Ex-US govt official arrested after video of him harassing halal street vendor goes viral

Stuart Seldowitz was held on charges of aggravated harassment and stalking, among others, police said in a statement

By Reuters

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Published: Thu 23 Nov 2023, 8:36 AM

Last updated: Thu 23 Nov 2023, 8:37 AM

New York police on Wednesday arrested a former US State Department official after he was captured on video calling an Egyptian halal street vendor a terrorist and saying the death of 4,000 Palestinian children "wasn't enough."

Stuart Seldowitz, 64, was arrested on charges of aggravated harassment, hate crime stalking, stalking causing fear, and stalking at a place of employment, police said in a statement.

"A 24-year-old male victim stated to police that an individual approached him at his work place multiple times and made anti-Islamic statements multiple times on different dates causing the victim to feel afraid and annoyed," police said.

Video went viral earlier this month of multiple arguments over the Israeli-Hamas conflict between Seldowitz, a former State Department employee, and the unidentified man working in a halal cart on a Manhattan sidewalk.

The war that broke out on Oct. 7 has prompted a surge in antisemitism and Islamophobia in the United States and fueled frequent street protests in support of both Israel and Palestinians in Gaza.

Social media posts showed Seldowitz saying, "If we killed 4,000 Palestinian kids, you know what? It wasn't enough. It wasn't enough."

In the posts, the vendor is seen telling Seldowitz to "go, go, go, go" and "I won't hear it." Seldowitz then responds, "But you're a terrorist. You support terrorism."

Seldowitz told local television news before his detention that the video posted on social media failed to tell the whole story and that he became upset only after the unidentified man said he supported the Hamas attacks on Israel that killed Israeli civilians.

"The comments that went beyond him, and could be interpreted as attacks on Muslims and Arab-Americans and so on, were probably not appropriate," Seldowitz told WNBC television. "The comments I made calling him out for his support of terrorism - those I think were appropriate."

Reuters could not reach Seldowitz for comment.

Seldowitz worked in the Obama administration as acting director for the National Security Council South Asia Directorate, according to his LinkedIn profile which is no longer active. He also worked at the State Department, an archived telephone directory for the agency shows. He told the New York Times that he had worked for Department's Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs.

Asked about the incident, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said: "The United States unequivocally opposes racist or discriminatory language of any form."

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