BOROUGH PARK — The city council voted to remove Councilman Kalman Yeger from the Immigration Committee on Tuesday over his remarks on March 27th about Palestine. Of the 44 lawmakers present, 35 voted in favor, seven against and two abstained.
“When I say there is no Palestinian state, I am not denying the existence of Palestinian people,” said Yeger, explaining his vote. “I’ve said that before, I’ll say it again. Of course, there are Palestinian people but there is no Palestinian state.”
Yeger first came under fire for tweeting “Palestine does not exist,” after a Bklyner reporter Zainab Iqbal quote-tweeted the councilman’s remarks of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. Speaker Corey Johnson — after several lawmakers spoke out against Yeger —released a statement denouncing Yeger’s comments and called to strip the Boro Park lawmaker of his committee seat.
Of the seven council members who voted against Resolution 841, two were from Brooklyn—Councilman Alan Maisel and Yeger’s cousin, Councilman Chaim Deutsch of Sheepshead Bay.
“We are truly a diverse body and that diversity must extend to diversity of thought,” said Deutsch. “We are all New Yorkers. We all have strong minds and strong wills, but we must, as a body, learn to be better be at agreeing to disagree and without penalizing the minority opinion.”
Deutsch went on to say his district did not elect him to police others. He also warned his colleagues of social media implications, calling the forum a “casual setting…about impact, not substance.”
Yeger’s twitter battle sparked a protest of about 20 Palestinians and supporters who gathered outside the councilman’s office, to which nearly 200 counterprotesters also attended. Former Assembly Dov Hikind seemed to have led the counter-protesters that erupted days after the initial tweet controversy.
During the stated meeting, Councilman Carlos Menchaca, who chairs the immigration committee, also explained his decision to remove his colleague, Yeger, from the Immigration Committee.
“Less urgently, how can we claim to be a committee or body that Palestinians can trust to consider their interest fairly if we are willing to accept language that denies them the grounds of having said interests, namely their existence.”
Both Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo and Councilman Brad Lander also asked to explain their vote.
“I do not believe Councilmember Yeger is a bigot,” said Councilman Brad Lander who in his speech also condemned recent anti-Semitic threats of violence he said Yeger and his staff had experienced since the March fallout. The councilman ultimately voted in favor to remove Yeger from his committee post, as did Councilman Mark Treyger from Coney Island.
“While my colleague may have believed that his tweets were glib or idle, we’ve heard from many Palestinian New Yorkers about the harm and hurt his comments have caused them and their children,” Treyger said.