A Temple University student was assaulted at a student activities fair during an apparent heated exchange with members of a pro-Palestine group. University officials say the attack reportedly included the hurling of anti-Semitic remarks.
The North Philadelphia university said on Thursday that they were investigating the incident, which took place on Wednesday during Temple Fest -- an activities fair welcoming incoming freshmen.
Daniel Vessal, a junior Management Information Systems student who is Jewish, approached the table for Temple Students for Justice in Palestine and started to engage with them over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But what happened next differs wildly depending on who recounts what happened.
In an interview with the online publication TruthRevolt, Vessal said he was trying to gauge the group's point-of-view and that they should protest the terrorists.
“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,’” he told TruthRevolt.
Vessal told the site he went back to the table and was called a "baby killer" before being punched in the face.
He said his alleged assaulter was not detained by campus police and told to go home. The site also quoted witnesses who say the group made anti-Semitic remarks towards the man.
But the group said Vessal was the instigator and made racist remarks towards them. In a statement, group members said he called them terrorists and asked him to leave several times. They say a nearby student, who is not a member of the group, stepped in and began arguing with him.
That argument culminated with Vessal being slapped in the face, the group said.
Members deny making anti-Semitic remarks and say they plan to reach out to Temple Police to talk about what happened.
Vessal's attorney, Michael Widles, confirmed the assault and said Vessal had to be hospitalized. He said the student suffers from other medical conditions that could have been exacerbated by the attack.
A former federal prosecutor, Wildes denied claims that Vessal was the instigator and called police's dismissal of the alleged perpetrator "completely unacceptable."
"Our legal team is being assembled. We expect to be in multiple theaters to respond to the poor judgment by campus security, to the students," he said. "Our justice system needs to send out a very strong message that criminal acts like this hate crime not be allowed."
Aron Hier, Director of Campus Outreach for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a major Jewish human rights organization, said he's reached out to Temple's president demanding that a full investigation be launched into the assault and the student group. But he says he's yet to hear back.
"We believe this is a serious crime and needs to be investigated by the city and the university," he told NBC10.com. "If this occurred to a member of the LGBTQ community or the Black community, there would be outrage. It’s wrong."
Hier says he believes more incidents like these will take place on college campuses as the conflict between Israel and Palestine continues.
Temple University says it is investigating the alleged attack and that it condemns any type of disparagement against members of the community.
School officials say they have also reached out to leaders of the school's Jewish and Palestinian communities to discuss the issue.