VIDEO: Clifton police provided extra security while investigating a deluge of threatening phone calls Tuesday to the Palestinian American Community Center.
“Is this the terrorist community center?” the caller asked during one of more than 30 exchanges with staff that began before noon and continued until nearly 6 p.m.
Referring to himself as “Jebediah,” the caller said he lived “next to” the Lakeview Avenue center and was going to “beat your f*****g ass.”
“You Palestinians blow up children and behead them,” he said at one point. “I'm going to come rape you and give you a taste of your own medicine.”
In another recorded exchange:
- Caller: “Are you Palestinian?”
- Respondent: “Why does that matter?”
- Caller: “So I know to come blow you up.”
"They are not going to catch me,” he says at another point, “so I do not know why you're worried about calling it in."
Selaedin Maksut, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, said his organization has asked the FBI to join what city police said is a bias investigation.
Racist, Islamophobic, anti-Arab, and misogynistic language was used against the staff, he noted.
It wasn’t the first time a caller has targeted the center -- which offers Arabic classes, along with youth events -- but it was by far the most troubling, Maksut said.
Context is critical: The calls come at a time of increased tensions and warfare between Israelis and Palestinians, along with a reported increase in anti-Semitic incidents, the director said.
“Propaganda in support of Israeli apartheid and brutality that demonizes Palestinians provides fertile ground for anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim hatred here in America,” Maksut said.
“This propaganda, adopted by some New Jersey elected officials, gives a false sense of entitlement to those -- like the racist caller --- who make violent threats against Palestinian community members,” he said.
It also "puts Palestinian and American Muslims at risk,” Maksut said. “It needs to be condemned and repudiated at every opportunity by elected officials and policymakers....Calling out anti-Palestinian hatred and Islamophobia is not controversial. New Jersey elected officials must be loud and clear in their condemnation of this violence."
“Most important for us right now is for people to recognize how layered this incident is,” said the PACC’s Abire Sabbagh. “It’s heavily politically charged, and anti-Palestinian, as well as extremely misogynistic.
“This did not come out of nowhere - this comes from this country’s blind political, financial, and moral support to Israel,” he said.
“What happens abroad affects what happens to our communities here, and right now we’re most concerned about the beautiful and diverse community we serve - especially the most vulnerable within, our women and children,” Sabbagh said. “The very least our local and national government can do is acknowledge the physical, emotional, and psychological toll and trauma on our people here and in Palestine."
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