‘Islamic’ Paterson, otherwise known as ‘Little Ramallah’ to a heavily Muslim population, is well known in Homelabd Security Counter-terrorism circles as a mecca for Hamas terrorist supporters and related money laundering.
North Jersey Amid Palestinian (and Hamas?) flags, Paterson celebrates ‘Palestinian American Day,’ bringing to mind the way the Palestinians celebrated 9/11 in the streets of Paterson back in 2001,
The raising of a flag at City Hall on Sunday was like any of the dozen or so similar events held in the city each year in a nod to its diversity. Except it wasn’t.
That’s because the flag raised — for the first time in Paterson, and possibly at any city hall in the United States — was Palestinian. Symbols or assertions of Palestinian statehood are fraught with political sensitivities, and Khader Abuassab, the event’s organizer, said he received harassing phone calls before Sunday’s event.
But no problems were on display Sunday when the flag was raised in the rain before elected officials and about 150 people. People cheered, danced, shared sweets and shouted, “Long Live Palestine.” “Palestine is our country and we are proud of that,” said Clifton resident Salwa Ramadan. “We’re happy [to be] recognized finally.”
Paterson had never held the event because no one had asked, Mayor Jeffery Jones said. The mayor read a proclamation proclaiming May 19 as Palestinian American Day in the city and honoring the group’s heritage and contributions.
He said he wasn’t concerned with potential political backlash. “If they’re citizens of the city of Paterson, they have every right to raise the flag,” Jones said.
Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, and Assemblyman Thomas Giblin, D-Clifton, showed up — with Pascrell presenting a letter of Special Congressional Recognition and Giblin presenting an Assembly resolution marking the event.
Shavonda Sumter and Benjie Wimberly, both Assembly members, and state Sen. Nellie Pou also sent a joint citation.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, said in a speech that the Palestinian leadership thanked the city for its gesture. He urged local Palestinians to be good citizens and to continue supporting the struggle for justice in Palestine.
Many Palestinian Americans live and run businesses in South Paterson, area some call “Little Ramallah” after the West Bank city. Abuassab, a member of the Arab American Civic Organization, said it was time the community was recognized.
He put ads in Arabic newspapers about the flag raising and texted an invitation to friends, community leaders, politicians and law enforcement officials.
He said he got some calls from blocked numbers cursing him. One text message, Abuassab said, came from Charles Meyers, business administrator in the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office and former acting sheriff. The text said simply: “Drop dead.” Meyers denied sending it in an interview Friday, although he later answered the phone number that was the source of the text.
Local and national Arab-American leaders say they can’t recall any other U.S. municipality or agency endorsing a Palestinian flag-raising. Samer Khalaf, a Paramus resident and member of the national board of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination committee, said that’s probably because no Palestinian groups had asked.
“We need the country, and not just the flag,” said Paterson resident Manny Simrino. “But it’s a good thing. It’s a start.”
(I wonder if Gov. Chris Christie put in an appearance? After all, it was Christie who appointed an extremist Muslim and Hamas supporter, Sohail Mohammed, lawyer to countless Islamic terrorists, including the Fort Dix Five, to a Passaic County Superior Judgeship)