update deskAntisemitism

Muslims assault Jewish family at fifth-grade graduation in Brooklyn

"They targeted my family because we are Jewish," said one of the victims.

The Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. Credit: Laretalo/Pixabay.
The Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. Credit: Laretalo/Pixabay.

A Jewish mother and her husband in Brooklyn, N.Y., were violently attacked by an American Muslim family to shouts of “Death to Israel” at an elementary-school graduation party, the New York Post reported on Sunday.

“A graduation event that was supposed to be joyous and memorable turned into a violent and traumatizing one,” the Brooklyn mom, whose 10-year-old twins witnessed the assault, told the Post in an interview.

Lana, and her husband Johan, a Dominican-born Catholic, said they turned to the press after the New York City Police Department initially refused to classify the incident as a hate crime.

“They targeted my family because we are Jewish,” said Lana, whose last name was withheld to protect her children’s privacy and safety.

The assault at P.S. (Public School) 682 in the Gravesend neighborhood took place after the fifth-grade graduation, when Lana and Johan tried to take family pictures and the Arabic-speaking family tried to push them out of the way.

“We told them there was space for both families,” Lana recalled. “An older man turned to us and said ‘Free Palestine!’ for no reason. My husband told him this was not the time or place for that but the man cursed at him in Arabic, and shouted, ‘Free Palestine, Gaza is ours, death to Israel.'”

While Johan clashed with the man and told him to back off, another man “just came out of nowhere, punched me in the head, and it was a scuffle,” he told the Post. “From there, I don’t remember, because there was so much going on and so many people on top of me. Then I was put in a chokehold. Somebody was holding my leg. It was chaotic.”

The couple’s 16-year-old son tried to help his father but was also assaulted, as was Lana when she attempted to film the incident.

“A woman from the group came up from behind me, pulled me by the hair, and knocked me down on the ground, shouting, ‘I will kill you,'” she said. Two male teachers eventually broke up the fight, the family said.

The NYPD arrested Ez-Al Dean Bazar, 26, who punched and dragged Johan, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. The police complaint makes no mention of an antisemitic motive, and the suspect was released without bail.

While Lana claimed authorities initially told her the incident was not probed as a hate crime as she is not visibly Jewish, the NYPD told the Post on Saturday that its Hate Crimes Task Force was investigating.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the New York City school system shifted the blame to the Jewish family, saying: “Initial reports we have received from multiple witnesses indicate that both families engaged in aggressive behavior, but we are still investigating the matter and are simultaneously engaging with families as we work towards a resolution.”

The statement was disputed by Lana and her husband, who said the U.S. Department of Education was “trying to sweep it under the rug to avoid further scrutiny of this heinous antisemitic act.”

A surge in antisemitic incidents

New York City has seen an uptick in antisemitic incidents in the wake of the Hamas terrorist attacks in southern Israel on Oct. 7, which resulted in the slaughter of some 1,200 people and the kidnapping of more than 250 others, primarily civilians.

Earlier this month, pro-Palestinian protesters rushed the Brooklyn Museum, assaulting public safety officers and damaging artwork as they made their way inside and occupied the lobby. The NYPD arrived in force about an hour later, taking 34 people into custody.

Six were charged with crimes ranging from trespassing to assault, while 23 received summonses for misdemeanors, including trespassing, graffiti and resisting arrest. The New York Daily News said that at least one faces charges for assaulting a police officer.

In a separate incident on June 12, the family homes of the Jewish director of the Brooklyn Museum and other officials were vandalized.

The assailants smeared red paint and graffiti on the Brooklyn Heights home of Anne Pasternak, director of the museum, and hung a banner at the entrance to her apartment building that accused the Jewish woman of being a “white supremacist Zionist.”

“Blood on your hands” was also splashed in red paint on the walkway leading to her residence. The homes of two trustees and the museum’s president and CEO Kimberly Panicek Trueblood, whose husband is Jewish, were also targeted in the coordinated attack.

In April, NYPD officers arrested approximately 200 people at Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza, one block from the home of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Chants at the rally included “Disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest. Disclose, divest” and “Let Gaza live.”

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