A Pro-Palestinian protestor attacked the head of a Jewish organization in Brooklyn outside the Barclays Center Tuesday night, breaking his nose, according to a news release from the organization.
Leonard Petlakh, head of the Kings Bay Y in Brooklyn, said he was leaving an exhibition basketball game when a pro-Palestinian protestor hit him in the face as others shouted “Free Palestine” and “Your people are murderers.” The game, between the Nets and the Israeli team Maccabi Tel Aviv, was also part of a fundraiser for the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces.
The NYPD’s Hate Crimes Unit is investigating the incident, which was caught on the Barclays Center’s security cameras, Petlakh said.
“I’m just sorry for my kids,” said Petlakh, whose two sons, 14 and 11 years old, attended the game with him. “You go to a game and out of the blue they have to witness this, and then your blood is gushing all over your shirt in front of your kids.”
In August, the ADL reported a “dramatic upsurge in violence and vitriol against Jews,” around the world associated with Israel’s military operation in Gaza. The organization did not include statistics in its report but did document attacks linked to anti-Israel protest against Jews and communal buildings in Europe, South America, Canada, Australia and Africa.
The group Jewish Voice for Peace organized a protest of the game outside the stadium, arguing that this contest was more than a game because it was also a fundraiser, and that Israel “deploys” its sports teams internationally to distract attention from its occupation of Palestinian territory.
All JVP members left the area where they held their protest long before the game ended, said JVP spokeswoman Naomi Dann. Their protest, which was supervised by police, ended by 8 p.m. Counter-protesters heckled them, Dann said, but there were no violent incidents. JVP deplored the attack on Petlakh and conveyed its sympathies in a statement.
Petlakh said the attack on him happened after a group of about six or seven people entered the stands late in the game and tried to unfurl a Palestinian flag. Someone else grabbed the flag and brought it to an usher, who tried to remove it.
No JVP members entered the stadium, Dann said.
As this was happening, the spectators, protesters and ushers all began moving toward the exit, Petlakh said, and he and his children left the stadium behind a group of yelling protesters. As they moved across the stadium’s plaza, Petlakh told the protesters to get out of his way, turned to check on his children at his right and was punched from his left by someone who shouted “Free Palestine.”
Friends took him to Methodist Hospital, where he was treated for a fractured nose and cuts under his eye that required eight stiches, according to the release.
Petlakh is an émigré from the former Soviet Union who is known for his interfaith work with the Turkish community that uses the Kings Bay Y.
“Of course, this was par for the course growing up in the Soviet Union, we were third-class citizens,” he said. “But it’s been such a long time … this is New York City circa 2014. It’s crazy.”
The NYPD has not responded to requests for comment.