JTA — On Thursday, as Israel and Hamas reached a ceasefire that ended their 11-day conflict, Jews in New York City experienced a string of assaults and attacks connected to the fighting half a world away.
On Thursday night, dueling pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian demonstrations clashed in Times Square, where protesters from both demonstrations broke out into brawls.
The violence also spilled over into the surrounding blocks, where Jews were assaulted in the street. Videos circulating on social media appear to show pro-Palestinian protesters, wearing Palestinian colors or dressed in Palestinian scarves, attacking Jews and bystanders in a heavily Jewish area.
There were scuffles throughout the protest and elsewhere in the city.
Nationwide, Jewish organizations have also observed a spike in antisemitic incidents. The Anti-Defamation League received 193 reports of antisemitic incidents in the US during the first week of the Israel-Hamas conflict, compared to 131 the week before. It has not released data for this week, as it hasn’t ended yet. And the Secure Community Network, which coordinates security for Jewish institutions, has received dozens of reports of antisemitic incidents this week.
Earlier in the week, in Los Angeles, pro-Palestinian demonstrators attacked diners at a sushi restaurant, including Jewish men. In another incident in the city, caught on camera, Pro-Palestinian men in a caravan chased an Orthodox Jewish man who ran away on foot.
“These are obviously Jews being blamed for what’s going on in the Middle East. That’s antisemitism at its core,” said Scott Richman, the ADL’s New York-New Jersey regional director, regarding the week’s antisemitic incidents. “These are people who were visibly Jewish and they were attacked, and they were attacked only because of who they are.”
In total, 26 people in New York were arrested surrounding the unrest, according to the NYPD. Amid the flurry of reports and videos, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency was able to confirm the details of three incidents. Here’s what we know about what happened.
Jewish man beaten in midtown
In one of the most shocking images to come out of New York City Thursday, Joseph Borgen, 29, was beaten by a group of people shouting antisemitic statements in the middle of the street as he lay on the ground. There is a blurry video of the incident that has made the rounds on social media. According to WABC, people in the group shouted expletives about Jews and Israel.
Borgen, who is Jewish and was wearing a kippa and walking to the pro-Israel rally, was hospitalized, and a picture that has circulated on social media shows him in the hospital with a neck brace.
— 5TownsCentral (@5TownsCentral) May 21, 2021
The NYPD told JTA that the group that assaulted Borgen punched, kicked and pepper-sprayed him, and hit him with crutches. Waseem Awawdeh, 23, has been arrested in connection with the beating and charged with a hate crime, gang assault and other charges. The NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the incident.
“They were using their fists, they were kicking me, punching me, kicking me all over my body,” Borgen told Fox5, a local TV station. “What happened yesterday is just not the answer to anyone’s problems, regardless of what color of skin you are, what race you are, what ethnicity, what religion. That’s just wrong on so many levels regardless of who you are.”
Jewish teenager beaten at pro-Israel rally
Shortly after arriving at the pro-Israel rally in Times Square, at 5:45 p.m., a Jewish high school student, 17, was surrounded and beaten by pro-Palestinian demonstrators.
The teenager, who asked that his name be withheld for his privacy, told JTA that another kid, and then subsequently an adult, grabbed an Israeli flag he was holding and ran away with it. While chasing after them, the Jewish teenager tripped and was then surrounded by pro-Palestinian demonstrators who pushed him against a barricade and punched him in the head and arm.
He was hospitalized with a mild concussion and a jaw injury, and has been released. Following the incident, which happened over a matter of seconds and was captured in an edited video, the teenager said there was a “full-on brawl” between protesters from the two sides.
“I’ll be looking over my shoulder when I’m walking in the street a bit more often,” he said.
Brawl broken out in Times Square between Pro-Israel and Pro-Palestine protesters #HappeningNow
Desk@scootercaster.com for licensing pic.twitter.com/R94HY92PBp
— @SCOOTERCASTER (FNTV) (@ScooterCasterNY) May 20, 2021
Person burned by fireworks in the Diamond District
In the Diamond District, a heavily Jewish business district in midtown Manhattan, someone was burned when two fireworks were thrown from a car amid an altercation involving pro-Palestinian demonstrators. In a video from the scene on Thursday, one of the demonstrators also shoves a man. Someone in a group of men can be seen yelling “f—ing Zionist” and similar expletives while someone in the group holds a Palestinian flag.
In another video from the same street, a pickup truck with people waving Palestinian flags rolls by as someone yells, “Any Jews in here, suck my d–k.”
1/ The type of vile disinformation spread over the past two weeks across social media, the incitement & antisemitic comments made by notable members of Congress, and the doctored photos aimed at vilifying the Jewish people and the State of Israel have led to this situation in NYC pic.twitter.com/J1arHvzQqa
— The Israel Files (@theisraelfiles) May 21, 2021