are investigating dozens of obscene phone calls that flooded a Palestinian community center in New Jersey
on Tuesday, including Islamophobic and misogynistic rhetoric, as well as death
threats and sexual abuse threats.
Members of the all-female staff at the Palestinian American
Community Center in Clifton said they opened the facility on Tuesday to start the new semester of their Arabic program for children
, prepare for an advocacy meeting with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), and get “ready to continue serving our great community.”
“Unfortunately, we were all met with violent anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab, and Islamophobic rhetoric, all coupled with [vulgar] misogyny and sexual abuse threats,” the center said in a statement.
The center received approximately 30 calls from 11:50 a.m. until the facility closed at 6 p.m. local time, according to the statement. Staff said the calls came from two male individuals, the main one identifying himself as “Jebediah Morris.” In initial calls that day, the same man stated, “You guys aren’t even a real country,” in reference to Palestine
The caller then repeatedly warned the staff not to "blow up any buildings because that's what you people
do," and threatened to sexually assault
staff members in order to "give [you] a taste of your own medicine."
The caller initially claimed to be from “Brunswick,” but later stated that he “lives nearby so [I] should come over there and beat the shit out of you.” The caller occasionally used a private number to conceal his identity and location, while other times his caller ID indicated he was calling from Texas
The man repeatedly asked if the staff were Palestinian, and when asked why this mattered, he said it was “so I know where to come blow you up.” He accused PACC of being a terrorist organization, and when asked where he got such information, he referred to the Israeli government and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
The Record and NorthJersey.com received recordings of the calls, and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) released videos that included some of the threats that PACC staff had captured.
“Right now, the most important thing for us is for people to recognize how layered this incident is,” said Abire Sabbagh, PACC community engagement coordinator, in a statement. “It’s heavily politicized, anti-Palestinian, and extremely misogynistic.”
“This did not happen by chance; it is the result of the country’s unwavering political, financial, and moral support for Israel. What happens abroad affects what happens in our communities here, and right now we are most concerned about the beautiful and diverse community we serve, especially the most vulnerable within, our women
After staff members reported the first wave of calls, Clifton police responded and had a patrol car outside the center on Tuesday, with an officer inside for some of the later calls. As of Wednesday morning, the center has decided to remain open with consistent security
in place for the rest of the week.
“PACC staff are rightfully shaken up, but are empowered by the community’s strength and support,” the center said, adding, “Like our people and homes in Palestine, we will not be intimidated, we will not go anywhere, and trust us, we will prevail.”
The Clifton Police Department's detective division commander, detective Lt. Robert Bracken, did not immediately respond to Stardia's request for an update on the investigation
. The Passaic County Prosecutor's Office is also looking into the incident as a bias crime
The New Jersey chapter of CAIR filed a complaint with the FBI
, which would not comment to Stardia on the specifics of a potential investigation. The FBI told CAIR-NJ on Tuesday that it would look into the calls and that it is in contact with the state's homeland security office, which is also aware of the bomb threats targeting PACC.
The FBI promised to contact CAIR-NJ again, but the chapter's executive director, Selaedin Maksut, said the organization hasn't heard from the bureau since Tuesday.
@CAIRNJ @MSelaedin: "Our office has filed a complaint with the FBI and expects a formal investigation to begin immediately. We urge the FBI and state law enforcement authorities to take domestic terrorism
threats seriously and to ensure the safety of PACC members." #Gaza — CAIR National (@CAIRNational) June 2, 2021
“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 in a statement. “This propaganda, adopted by some New Jersey elected officials, gives a false sense of entitlement to those who make violent threats against Palestinian community members, like the racist
“It is not controversial to call out anti-Palestinian hatred and Islamophobia
,” Maksut continued, “and New Jersey elected officials must be vocal in their condemnation of this violence.”
Booker, who was scheduled to meet with PACC staff on Wednesday, tweeted that Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian hatred "have no place in our state, our nation, or anywhere." New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) also tweeted that he is "appalled" by the threats against the center.
“These violent and vile threats are intolerable,” Booker said, adding that “we must all speak up and condemn hate in all its forms.”
The Israeli government and the Palestinian militant group Hamas
fought for 11 days last month, causing widespread destruction in Gaza and killing more than 250 people, the majority of whom were Palestinians and many of whom were children. While the two groups eventually agreed to a cease-fire, the effects of the massacre spread to the United States
, where there has been an increase in both anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim sentiment.