Man says he was attacked for being Jewish at Barclays Center

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Josh Einiger speaks to the victim. (WABC)

A local Jewish leader told his story of being attacked outside the Barclays Center after watching a basketball game exclusively to Eyewitness News.

Leonard Petlakh said someone punched him when they saw him waving an Israeli flag.

The NYPD is now investigating the incident as a hate crime.

"It's humiliating. It's really humiliating," said Leonard Petlakh, attack victim.

He has eight stitches below his badly bruised eye and his nose is broken.

But what hurts Leonard Petlakh the most is his pride after his 10 and 14-year-old sons watched someone punch him out. Merely, he says, because he's a Jew.

"This is not France or tsarist Russia, this is New York 2014 and it's unacceptable. It's not the world I want them to live in," Petlakh said.

Tuesday night Petlakh took his kids to the Barclays Center to watch an exhibition basketball game between the Nets and Maccabi Tel Aviv.

The event was crashed by pro-Palestinian protestors he says that were blocking the arena exits as he tried to leave with his kids.

And when he asked one of the protestors to move, "There was this shouting 'Free Palestine,'" Petlakh said.

Then, he says, he was sucker punched in the face.

"It's not a fair fight. Here they're exhibiting their hatred and their anger. I'm a symbol to them. They don't know me. They don't know what I stand for, who my friends are, what I believe in," Petlakh said.

"This is not what Islam teaches us," said Mehmet Kilic, the victim's friend.

In fact, his friend Mehmet Kilic says Petlakh is one of the lease divisive people he knows. The director of the Kings Bay Y devotes his life to bridging the cultural gap.

"Leonard is a wonderful person who is trying to serve the community, and who's an advocate of peace between Muslims and Jews. And this act, its shame.

"For my kids it was a traumatizing experience. Who wants to see your father with your shirt bloodied," Petlakh said. "It was quite an introduction to Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Related Topics:
hate crimehate crime investigationbias crimepalestinepalestiniansisraelProspect Heights
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