The Electronic Intifada has learned that the NorthJersey.com article, heavily favorable to Hameeduddin, was deleted because it relied on “hearsay.”
As The Electronic Intifada reported, Hameeduddin, who remains an elected council member in the northern New Jersey city of 40,000, assaulted the Jerusalem resident who uses the pseudonym Zalameh on Monday night on the grounds of the al-Aqsa mosque in Israeli-occupied Jerusalem.
NorthJersey.com is owned by the North Jersey Media Group, which publishes several newspapers and describes itself as “the leading provider of news and marketing services in northern New Jersey.”
The deleted article provides an account favorable to Hameeduddin and dismisses The Electronic Intifada’s reporting. It begins:
Township Councilman Mohammed Hameeduddin was involved in a confrontation with a pro-Palestinian activist as he visited the Al-Aqsa mosque — Islam’s third holiest site, on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City — on Monday night.
A partisan website later accused him of assaulting the activist. But Hameeduddin’s correspondence back home, and that of a woman first approached by the activist, describe a scene in which the man provoked the incident and falsely claimed he was being assaulted.
Hameeduddin, the township’s former mayor and Teaneck’s first Muslim to serve in that capacity, is in Israel on a 10-day trip sponsored by the Shalom Hartman Institute’s Muslim Leadership Initiative (MLI). The group encourages coexistence between Muslims and Jews and aims to explore the religious, political and socioeconomic issues facing Israelis and Palestinians.
The incident was said by participants to have involved an activist with the Palestinian Boycott Divestment & Sanctions [BDS] movement, a drive to persuade companies to divest themselves of doing business with Israel, thereby isolating it economically and culturally.
Hameeduddin subsequently told fellow council members that, as he was trying to pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque, the activist approached a woman in the Hartman group and tried to film her while asking her questions. The stranger also announced that the group was here “against the will of the Palestinian people” and that it is “Islamphobic” [sic].
Hameeduddin demanded that the activist stop harassing the woman and covered his camera with his hand.
An article was subsequently written on “The Electronic Intifada,” an independent online publication with a pro-Palestinian viewpoint, claiming Hameeduddin “assaulted” and “battered” the man, a resident of Jerusalem.
Yellin’s report also provides this testimonial in which one of Hameeduddin’s town council colleagues justifies the assault:
Colleagues and friends of Hameeduddin — known in Teaneck among Jews and Muslims as a unifying figure who receives strong support from the Orthodox Jewish community — are defending him against what one termed the “wild accusations.”
Councilman Mark Schwartz, who spoke to Hameeduddin early Wednesday morning by phone, said Hameeduddin related that “‘BDS bullies were waiting to ambush me while I was going to prayers.’ “ He said he did not hit anyone but was “protecting the women in my group,” said Schwartz, characterizing Hameeduddin as a peacemaker more than a fighter. Schwartz praised his colleague for stepping in to help the woman being confronted by the activist. “There was no physical confrontation,” he said.
An archived version of Yellin’s article can be seen here.
Yellin also claims that “Two videos accompanying the website article do not show Hameeduddin engaging in any physical confrontation.”
However the videos, which are included once again below, do indeed show such an assault as any reasonable viewer would conclude.
In the first, Zalameh is speaking calmly with Amanda Quraishi and others when an agitated Hameeduddin approaches Zalameh and can be heard striking him or his camera before the video shuts off. Hameeduddin assaulted Zalameh before Zalameh had a chance to get out more than a few words. Hameeduddin’s actions may amount to assault and battery.
Zalameh’s statements about the Islamophobic backing for the Hartman institute came only later and can be heard in the second video.
Hameeduddin and Quraishi, a Texas blogger, were there with a group of participants in the “Muslim Leadership Initiative,” a junket sponsored by the Shalom Hartman Institute.
The Jerusalem-based Shalom Hartman Institute receives millions of dollars from extreme anti-Muslim donors and is a major contractor to the Israeli military. It is also involved in Israeli government efforts to undermine the Palestine solidarity movement.
The second video shows another person who has yet to be identified accosting Zalameh in an attempt to stop him filming.
Protecting the “sisters”
Yellin also quoted a blog post by Quraishi which tried to spin the incident as one in which Hameeduddin was defending her and other women from harassment.
“Amanda D. Quraishi, a technology professional from Texas who is part of the Hartman group and described herself as an American Muslim, wrote on her blog that the incident began when the man approached, pointed a phone camera at her and asked her a lot of personal questions,” Yellin’s report claimed.
But the first video above shows this is false. As noted, Zalameh barely had time to speak before he was attacked by Hameeduddin.
Nonetheless, Quraishi wrote that she was grateful that Zalameh had been assaulted and justified the use of violence:
I was alarmed and my immediate response was ‘Who are you?’ I try not to go around handing out personal information to strange men when traveling abroad. In my unnerved state, I was grateful that one of my fellow cohorts, Mohammed, came up and covered the phone camera in my defense, telling him to put the camera away and not to film the sisters. At that point the young man started exclaiming loudly, ‘Why are you being violent?’ and making a ruckus as if he were being attacked. There was no violence unless you count someone pushing a stranger’s camera away from a woman who doesn’t want to be filmed as a violent act. He was absolutely not hit or punched by anyone.
In his account given to The Electronic Intifada, Zalameh states: “one of the MLI participants charged immediately against me on the grounds of al-Aqsa where we were, just like the Israelis regularly do to us. He punched me and tried to grab my camera and successfully turned it off. He kept pushing as I pleaded with him to stop. It only ended when one of his colleagues intervened.”
Within hours of Yellin’s report being published at NorthJersey.com, it was removed without explanation.
The Electronic Intifada spoke to reporter Deena Yellin by telephone this morning. Yellin said the report had been removed because it “relied on hearsay.”
“We didn’t want to rely on second or third hand sources,” she said, “we’re a reputable publication.” When questioned about who had provided the information, Yellin became defensive.
Only after she had volunteered her account, Yellin demanded retroactively that the conversation be placed off the record.
“You know what, none of this is for attribution,” Yellin said, and hung up the phone.
Yellin had earlier tweeted out the now deleted article.
Hameeduddin and Quraishi have not responded to invitations to speak to The Electronic Intifada. NorthJersey.com editor Martin Gottlieb did not return a call left with a staffer by publication time.
Update: Just after this post was published, NorthJersey.com editor Stephen McCarthy told The Electronic Intifada that the report had been pulled as his publication had not spoken to any direct witnesses. He said his publication intended to do more reporting.