scene.
“This caused several male protesters to run towards the confrontation. As the protesters began to recover the flag, the suspect was able to cut the flag off the fence,” Dooley said. “A struggle over the flag took place and the suspect began striking two male protesters on the forearms to break their grasp. He struck them multiple times in an attempt to take the flag but was unsuccessful. The suspect then returned to his vehicle, drove away, and called the police to report the incident.”
Shor Charged With Two Felonies and a Misdemeanor
Police arrested Shor and charged him with a felony hate crime (PC 422.6), felony robbery by force (PC 664/211), and misdemeanor vandalism (PC 594(a)(2)).
Dooley said the hate crime charges were based on the “totality of the investigation.”
Shor declined to comment to GV Wire on the advice of his attorney.
A Fresno County District Attorney’s spokesperson said the office is reviewing the case. A decision to file could come by Jan. 19. Shor’s name does not appear on a court docket.
Caltrans said it is against policy to hang items on the fence, mainly for safety reasons. However, it is up to the California Highway Patrol to enforce the policy. A local Caltrans spokesman said he was unaware of any citations and the office hadn’t received any complaints about Palestinian flags or banners.
Alleged Victim Speaks Out
Palestinian activist Layla Darwish discussed the incident, speaking during public comment at Thursday’s Fresno City Council meeting.
“Islamophobia is on the rise. And last Friday, a dangerously armed Zionist rabbi ripped off my flag and attacked peaceful protesters. Thankfully, law enforcement intervened and arrested him for a hate crime. But if any Arab and Muslim or Palestinian had done that, it would have been in international news for a week,” Darwish said.
Darwish posted photos of the alleged incident on her Facebook page.
“Yesterday my flag was ripped off of an overpass by a Zionist Yemeni rabbi. Luckily, Yasir and Bilal grabbed him and my flag before he did and so my flag was saved and thankfully, the police arrested him for a hate crime. On a Friday night, he will rot in jail until Monday and pay a fat towing fee,” she wrote.
After this story published, Shor told GV Wire, “I am not a Yemeni. I am an Israeli Jewish. I was born and raised in Israel … My grandparents came from Yemen in 1929.”
The Palestinian Freedom Project also posted a photo of the flag and banner hanging from the overpass.
Shor, a Republican, lost to Anna Caballero (D-Merced) in the state Senate District 14 election in 2022, 56% to 44%.