Bensonhurst

Yeger may lose committee seat over “dehumanizing” Palestine tweets

March 28, 2019 Noah Goldberg
Councilmember Kalman Yeger tweeted on Wednesday "Palestine does not exist," leading to backlash from activists. Photo via NYC City Council Flickr/John McCarten

The City Council will consider removing Brooklyn Councilmember Kalman Yeger from his seat on the Committee on Immigration after his Wednesday Twitter declaration that “Palestine does not exist.”

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said Thursday that he was “uncomfortable” with Yeger being on the committee and called Yeger’s comments “dehumanizing” toward Palestinians.

“I do see a future without him in the Immigration Committee,” said Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, who chairs the Committee on Immigration.

Johnson was much more forceful in denouncing Yeger at a Thursday press conference than he was on Wednesday, when he said Yeger’s comments “do nothing to help advance the dialogue,” and expressed his support for a two-state solution in the Middle East.

“Palestine exists,” the speaker said Thursday, noting he has been to Ramallah and the West Bank as well as to Israel. “He’s saying something which is at odds with reality.”

Yeger has not apologized publicly or on Twitter and has not responded to requests for comment.

The councilmember, who represents Bensonhurst, Borough Park, Gravesend, Kensington and Midwood, got into a heated Twitter argument with a Muslim reporter Wednesday. “Palestine does not exist. There, I said it again. Also, Congresswoman Omar is an antisemite. Said that too. Thanks for following me,” he tweeted at Zainab Iqbal, a reporter for Bklyner.

 

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Yeger’s tweet unleashed a Twitter firestorm. “This is an irresponsible, bigoted and dangerous tweet from a NYC Councilman. I hope @NYCCouncil & @NYCSpeakerCoJo take action. There’s no place for this kind of hate in our city government,” Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour tweeted.

It was not immediately clear how Johnson and Menchaca would proceed in considering Yeger’s removal from the Committee on Immigration. “We always have an internal process and that committee changes, even the membership of the committee — not just the chair of the committee — has to go through the rules committee. So there’s an outlined process.”

Yeger has been a thorn in the side of progressive politicians on the immigration committee. When the committee voted on a resolution calling on Congress to pass legislation that would provide immigration relief for Ravi Ragbir, an undocumented immigrant and activist whose detainment by ICE sparked outrage in 2017, Yeger voted no.

When the committee called on Congress to abolish ICE, Yeger was one of three minority votes against the resolution.

Yeger also abstained when the committee voted on a resolution calling on the New York State legislature to pass legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses.

“I always want to give everyone an opportunity to apologize,” Johnson said at his press conference. “I have not had a chance to speak with [Yeger]. I will speak with him.”

Update (4:30 p.m.): When asked by reporters if he would apologize for his comments, Yeger replied, “Nope. For what?” according to the Daily News. “There is no state by that name. There is no place by that name. That’s a fact. I didn’t make it up, I didn’t invent it, that’s official U.S. policy, that’s the policy of many, many nations around the world. … Did it need to be said on Twitter? Probably not,” Yeger said, according to Jillian Jorgensen, a reporter for the Daily News.

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