New York City Councilman Kalman Yeger became the subject of controversy last week when he denied the existence of Palestine and called congresswoman Ilhan Omar an antisemite. Palestinian activist Linda Sarsour then attacked Yeger by calling his statement “this kind of hate” and “bigoted.”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio joined in the fray on Friday by giving Yeger an ultimatum to apologize or be removed from the City Council committee on immigrant issues.
“If you’re asking my personal opinion, yeah, I think someone who has the ability to say that about Palestinian people by definition should not be on the Immigration Committee,” the mayor said on WNYC radio, according to the New York Post.
Now, if he comes out and he apologizes, and says, ‘Look, I was wrong and I realize what I did was hurtful and I’ve got to change,’ different discussion. But if he’s not going to apologize, he shouldn’t be on that committee,” de Blasio said.
As of last week, Councilman Yeger, who represents Brooklyn, was not apologetic. “There is no state by that name; there is no place by that name. That’s a fact. I did not make it up,”
The NY Daily news sided with Yeger saying:
“Critics of Brooklyn Councilman Kalman Yeger’s tweet that “Palestine does not exist” should consult a gazetteer (and if you don’t know what that is, look it up; it has nothing to do with Gaza).
“He’s absolutely right that an Arab state in Palestine was never formed, as the Arabs rejected a state side by side with a Jewish state in 1937 and 1947 and 1967 and 2000 and 2008. Yeger’s political observation upset some people and caused Speaker Corey Johnson to insist that he must apologize or lose a committee assignment. That’s nuts. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who said far worse things, correctly kept her committee assignment.”
“Free speech must reign, even in the Council.” The paper concluded.
This is a reminder to GreaterLakewood readers of the importance of embracing free speech, even hate speech – as long is it does not incite violence.