Former Obama administration adviser Stuart Seldowitz has been arrested on hate crime charges after viral videos showed him repeatedly harassing a halal street food vendor in Manhattan.
As reported by ABC New York, Seldowitz was arrested after the NYPD opened up a hate crime investigation against the former State Department official. In one of several videos circulating on social media, he was seen threatening a man inside the food cart by suggesting he could call his "friends in immigration." He then makes a reference to the Egyptian intelligence agency, the Mukhabarat.
“The Mukhabarat in Egypt will get your parents. Does your father like his fingernails? They’ll take them out one by one,” Seldowitz said in one of the clips. The street cart employee asked him to leave, to which he responded, "Tell me why I should go? I’m standing here. I’m an American. It’s a free country. It’s not like Egypt."
He also asked the employee, "Did you rape your daughter like Muhammad did? ... Muhammad, your prophet... He was a rapist." The man said he didn't speak English, so Seldowitz asked if he spoke Arabic, which he called "the language of the Quaran."
"The holy Quran that some people use as a toilet. What do you think of that, people who used the Quran as a toilet? Does it bother you?" he continued, later berating the man for not speaking fluent English. "That’s why you're selling food in a food cart, because you’re ignorant. But you should learn English, it’ll help you when they deport you back to Egypt and the Mukhabarat wants to interview you."
In another video from a different day, Seldowitz appeared to antagonize the street food vendor by holding up a button featuring the flag of Israel. "I’m going to put up big signs here that say ‘This guy believes in Hamas,’" Seldowitz said, accusing the vendor of being a "terrorist" and not having a permit or visa. "You support killing little children. You're a terrible person," he continued.
The vendor replied, "You kill children, not me." Seldowitz said, "If we killed 4,000 Palestinian kids, you know what, it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough."
In an interview with ABC 7, the co-owner of the halal cart, Islam Moustafa, said that he has been struggling to sleep after seeing the unsettling, islamophobic videos of Seldowitz. "I don't sleep well hearing those kinds of harsh comments regarding the Prophet Mohammed and asking the young kid if he raped his daughter and all that," he said.
A man who witnessed one of the multiple confrontations said he tried to step in on at least one occasion. "He had a lot of hatred," said Zak Ettamymy, who works near the cart as a construction manager. "He was saying a lot of mean things and I said, 'Listen, this is not a place or time for this. You probably need to walk away from this gentleman and let him work.'"
Mohammad Hussein, one of the employees at the cart, filed a complaint of aggravated harassment with the police. He recorded one of the encounters with Seldowitz.
The Guardian reports that political lobbying firm Gotham Government Relations has cut ties with Seldowitz after videos of the racist confrontations circulated online.
Tensions have been high amid the conflict in Gaza, which was stoked after roughly 1,200 individuals were killed in attacks orchestrated by Hamas on October 7. In response to the attacks, Israel launched an extensive aerial attack and subsequent ground assault on the Gaza Strip. The United Nations reported that two-thirds of the over 14,000 people killed in Gaza are estimated to be women and children as of Wednesday, November 22. The violence has also spilled over into the West Bank, where Hamas has no governing power, with over 200 Palestinians killed.