US feds charge pro-Palestinian protester with hate crime for antisemitic attack

Saadah Masoud allegedly beat a Jewish man who was holding an Israeli flag in April, causing a concussion; is also accused of attacking two other Jews last year

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

Saadah Masoud, left, a pro-Palestinian activist, shortly before beating a Jewish man on a street in New York City on April 20, 2022. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)
Saadah Masoud, left, a pro-Palestinian activist, shortly before beating a Jewish man on a street in New York City on April 20, 2022. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

NEW YORK — A pro-Palestinian activist has been charged with a hate crime in US federal court for an antisemitic attack in New York City in April. Investigators said he also attacked two other Jews in separate incidents last year.

Saadah Masoud was charged in the US Southern District of New York last month, according to newly released court documents.

The request for an arrest warrant from US Attorney’s Office investigators said Masoud repeatedly punched his victim — who was holding crutches — and dragged him across a sidewalk, causing injuries, including a concussion.

He carried out the attack because of the “perceived national origin or religion” of the victim, who was wearing an Israeli flag at the time of the attack, investigators said.

The incident took place on 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue in midtown Manhattan on the evening of April 20, on the sidelines of a pro-Palestinian protest. Masoud was a flag-carrying participant in the rally.

The victim, a counter-protester named Matt Greenman, said Masoud followed him away from the gathering, before attacking him and saying, “This is what happens when you’re a terrorist.” Greenman is Jewish and previously lived in Israel.

Video filmed by the protesters showed Masoud following Greenman down a street and shouting at him, along with another protester, who calls him “Jew” in Arabic and says he has a “dirty fucking flag.” The video then cuts back to the main protest.

Investigators said that in security camera footage, they saw the assailant approach Greenman and throw him to the ground, also knocking down a nearby woman. Masoud then struck Greenman in the head and face for close to 20 seconds, dragging him face-first across the sidewalk and shoving away bystanders who tried to intervene, investigators said.

Masoud ripped away the man’s Israeli flag. The protesters’ video showed him returning to the front of the demonstration with the flag, where it was stomped on and set on fire. The footage appears to show Masoud as a leader of the event.

Shortly after the attack, a passerby who filmed it shared the footage with The Times of Israel.

Activists against antisemitism and bystanders pieced together who the attacker was shortly afterward, using witness testimony and online sleuthing, and sent Greenman the attacker’s name and photo, which he provided to police.

Masoud threatened the activists online in a series of messages, including, “I feel bad for you zionist people when judgment day comes and we slaughter all of them like sheep.”

Besides the concussion, the attack left Greenman’s face bruised and swollen.

Matt Greenman after he was attacked by pro-Palestinian protesters on April 20, 2022. (Courtesy/Matt Greenman)

“The DOJ’s decision to prosecute this case is a promising sign that the federal government is willing to assure consequences for hate crimes targeting the Jewish people,” Greenman’s lawyer Gerard Filitti said.

“We are painfully aware of the failure by many local authorities to address Jew-hatred,” Filitti said.

The investigator in the case also said he uncovered two other instances in which Masoud violently attacked Jews in June and July of 2021. He allegedly threatened and struck a Jewish community leader at his home in Brooklyn, and weeks later cut the face of another person who was holding an Israeli flag, which he stole, also in Brooklyn.

At the time, there were large rallies against Israel in New York and other US cities following Israel’s war with Gaza terror groups. Some of the protests spilled into violence and attacks on Jews.

Anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian activists burn an Israeli flag in New York City, May 15, 2021. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

The arrest warrant against Massoud was issued on June 10 and he was arrested and appeared in court on June 14. He was released on bail for $75,000 and put under heavy restrictions. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 6.

The April 20 protest began near the Israeli consulate in Manhattan. Activist groups including Within Our Lifetime, Samoudin and the Palestinian Youth Movement organized the event. The organizers called for resistance “by any means necessary” ahead of the protest.

Around 100 demonstrators carried Palestinian flags and chanted, “Globalize the intifada,” “We don’t want no two states, we want all of it,” “Israel, go to hell,” and “From the river to the sea.” For Israelis, intifada — which literally means “uprising” in Arabic — conjures traumatic memories of a mass wave of terror attacks in the early 2000s. The period saw suicide bombings and other attacks in Israel that killed hundreds of civilians.

A small group of pro-Israel counter-protesters led by the Yad Yamin group gathered across from the Israeli consulate under police protection. They held signs with pictures of Israelis killed in recent terror attacks, waved Israeli flags and argued with pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

Pro-Israel counter-protesters argue with a pro-Palestinian activist at a rally in New York City, April 20, 2022. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

Within Our Lifetime regularly calls for an intifada and the destruction of Israel at rallies in New York, and has called for the targeting of Jewish organizations in the city, including by handing out maps of Jewish groups at a protest.

Antisemitic hate crimes in New York City have spiked in recent years and Jews are targeted in hate crimes far more than any other group in the city, year after year.

In May, the most recent month for which data is available, the NYPD reported 25 antisemitic incidents. Since the start of the year, anti-Jewish attacks account for nearly half of all confirmed hate crimes, far higher than for any other group. The antisemitic incidents include assaults on city streets against visibly identifiable Jews, racist graffiti, property damage and verbal abuse.

Federal hate crime charges are relatively rare and most suspected incidents do not result in a conviction.

On Thursday, several Jewish New York City Council Members pushed the administration of the city’s public college system to address allegations of rampant antisemitism on campuses. The City University of New York’s chancellor, who oversees its 26 campuses, canceled his appearance at the hearing for the second time, and no CUNY officials showed up in person, infuriating Jewish advocates.

Illustrative: Anti-Israel protesters call for an intifada at a protest in New York City, September 17, 2021. (Luke Tress/Flash90)

In May, Nerdeen Kiswani, one of the leaders of Within Our Lifetime, which organized the April protest, gave the commencement speech at CUNY Law’s graduation ceremony.

Her address was largely directed against Israel. She said she was “facing a campaign of Zionist harassment by well-funded organizations with ties to the Israeli government and military,” to applause from her classmates. At regular protests, Kiswani advocates for the destruction of Israel, a “global intifada” and targeting “Zionists.”

Video from the April 20 protest showed her at the front of the march with Masoud shortly after the attack while they were burning the Israeli flag.

She said before the attack that the Israeli flag was “responsible for the killing of countless Palestinians,” led chants of “Zionists you can’t hide” and called for Israel’s end “by any means necessary.” She said CUNY Law’s branch of Students for Justice in Palestine was in attendance.

Separately, on Thursday, a man was indicted in New Jersey for terrorism, bias intimidation, attempted murder and a slew of other charges for a violent crime spree against Jews in April. Dion Marsh was previously charged with three federal hate crimes for the incidents, in which he allegedly carjacked, stabbed and ran over three identifiably Jewish people, who were badly wounded, but survived.

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