BOROUGH PARK, Brooklyn — Protestors from the group Bay Ridge for Social Justice rallied outside Council Member Kalman Yeger’s Borough Park office Thursday protesting his tweet from Wednesday that reads, in part, “Palestine does not exist.”
“Yeger's comments were hateful. They were outrageous. He was dehumanizing Palestinians, which is absolutely unacceptable of any leader - especially a New York City Councilmember,” said Alex Pellitteri, with Bay Ridge for Social Justice.
But the protestors were quickly outnumbered by counter protestors waving Israeli flags and chanting.
Some in this predominantly Hasidic community lashed out that their side was being unfairly portrayed by the media - yet didn’t want to speak when we gave them the opportunity. But others did weigh in on the tweet.
“There’s no such thing as Palestinian? A hundred percent correct,” said one pro-Israeli Borough Park resident.
“Freedom of speech and he has a right to feel that way and he’s absolutely right to feel that way,” said another resident.
Things got loud and there were heated exchanges between both groups, but a strong NYPD presence kept things under control.
Criticism of Yeger’s tweet also came from city leaders including Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
“He should definitely apologize and I very vigorously condemn his comment” said Johnson.
There were also calls to remove Yeger from his seat on the City Council’s Immigration Committee.
“If he does not recognize Palestinians and is erasing an entire people, he has no place deciding laws on immigration in New York City,” said Pellitteri.
Late Thursday afternoon Councilmember Yeger doubled down and told PIX11 he stands by his statement.
“My point was never about people. My point was about location: a geographic reality, an international legal reality, a fact. There is no state by that name,” said Yeger.
Back in Borough Park, community leaders called for cooler heads to prevail.
“Mr. Yeger has a right to his point of view and I think we should start respecting other point of views instead of immediately jumping on people,” said Dov Hikind, New York State Assemblyman representing the district.
“Most of the people screaming on both sides are not from this neighborhood,” said Yosef Rapaport. “Kalman is good friend of mine. I know him personally I don’t think he has an iota of hate towards Palestinians.”
Yeger’s seat on the Immigration Committee remains uncertain. Councilmember Carlos Menchaca chairs the Committee.
“I do see a future without him in this immigration committee,” said Menchaca.
When asked about the swirling controversy over his position on the Committee and Menchaca’s response, Yeger told PIX11 “If he doesn’t want me there, that’s OK.”