A Jewish man who was badly beaten by a pro-Palestinian mob in New York City on Thursday has spoken out about the experience, saying he thought he was “going to die” during the attack.
New York police are conducting a hate crimes investigation into the attack.
Joseph Borgen, 29, was beaten by a group of people shouting antisemitic statements in the middle of the street as he was walking to a pro-Israel rally.
Borgen was wearing a kippa at the time. He was hospitalized, and a picture that has circulated on social media shows him in the hospital with a neck brace.
“I was surrounded by a whole crowd of people who proceeded to physically attack me, beat me, kick me, punch me, hit me with crutches, hit me with flag poles,” he told the Daily Mail on Friday after being released from hospital.
Manhattan: West 49th Street & 7th Avenue, a Jewish man was severely beaten by pro-Palastine protesters – nearly lynching the Jew in @TimesSquareNYC.
— NYC Scoop (@NY_Scoop) May 21, 2021
“I was literally just in a fetal position, trying to guard my head and face, literally just trying to make it out of their alive,” he said. “I thought I was going to die. I thought I was really going to die.”
Borgen said his attackers shouted things like “You filthy Jew. We’re going to fucking kill you. Go back to Israel. Hamas is going to kill you.”
After beating him, the group then pepper-sprayed him “for like a minute straight.”
“My whole face was on fire. I couldn’t see. In the hospital, they literally had to drain out my eyes. My skin’s still on fire in certain places,” he said.
— 5TownsCentral (@5TownsCentral) May 21, 2021
The attackers fled as police arrived on the scene. So far one suspect has been arrested in the assault. The attack was one of several to target Jews in New York and in other places around the US in recent days amid the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
Borgen said he had been on his way to a rally “to show my support, show my pride in Israel, let them know we have their back even though we’re 6,000 miles away.” But he had expected things to be peaceful.
“I would never think I’d ever have to worry about my religion or my skin color or my ethnicity being a problem in New York City,” he said.
Thursday night saw dueling pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian demonstrations clash in Times Square, and several brawls unfolded.
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.”