Embattled City Councilmember Kalman Yeger was officially ousted from the body's Immigration Committee on Tuesday, weeks after sparking outrage for his repeated claim that Palestine does not exist.
Council Speaker Corey Johnson had called for the vote in the wake of the incendiary comments, prompting a hateful counterprotest outside the Brooklyn rep's Borough Park office. On Tuesday, Yeger's colleagues voted for his removal from the committee by a 35-7 to margin — with two abstentions.
Yet even in face of overwhelming censure, Yeger remained defiant in his description of Palestine. "There is no state, nothing I say or what we vote will change it," he told the council, insisting that this assessment was "not denying the existence of Palestinian people." In earlier tweets, Yeger had referred to "so-called 'Palestinians,'" whose ultimate goal was the destruction of the Jewish state.
Yeger doesn’t apologize over comments. Says his removal is “to satisfy some bizarre desire for political correctness.” pic.twitter.com/54GP2UhdJ2
— Ivan Pereira (@IvanPer4) April 9, 2019
For the small group of Yeger-supporters in the council, his removal from the immigration post was an example of political correctness and censorship run amok. Councilmember Ruben Diaz, who was recently stripped of his committee post over repeated homophobic statements made throughout his career, framed the issue as a violation of free speech: "People don't have to like what I say. They don't have to like what Yeger said. But they have to respect it."
Speaker Johnson, who'd previously ripped Yeger's comments as "dehumanizing," countered that members of the council should be held to a higher standard, particularly when serving a committee aimed at helping vulnerable New Yorkers. Keeping Yeger on the body, he suggested, would send a message to Palestinians that they were not valued in the city.
Meanwhile, some of the councilmembers who voted in favor of Yeger's removal seemed to regard the vote as a futile exercise, and to acknowledge that the decision would have little bearing on anyone's feelings about the divisive subject.
"I hope we can find a path away from polarization here in this Council, one that enables us to disagree with each other, even quite sharply, but still in ways that include all New Yorkers, and build bridges of understanding in our city," lamented Councilmember Brad Lander in a lengthy statement.
"That will not happen through battles on Twitter, or through votes that remove people from committees," he continued. "That will require all of us to do hard work, across sharp lines of differences, to find higher ground."
Efforts to reach Councilmember Yeger were unsuccessful.