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In a video dated October 13th, a group of Palestinian girls scaled the sand dune in Sand City, California. The dune looms over Highway 1 and serves as locals’ free billboard, with plenty of dead ice plant, seaweed and other detritus to spell signs with. They were accosted and they claim one was assaulted by a former congressional candidate after they wrote a simple message: FREE GAZA.
The Gaza Strip in Palestine is walled off and strictly controlled by the state of Israel. It’s often called an open air prison. On October 7th, a surprise attack by Hamas killed 1400 people, mostly civilians, and resulted in Hamas taking over 200 people hostage. Israel is now carrying out a massive military campaign against the area in retaliation for the attack, with the current death toll at over 8,000, at least 3000 of which were children.
Massive crowds in the U.S., which gives billions to Israel every year in funding, have been rallying over the past weeks calling for a ceasefire. Just last weekend, people shut down the Brooklyn Bridge and there were uncounted thousands in Los Angeles and 15 thousand estimated in San Francisco. Despite this, the Biden Administration and Congress have been unwilling to pressure Israel to stop their campaign. Instead, on the 30th, Press Secretary Karine Jeane-Pierre compared pro-ceasefire protesters to neo-Nazis who marched in the 2017 Unite the Right rally. Many of the protests were organized in part by Jewish-led groups like If Not Now and Jewish Voices for Peace.
Video of the incident on the sand dune was first posted on Instagram. The account that posted it claims Instagram took it down in a re-post on TikTok. Video clips show the girls dancing around and making the sign. Then the video cuts to a man in a bicycle racing outfit, later identified as Max Steiner, standing on the dunes dismantling the girls’ ‘free Gaza’ sign while shouting at them.
“They gave Gaza democracy, they elected Hamas, and Israel’s a terrorist?” Steiner shouts.
“You realize Palestine has no military?” one girl replies.
In the next clip, the sun’s starting to set and the man is still tearing apart the sign.
“Hey, enjoy driving your BMW in the land of the free, right?” Steiner says before the audio becomes indiscernible.
According to the original poster, Steiner attacked them right after the clip ended, running down the sand dune, slapping the phone out of the recorder’s hand, and proceeding to “choke a 13 year old.”
“He saw 3 hijabies on the sand dune. Started yelling “you terrorists are killing babies.” Ran up destroyed the message. As we were walking away, he jumped on a 13 year old from behind–choking her as I scratched his face and my sister-in-law kicked him from behind. This is Israel. Get to know them well. They care so much about kids,” a caption on the video reads.
The video’s poster, who declined to give her name to local news for fear of her safety, identifies the man in the video as Max Steiner (D), a former congressional candidate in California’s 1st District. Steiner’s Twitter account has been locked down in the aftermath of the video going viral. Sand City Police are investigating.
Steiner lost in 2022 to Republican Doug LaMalfa. He served in the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division in Baghdad and Kirkuk during the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. According to Brown’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, between 280 thousand and 315 thousand people died as a direct result of the war, though the death toll is “likely much higher.”
Steiner also worked as a policy analyst for the RAND Corporation and was a Foreign Services Officer where he was an observer in the Sinai of the 1982 Egyptian-Israel peace treaty.
“I am happy to be hated by Hamas TikTok,” Steiner later wrote on his since-deleted Facebook campaign page. He went on to admit that he destroyed the sign, and claim “those girls said “Hamas did nothing wrong [and] It’s the Jews own Fault”.” He also claimed they tried to “trash his bike” and claims this is when he “grabbed their phone and chucked it,” adding he “hopes they learn a valuable lesson about respecting other peoples’ property.”
Despite admitting he damaged one of the girls’ phones, Steiner claims that “neither of us touched each other” and that “the girls are making that up because they want to go viral.”
“My Facebook inbox is full of vile, anti-semitic garbage right now. Please send more: I am proud of my military service killing terrorists in Iraq and also proud of my ability to piss off terrorist supporters online,” Steiner concluded.
Neither Steiner nor the account behind the video responded to LCRW’s requests for comment at press time.