Protesters calling for the resignation of Brooklyn Councilmember Kalman Yeger over his tweet that “Palestine does not exist” clashed with counter-protesters outside the elected’s Borough Park office Thursday evening.
Community Affairs officers with the NYPD struggled to keep the two groups separated — and out of the street — as one side chanted, “No such thing as Palestine,” and the other chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
The protest, which was sponsored by the Union for Arab Women, NYC DSA, Bay Ridge 4 Social Justice, and other groups, was organized to “protest Councilman Yeger’s anti-Palestinian comments,” according to a flyer promoting the rally.
Yeger tweeted at a Muslim journalist Wednesday that “Palestine does not exist,” setting off a Twitter frenzy of anger and condemnation from activists and New York City politicians.
Approximately 20 people showed up to call for the councilmember’s resignation — or at least his removal from the Council’s Committee on Immigration — but they were significantly outnumbered by around 200 counter-protesters who came out in support of the embattled councilmember.
“There is no Palestine. He’s right,” said Heshy Feldman, 57, an Orthodox Jew whose vehicle was adorned with “Trump 2020” flags. “The Palestinians belong in Jordan,” he said.
“I am demanding to remove him from the Immigration Committee,” said Somia Elrowmeim, a Yemeni-American activist who founded the Union for Arab Women. “He has to learn how to love this community and immigration. How is he going to fight for immigration if he hates them?”
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said Thursday that he was “uncomfortable” with Yeger being on the committee. The chairperson of the committee, Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, said, “I see a future without him on the committee.”
At one point during the protest, a swarm of counter-protesters, many of whom were with the Jewish Defense League, surrounded a Muslim woman and yelled at her as she stood silently before them. “The Jews don’t murder people like the Arabs do, okay?” one man said to her. “They wanted to kill us out.”
Dov Hikind, a former New York State assembly member, showed up at the protest. He wrapped his arm around a JDL protester and chanted “Down with terrorism.”
“You have people like Dov Hikind who really hold these views, but they don’t represent the majority of this district,” said Jacob Kornbluh, a Jewish journalist who lives in Borough Park. “Even Kalman Yeger’s views are not the views of the majority of this district on this subject. Especially the way he phrased it.”
As the protest winded down, the NYPD offered the anti-Yeger protesters rides to their cars to separate the two groups. In the back of a police van, Enas Almadhwahi, an organizer with the Arab-American Association of New York, summed up how she felt about the protest.
“It was only for peace and justice. But what happened here — all these people show us hate and anger,” she said. “It makes me feel like I want to throw up.”