‘Unacceptable antisemitism’: Leaders decry vandalism of Brooklyn Museum director’s home
AntisemitismPolice are investigating

‘Unacceptable antisemitism’: Leaders decry vandalism of Brooklyn Museum director’s home

Sen. Chuck Schumer: "This is not even close to free speech."

Sen. Chuck Schumer spoke about the incidents on the Senate floor on June 12, 2024. (Screenshot from YouTube)
Sen. Chuck Schumer spoke about the incidents on the Senate floor on June 12, 2024. (Screenshot from YouTube)

(New York Jewish Week) — Anti-Israel activists armed with red paint vandalized the home of the Jewish director of Brooklyn Museum and the homes of other leaders of the cultural institution early on Wednesday, sparking an outcry of condemnation from local officials.

Vandals splashed red paint and the words “blood on your hands” across the Brooklyn Heights residence of Anne Pasternak, director of the museum. They also hung a banner that accused Pasternak of being a “white-supremacist Zionist.”

In what is thought to be a coordinated attack, vandals also targeted the homes of at least three other Brooklyn Museum officials in the city.

Like the campus encampment movement — which began in April at Columbia University and spread to college campuses across the country — the Brooklyn Museum has become the latest flashpoint in New York City’s pro-Palestinian protest movement.

On May 31, hundreds of protesters organized and advertised by Within Our Lifetime, a hardline pro-Palestinian group that called on the museum to “divest from Zionist genocide,” crowded the plaza outside the Brooklyn Museum. During the action, protesters vandalized Jewish artist Deborah Kass’s famous “OY/YO” sculpture with the words “Ur museum kills kids in Palestine!” as well as “Free Palestine,” “Zionism is unpatriotic,” “F— Israel” and “F– ur bulls–t museum Gaza will be free.”

Jewish leaders condemned the vandals for “desecrating” the sculpture. Following intense clashes with the police, in which six were arrested, Within Our Lifetime has called for “sustained action” against the Brooklyn Museum. As the organization’s web site states: “The Brooklyn Museum’s actions on Friday are a violent consequence of their investment in the genocidal zionist entity: they insist on fueling and profiting from a colonial occupation even if they must endanger and brutalize the artists they claim to represent in the process.”

On Monday, ahead of the vandalism, Within Our Lifetime urged its followers to “take autonomous action” against several New York City museums, sharing a map that marked the Brooklyn Museum, Museum of Modern Art and others with a red inverted triangle, a symbol associated with Hamas that was also painted onto the museum board members’ homes.

The leader of Within Our Lifetime, Nerdeen Kiswani, defended the action in a series of posts on X, saying the museum was “supporting genocide.”

“Claiming this is about antisemitism is stupid and cheap,” she said.

Local and national leaders were quick to condemn Wednesday’s vandalism.

“I come to the floor this morning sick to my stomach and profoundly disturbed by pictures that were shared with me this morning of yet another antisemitic act in New York,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “Every single American needs to see this. This is the face of hatred. Jewish Americans made to feel unsafe in their own home – just because they are Jewish.”

“This is not even close to free speech,” he added. “This is intimidation. It is scapegoating. It is dehumanization. Invasive attacks loaded with the threat of looming violence. It is vile. It is nasty. It is un-American.”

Posting on X, Mayor Eric Adams wrote: “This is not peaceful protest or free speech. This is a crime, and it’s overt, unacceptable antisemitism.” H also noted the NYPD is investigating the incidents and “will bring the criminals responsible here to justice.”

City Council members Lincoln Restler and Crystal Hudson issued a joint statement calling the graffiti “a gross display of antisemitism.”

“In protest, there is an important distinction between advocating for justice and plain vandalism,” they wrote. “Last night protestors clearly crossed that line.”

“For two centuries, the Brooklyn Museum has worked to foster mutual understanding through art and culture, and we have always supported peaceful protest and open, respectful dialogue,” Brooklyn Museum spokesperson Taylor Maatman said in a statement. “Violence, vandalism and intimidation have no place in that discourse.”

Meanwhile, also early on Wednesday morning, vandals threw paint at the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations at 115 East 65th St. near Park Avenue. CBS News reports that demonstrators “littered the street with leaflets smeared with red paint and encouraging the intifada.”

The NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating at least five incidents of vandalism in connection to Wednesday, according to CBS News: three in Manhattan and two in Brooklyn.

Hate incidents against Jews in New York City spiked dramatically after the Oct. 7 invasion of Israel and throughout its subsequent war with Hamas. The NYPD reported 55 antisemitic incidents in May, the highest tally since November, indicating that the post-Oct. 7 spike in antisemitism in the city has not abated. PJC

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