A pro-Palestinian protester punched the director of a prominent Sheepshead Bay Jewish organization in the face outside of an exhibition basketball game at the Barclays Center on Wednesday night, according to police.
The attack came at 10 pm, after an exhibition game between the Brooklyn Nets and Maccabi Tel Aviv, a professional Israeli basketball club. Palestinian-rights activists unfurled Palestinian flags inside the arena during the game, kicking off a confrontation that spilled outside, according to police, and left Kings Bay Y head Leonard Petlakh with a broken nose, according to the Y. Petlakh was with his kids at the game and accused the attacker and his allies of racism cloaked in political hostility, calling them “vile anti-Semitic hooligans masquerading as anti-Zionists.” He said he hopes his children learn from the experience — and pledged that they will sign up for the Israeli army one day.
“I am upset that my children witnessed this unprecedented violence,” he said in a statement. “But 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.”
When the pro-Palestinian agitators unfurled the flag in the stands, Petlakh’s group was nearby and someone he was with snatched it away, police said. The subsequent face-off prompted security to kick out everyone involved, according to the NYPD. Then, in the plaza in front of the Rust Bowl, a man hauled off and hit Petlakh, fracturing his nose and leaving a cut that required eight stitches to close, a Kings Bay Y spokeswoman said.
Assembylman Steve Cymbrowitz (D–Sheepshead Bay) also called the incident an anti-Semitic attack and said police and security stood by and let it happen.
“It’s terrible that Leonard’s children had to witness their father being brutally attacked,” said Cymbrowitz in a statement. “And it’s equally outrageous that a violent display of anti-Semitism wasn’t stopped before it got out of control.”
The Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the assault, a police rep said.
The game was preceded by a reception hosted by a group supporting the Israeli army to honor soldiers wounded during the recent war in Gaza.
Pro-Palestinian protesters were a vocal presence outside of the arena and during the game.
One group that organized a demonstration outside of the arena denounced the attack.
“Jewish Voice for Peace deplores the violent incident at last night’s Nets and Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball game at Barclays Center,” said Naomi Dann, a spokeswoman for Jewish Voice for Peace. “We send our sympathies to Leonard Petlakh.”
Dann said none of her organization’s members were in the arena, and that protests out front ended peacefully about two hours before the incident occurred. Pam Sporn, who was part of the Palestine contingent out front, said she was sexually harassed by Israel supporters as the crowd broke up.
“Three young men with Israeli flags harassed us and said that we ‘need Israeli d---,’ ” she said in a statement.
Cymbrowitz insists that cops and Barclays security dropped the ball in keeping the feuding factions apart.
“Given the advance notice, both the NYPD and Barclays should have been ready with enough personnel and security measures to keep the protesters apart from the attendees and avoid even the possibility of violence,” he said.
Police described the suspect as a man standing 5-feet-8 and weighing around 160 pounds. He was wearing a Nets T-shirt with “BK” spray-painted on the back, cops said.
The Barclays Center and the Nets declined to comment on the assault.