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Borough Park councilmember booted from Immigration Committee following anti-Palestine tweets

April 1, 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

City Council leadership decided Monday to remove Councilmember Kalman Yeger from the Committee on Immigration after he tweeted at a reporter last week “Palestine does not exist.”

“I do not believe that someone who engages in the type of rhetoric we heard from Councilmember Yeger belongs on the Immigration Committee, which is supposed to welcome and support immigrants in our city,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

There was “broad consensus” among leadership that Yeger had to leave the committee, according to a City Council spokesperson.

Yeger, who represents parts of Southern Brooklyn, caused outrage Wednesday after he got into a Twitter argument with Zainab Iqbal, a reporter with Bklyner.

“Palestine does not exist,” he tweeted at Iqbal, who is Muslim, after she highlighted his past tweets that referred to Palestinians as “so-called Palestinians.”

Yeger’s tweet caused immediate backlash from activists, including Linda Sarsour, a prominent Palestinian-American activist, who immediately called for his removal from the Committee on Immigration.

New York City politicians were slower to call for repercussions. Both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Johnson initially called on Yeger to apologize before they decided whether or not to remove him from the committee.

“I hope this sends a message that anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab, anti-Muslim comments by elected officials will no longer go unchecked,” Sarsour told the Brooklyn Eagle.

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“Palestine exists. Palestinians exist, and we are here to stay,” she said.

To formally remove Yeger from the committee, the City Council Rules Committee will vote on the issue. If passed, it will be presented to the full Council for another vote, according to a spokesperson for Corey Johnson.

Yeger, who has not responded to numerous requests for comment from the Eagle, tweeted Monday night that he respects “the Speaker’s right to run the Council as he sees fit.”

He added, “It’s unfortunate that political correctness takes precedence over objective fact. Of course, there are Palestinians. However, the fact remains that there is no Palestinian state.”

The councilmember did not apologize for his original tweets.

When asked by reporters at City Hall if he would apologize, Yeger responded, “Nope, for what?” according to the Daily News.

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