Councilman in anti-Palestine tweet flap could be removed from immigration committee

Councilman in anti-Palestine tweet flap could be removed from immigration committee

Kalman Yeger’s comments are “nonsensical,” council Speaker Corey Johnson said. “Palestine exists.”

Protesters gathered outside Councilman Kalman Yeger's Brooklyn office Thursday to denounce his anti-Palestine tweet .    
Protesters gathered outside Councilman Kalman Yeger’s Brooklyn office Thursday to denounce his anti-Palestine tweet .     Photo Credit: Rich Fury

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said Thursday he and other members are mulling removing Councilman Kalman Yeger from the committee on immigration following the Brooklyn politician’s anti-Palestine comments on Twitter Wednesday.

During a news conference before a council meeting, Johnson again condemned Yeger’s tweet that said "Palestine does not exist" as well as his follow-up responses that chastised anyone who disagreed with him.

"His comment is nonsensical. Palestine exists. Saying that doesn’t comport with facts," Johnson said. 

As of Thursday evening, Yeger had not apologized for his tweet, and told WPIX Channel 11 News, "What I said was truthful." Messages to Yeger’s office for comment were not returned. 

Dov Hikind, a member of the New York State Assembly, was among the supporters of Councilman Kalman Yeger.
Dov Hikind, a member of the New York State Assembly, was among the supporters of Councilman Kalman Yeger. Photo Credit: Michael Owens

Johnson said he and other council members are having internal discussions about removing Yeger from his position on the immigration committee.

"My personal viewpoint is those comments make me uncomfortable with having someone with those viewpoints on a committee that’s supposed to work with immigrants," Johnson said.

City Councilman Carlos Menchaca, who chairs the immigration committee, agreed.

"When someone comes out like this, it’s erasing but also denying the true rights of people," he said. "I see a future without him on the committee."

In February, Johnson and the City Council voted to dissolve a subcommittee for for-hire vehicles after its chair, Ruben Diaz Sr., repeatedly made homophobic comments about the council and state legislative leadership. 

Local residents watch as protestors rally outside Councilman Kalman Yeger's Brooklyn office over an anti-Palestine tweet on Thursday.
Local residents watch as protestors rally outside Councilman Kalman Yeger’s Brooklyn office over an anti-Palestine tweet on Thursday. Photo Credit: Michael Owens

Nearly 100 people, both protesters and supporters of Yeger, gathered outside the councilman’s Brooklyn office around 6 p.m. Thursday. Yeger did not appear during the protest and it was unclear if he was at the office.

Assemb. Dov Hikind stood with the counter-protesters and argued that Yeger should not be removed from the City Council or the committee.

“Those who are offended, I respect their right to be offended,” he added.

Police tried to keep the two factions separated but the atmosphere was contentious, with both groups shouting at each other. While protesters chanted, "Free Palestine," the counter-protesters danced and sang in Hebrew.

Dyker Heights resident Alex Pellitteri, with the progressive political group Bay Ridge for Social Justice, stood with the pro-Palestinian side.

Supporters of Councilman Kalman Yeger shout at pro-Palestine demonstrators outside his Brooklyn office on Thursday.
Supporters of Councilman Kalman Yeger shout at pro-Palestine demonstrators outside his Brooklyn office on Thursday. Photo Credit: Michael Owens

"I really think he should resign, but if he could be kicked off the immigration committee, that would be great," Pellitteri, 18, said. "He is not fit for office."

With Lauren Cook

Ivan Pereira