Council leaders remove Yeger from immigration committee after Palestine comments

Taking a stand: Rabbi Dovid Feldman protests Councilman Kalman Yeger and former Assemblyman Dov Hikind during a March 28 protest outside Yeger’s office over his controversial tweet.
Photo by Aidan Graham

He got the axe!

Council bigwigs booted a Midwood representative from their immigration committee after he refused to apologize for his social media comments in which he denied the existence of Palestine Monday.

The Council’s leadership reached a broad consensus to kick City Councilman Kalman Yeger (D-Midwood) off the committee headed by fellow City Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D-Red Hook), according to a political source.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson denounced Yeger’s comments, calling them counter to the committee’s mission of welcoming immigrants to the five boroughs.

“I found Council Member Yeger’s comments completely unacceptable,” Johnson said in a statement. “What he said is totally inappropriate, and sends the wrong message about our values. He is being removed from the Immigration Committee.”

Yeger received widespread political condemnation from fellow pols for the tweet he published in response to Bklyner.com journalist Zainab Iqbal, telling her that Palestine didn’t exist and labeling U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar as an anti-Semite on March 27.

“Palestine does not exist. There, I said it again. Also, Congresswoman [Ilhan] Omar is an anti-Semite. Said that too. Thanks for following me,” read the March 27 tweet.

Yeger took to Twitter April 1 to respond to the Council’s decision, decrying it as a limiting of his free speech.

“I respect the Speaker’s right to run the Council as he sees fit. It’s unfortunate that political correctness takes precedence over objective fact,” Yeger tweeted, while linking to a Daily News editorial that denounced the Council’s decision.

The councilman also hedged his controversial tweet by saying that while there was no Palestinian state, the Palestinian people do exist.

“Of course, there are Palestinians. However, the fact remains there is no Palestinian state,” Yeger said.

This contradicts previous statements he made when he called inhabitants of the Middle Eastern country “so-called Palestinians”.

The pol has been one of a handful of dissenting voices on the mostly progressive committee, voting no in a 2018 resolution by then Flatbush Councilman Jumaane Williams to halt the deportation of Brooklynite Ravi Ragbir by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

He also abstained from a resolution to urge Albany to allow undocumented immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses that year and voted against the committee’s resolution to call on U.S. Congress to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Tensions flared up when some 20 people gathered to protest against the councilman’s statements outside his Borough Park district office on March 28 and were met with 200 counter-protesters, some of whom were sporting ‘Make America Great Again’ paraphernalia and made Islamophobic remarks towards Muslim attendees.

One protester asked a young Palestinian girl if she had a bomb under her shirt, a comment which one of the counter-protest’s organizers and former Borough Park Assemblyman Dov Hikind condemned.

A spokesman for Yeger’s office did not return requests for comment by press time.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.

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