The Jewish leader of a Brooklyn community center says he was beaten by pro-Palestinian demonstrators in front of his children after a Brooklyn Nets game against Israeli champions Maccabi Tel Aviv at the Barclay’s Center.
Leonard Petlakh, 42, director of the Kings Bay Y, said protestors shouting “Free Palestine” and “Your people are murderers,” accosted him as he left the game in downtown Brooklyn. One of them struck Petlakh in the face, he said.
“It’s ridiculous,” Petlakh told The Forward. “It’s not about the Middle East, it’s about sports.
Petlakh suffered a broken nose and a cut that required eight stitches after the attack, which he said was being investigated by police as an anti-Semitic hate crime.
Petlakh said he hoped, “vile anti-Semitic hooligans masquerading as anti-Zionists will be caught soon.”
The Daily News reported that the dispute started inside the arena when protesters unfurled a Palestinian flag near Petlakh, who was with his family and friends. The argument continued outside when one member of Petlakh’s group tried to grab the flag, police told the News.
Around 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators turned out to protest the Nets hosting a Friends of the Israel Defense Forces fundraiser during the exhibition contest, which the Nets won 111-94.
Several groups, including the New York chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, Adalah New York, and Direct Action Front For Palestine, took part in the protest, which blasted the Nets for hosting 12 wounded Israeli soldiers.
A Jewish Voice for Peace press release stated that it was “particularly offensive for the Friends of the IDF to hold a VIP reception and fundraiser at the Barclay Center in light of Israel’s brutal assault on the Palestinians of Gaza this summer.”
Petlakh said that the protestors were yelling obscenities and that he had to ask them to move out of his way after the game. That was when a protestor filming the scene on his camera phone punched him, causing a bloody scene.
He said he was angry that his sons, 10 and 14, witnessed the attack after the game, but hoped they learned a lesson about self-defense.
“I hope it sends a strong message to them to stand up for their values as proud Americans and as those who will eventually volunteer to serve in the Israel Defense Forces,” Petlakh said.