New York City is home to a sizable Palestinian population, with a concentration in Astoria and Bay Ridge, as well as the largest population of Jewish people outside Israel, with many in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Today, the New York Police Department will deliver a show of force around the city ahead of the possibilities of civil unrest, as there have been tensions in the city given the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East. The NYPD is investigating incidents, which have targeted both Palestinians and Jews, and has put in place a joint operations center in Manhattan in anticipation of protests.
Earlier this week Mayor Eric Adams had said that the NYPD was on “high alert” for potential violence motivated by the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East.
Here’s how the conflict has appeared in the city so far:
On Wednesday evening, a 19-year-old female suspect reportedly attacked a 24-year-old Israeli student of Columbia University with a stick in front of the school’s main library — Butler Library, as the student was hanging flyers against Hamas. NYPD arrested and charged the suspect with one count of assault, leading to a bigger protest inside the University campus the next day.
On Thursday evening, students and other Columbia affiliates gathered on the lawn of the school’s Morningside Heights campus for two demonstrations in support of Palestine and Israel. Documented’s Pooja Sarkar was on ground reporting. NYPD officers were present for campus safety purposes. Officers at Columbia Public Safety and an officer at NYPD declined to comment on how many people had gathered. A manual count suggests approximately 150 people were protesting from each side.
A professor at Columbia University who has taught there for over 21 years who declined to be identified said that the college has always been a ground for large protests including thousands of students who demonstrated during April 1968 against the Vietnam War but they have not come across such a large protest between student groups amongst each other.
Elisha Baker, a junior at Columbia University who is an organizing member of Students Supporting Israel at Columbia University said, “Jewish people are broken and our hearts are devastated and we are mourning together and united together. This week almost everyday we have had a vigil or rally in the campus, at one point we have had around 500 people. We believe that we have enough internal support to have our silent protest and that is the best option for the Jewish people at this moment.”
Columbia University student group, Students for Justice in Palestine, which has nearly 4,451 members had issued a post on Instagram, inviting people to gather for the protest: “Call to Action For Palestine, Thursday October 12, 4.30 p.m. at Low Library Steps.”
A member of SJP who did not want to be identified invited the public to look into Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International reports on Israeli apartheid. “Any omission of this context, any rhetoric of an unprovoked Palestinian attack, is shamefully misleading,” they said. “Palestinians have been subjected to the longest ongoing military occupation in modern history, and the right to resist is enshrined in international law. Despite the odds against them, Palestinians launched a counter offensive against their settler colonial oppressor.”
Sam Zuckerman, a Brooklyn-raised Columbia University student whose grandparents are currently in Israel, came to the protest with his friends. “It is not about a territorial issue but it is about a humanitarian issue,” he said. “Everyone is devastated on both sides. Are they (grandparents) holding up? Yes they are, but no one is okay.”
On Wednesday morning in New York, Men waving Israeli flags assaulted an 18-year-old Palestinian man in Brooklyn, as the Israel-Hamas war rages on, Daily News reported. The New York Police Department said three cars with several men drove by, waving Israeli flags and shouting anti-Palestinian statements.
At the intersection of Flushing Avenue and Classon in Brooklyn, on Wednesday night, two Jewish individuals approached two men who were displaying Palestinian flags. They took hold of one of the flags, struck one of the men on the head with it, and quickly fled the scene, the NYPD said.
In Gravesend, Brooklyn, Wednesday around 8.p.m., two 16-year-olds reportedly fired gel pellet guns outside Congregation B’Nai Yosef, a synagogue. Jewish watchdog group Flushing Shomrim responded to the scene first. The teens were given criminal court summonses.
City council member Justin Brannan and state senator Andrew Gounardes released a joint statement condemning hate crimes in southern Brooklyn: “Escalating violence in Israel and Palestine has inflamed tensions here at home. But we cannot allow these conflicts to cause violence or hateful rhetoric on the street of New York City. No one deserves to be attacked for their identity or their beliefs and we won’t stand for it in our community or anywhere,” they said.
Israel and Gaza
In Israeli territory, Israel said rocket attacks and deadly raids by fighters from Hamas have led to 1,300 deaths, with more than 3,000 people injured.
In Gaza, officials said that Israel’s strikes on the Palestinian enclave have led to more than 1,417 deaths, with more than 6,250 injured. The United Nations said it has lost 12 personnel in the Gaza strip since Saturday.
The Israeli Air Force said Thursday it has dropped about 6,000 bombs against Hamas, hitting more than 3,600 targets over the past five days in Gaza. In Gaza, “between 30 and 40% of the wounded are children,” Ghassan Abu Sitta, a British-Palestinian surgeon, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.