Local police are investigating dozens of obscene calls that overwhelmed a Palestinian community center in New Jersey on Tuesday and included Islamophobic and false rhetoric, as well as death threats and threats of sexual abuse.
All-female staff members at the Palestinian American Community Center in Clifton said they had opened the facility on Tuesday to start the new semester of their Arabic program for children, preparing for an advocacy meeting with Sen. Corey Booker (DN.J.) and “Be prepared to continue serving our great community.”
“Unfortunately, we were met with rather violent Palestinian, anti-Arab and Islamophobic rhetoric, all together with [vulgar] misogyny and threats of sexual abuse,” The Center said in a statement.
According to the statement, the center received around 30 calls from 11:50 am local time till 6 pm till the facility was closed. Staff said that at one point there were calls from two male individuals, the chief of whom identified himself as “Zebedia Morris”. In calls earlier that day, the same person referred to Palestine, saying “you’re not even a real country”.
Then the caller repeatedly told employees to “don’t blow up any buildings because you guys do this,” and threatened to “give up” staff members of sexual assault and rape. [you] A taste of your own medicine.”
The caller first claimed to be from “Brunswick” and later said that he “lives nearby”. [I] Should come over there and beat the crap out of you. The caller sometimes used a private number to block his name and location, and other times the caller ID indicated he was calling from Texas.
The man asked several times if the employees were Palestinian, and when asked why it mattered, he said, “So I know I’ll blow you up.” He accused PACS of being a terrorist organization. When asked from where he got such information, he referred to the Israeli government and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The recording of the call was shared with The Record and NorthJersey.com, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) released videos, which also included some threats by PACC employees.
“The most important thing for us right now is for people to recognize how layered this phenomenon is,” PACC Community Engagement Coordinator Abir Sabbagh said in a statement. “It is heavily politically charged, and anti-Palestinian, as well as grossly wrong.”
“It came from nowhere – it comes from the country’s blind political, financial, and moral support to Israel. What happens abroad affects what happens to our communities, and right now we are in that beautiful and Most concerned about the diverse community we serve – especially the most vulnerable, our women and children.”
Clifton police responded to the scene after staff members reported the first wave of calls and there was a patrol car outside the center on Tuesday, with an officer making a few calls later. Till Wednesday morning, the Center has decided to remain open with constant security for the rest of the week.
“The PACC staff are rightly shaken, but are empowered by the strength and support of the community,” the Center said. “Like our people and homes in Palestine, we will not be intimidated, we are not going anywhere, and trust us, we will win.”
Police has started investigation into the incident. However, the commander of the Clifton Police Department’s Detective Division, Detective Lieutenant Robert Bracken, did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for updates on the investigation. The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office is also investigating the incident as a prejudice crime.
The New Jersey chapter of CAIR filed a complaint about the threats with the FBI, which would not comment to HuffPost on the specifics of the potential investigation. The FBI told CAIR-NJ on Tuesday that it will look into the calls and is in contact with the state’s Office of Homeland Security, which is also aware of bomb threats targeted to the PACC.
The FBI said it would recall CAIR-NJ, but the chapter’s executive director, Seladin Maksut, said the organization had not heard from the bureau since Tuesday.
“Israeli’s propaganda in support of apartheid and the brutality that Palestinians display provides fertile ground for anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim hatred here in America,” Maksut said in a statement. “This propaganda, adopted by some New Jersey elected officials, gives a false sense of entitlement to those – such as racist collars – who make violent threats against members of the Palestinian community.”
“It is not controversial to exclude anti-Palestinian hatred and Islamophobia,” Maksut continued. “New Jersey’s elected officials must be clear and unequivocal in their condemnation of this violence.”
Booker, who had an upcoming meeting with PACC employees, tweeted on Wednesday Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian hatred “have no place in our state, in our country or anywhere.” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) also tweeted That he is “shocked” by the threats of violence against the Centre.
“These violent and gruesome threats are unacceptable,” Booker said. “We must all speak up and call out hatred in all its forms.”
The Israeli government and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas fought for 11 days last month, causing widespread destruction in Gaza and killing more than 250 people, most of them Palestinians and many of whom were children. While the two groups eventually reached a ceasefire, the effects of the genocide moved to the US, which has seen both anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim crimes.
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