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Law enforcement in Teaneck wrangles pro-Palestinians who mobbed real estate event

An informational fair for those interested in moving to Israel drew the hundreds of demonstrators on a Sunday afternoon.

Hundreds of anti-Israel protesters carried Palestinian flags and yelled pro-Hamas slogans outside Congregation Keter Torah in Teaneck, N.J., in response to an event promoting the purchase of real estate in Israel, March 10, 2024. Credit: The Jewish Link.
Hundreds of anti-Israel protesters carried Palestinian flags and yelled pro-Hamas slogans outside Congregation Keter Torah in Teaneck, N.J., in response to an event promoting the purchase of real estate in Israel, March 10, 2024. Credit: The Jewish Link.

The police department in Teaneck, N.J., led multiple law-enforcement agencies in responding to a planned protest at an Israeli real estate fair on Sunday afternoon at a synagogue in Teaneck. More than 750 anti-Israel protesters were seen waving Palestinian flags as they marched west on New Bridge Road towards Congregation Keter Torah, chanting “Free Palestine” and slogans such as “There is only one solution,” “Intifada revolution” and “Long live the intifada!” The entire neighborhood around the synagogue was locked down for upwards of five hours, with many residents having to show identification to return to their homes.

A man who did not file a police report was assaulted and had an Israeli flag taken away from him and defaced. Eyewitnesses reported protesters spitting in his face as he stood on the sidewalk near his home and was surrounded by protesters. Police responded by going into the crowd and bringing the man back to safety. The Israeli flag was ripped, pounded on and placed in the middle of the street, where a convoy of about 25 cars adorned with “Free Palestine” flags ran over it, as antisemitic epithets were screamed and repeated. Hours later, a member of the Teaneck Town Council, Hillary Goldberg, retrieved the flag.

“I was there to witness them calling me—calling you, calling all Jews—murderers, Nazis, fascists, rapists, pedophiles, baby killers, genocidal maniacs, [expletive deleted] pigs,” said resident Avi Berliner.

“I heard the chants of ‘Say it loud and say it clear, we don’t want no Zionists here,’ ‘Go back home,’ ‘We are coming for you,’ and the dog whistle ‘From the river to the sea’ that hopes for an Israel devoid of Jews and has turned into the antisemitic slogan of our day,” Berliner said.

“I saw the signs calling for a return to the ‘1947 borders.’ I saw the water bottles thrown at cars, had spit hurled at me and saw an unidentified red liquid sprayed at citizens. I am aware of the reports of damage to homes displaying Israeli flags, balls of red paint thrown and weapons displayed by passing cars at peaceful lawful protesters,” he added.

The police department reportedly arrested two protesters late in the day for spraying pedestrians with a red liquid. “They are currently in custody, and will be processed and charged by the police department,” wrote Dean Kazinci, Teaneck’s town manager, in an email on Sunday. Multiple people leaving the event reported that red paintballs were shot at their cars but that they were encouraged to leave the area and file police reports.

Anti-Israel Protest in Teaneck, N.J.
An event at Congregation Keter Torah in Teaneck, N.J., promoting the purchase of real estate in Israel drew hundreds of anti-Israel protesters, who carried Palestinian flags and yelled pro-Hamas slogans, March 10, 2024. Credit: The Jewish Link.

A statement released on Monday by the Teaneck Police Department indicated that the two offenders were identified as Letticia Freitas, 29, and Mahdy Soleiman, 20, who were charged with counts of bias intimidation, criminal mischief, assault and harassment. Both Freitas and Soleiman were released from custody later in the day pending an appearance in Bergen Central Judicial Processing Court. Neither of the offenders are Teaneck residents and had addresses listed in Worcester, Mass., and East Hanover, N.J., respectively. Notably, Freitas appears to have faced charges of resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer back in 2018, according to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Kazinci said that law enforcement was successful in preventing significant civil unrest. “As with any gathering of this size and magnitude, some minor skirmishes took place. The police exercised excellent judgment and restraint in not escalating a very volatile situation,” he wrote.

The protest was organized by CAIR-NJ and Teaneck for Palestine after a Teaneck resident posted a speech on Instagram and Twitter about an advertisement for the real estate event. He reportedly misrepresented it as an auction of Palestinian land, “only open to white people.” After two days, it had garnered 1.1 million views on social media and was growing by 50,000 views an hour in the days before the event.

Anti-Israel Protest in Teaneck, N.J.
Hundreds of anti-Israel protesters carried Palestinian flags and yelled pro-Hamas slogans outside Congregation Keter Torah in Teaneck, N.J., in response to an event promoting the purchase of real estate in Israel, March 10, 2024. Credit: The Jewish Link.

Dozens of volunteers from CSS (Community Security Services) from many synagogues around Bergen County stepped up to assist in securing the event, which went on as expected and was well-attended. In addition to the volunteer security detail, the Teaneck Police Department also had assistance from the Bergen County Sheriff’s Department, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, the Hackensack Police Department, the Bergenfield Police Department, the New Milford Police Department and others who make up the rapid deployment force. Also on hand were the New Jersey State Police and the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.

“Today, we heard from 1,000 pro-Palestinian protesters. They expressed no desire for a ceasefire or for peace; just the sole hope to take over the entire land of Israel and expel—or do worse—to the Jewish occupants. This isn’t my opinion. This was their words. Their chants. For hours. For months. Here in Teaneck and across the whole world,” said Teaneck Councilman Mark Schwartz, who is also co-publisher of The Jewish Link.

Bergen County Jewish Action Committee (BCJAC) condemned the protest, saying that the informational program on real estate in Israel at Congregation Keter Torah was a “cynical attempt to target a religious institution under false pretenses as part of a coordinated and malicious campaign to harass Teaneck’s Jewish community,” said Yigal Gross, BCJAC’s spokesman.

As to the misrepresentation of the synagogue-sponsored event as an illegal auction of stolen Palestinian land, Gross said that “all of these claims are categorically false,” he said.

“The synagogue was not sponsoring the event, there was no sale of any kind taking place; no ethnic groups were excluded from the event, and no laws were being violated in holding the fair,” he stated. Gidon Katz, CEO of IMP Group, ran the event.

“These claims are simply smokescreens for what this really is—a malicious attempt to target and harass a Jewish community,” said Gross.

Anti-Israel Protest in Teaneck, N.J.
Township of Teaneck Council Members Hillary Goldberg and Mark Schwartz hold an Israel flag that was taken from a resident and desecrated. Credit: The Jewish Link.

‘This was a hateful protest’

Teaneck Town Council member Hillary Goldberg recounted the events of the day, describing a variety of assaults and destructive behavior.

“I watched our police get verbally abused. I watched water bottles get thrown on cars as they drove by. I watched people, from young children to old men, calling for our destruction and that of Israel,” Goldberg shared. “This was antisemitism. All of it. It was not a peaceful protest. This was a hateful protest.”

As they have elsewhere in the United States and abroad in the wake of Israel’s defensive war against the terrorist group Hamas following the Oct. 7 massacre, pro-Hamas demonstrators have escalated their attempts to target Jewish communities. Teaneck, where Jewish residents number as much as 40% of the population, has seen numerous protests in the past months.

“It is no coincidence that this quiet New Jersey town has become such a flashpoint for pro-Palestinian activism,” said Gross. “These protests are here because we are here. They are seeking out and targeting Teaneck’s Jews.”

This story originally appeared in The Jewish Link.

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