LONDON: A former adviser to Barack Obama who said that killing 4,000 Palestinian children “wasn’t enough” in a viral racist rant directed at an Arab food vendor in New York has been arrested.
Stuart Seldowitz, 64, was held on preliminary charges of hate crime and stalking, second-degree aggravated harassment, stalking causing fear, and stalking at employment, police said.
Seldowitz served as acting director for the National Security Council South Asia Directorate under Obama and was deputy director in the US State Department’s Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs from 1999 to 2003.
Several social media videos show Seldowitz harassing the Arab man working inside a food vendor on multiple occasions.
Seldowitz also made Islamophobic comments, insulting Islam’s holy book the Qur’an and its Prophet Muhammad.
When the vendor said he did not speak English, Seldowitz called him “ignorant.”
The vendor then informed Seldowitz that he was an American citizen, to which he responded by asking how he became a citizen and labeling him a “terrorist.”
In another clip, Seldowitz told him that “the Mukhabarat wants your picture,” alluding to Egypt’s intelligence agency.
“The Mukhabarat in Egypt will get your parents. Does your father like his fingernails? They’ll take them out one by one,” he said.
The vendor asked Seldowitz to leave several times.
“Tell me why I should go. I’m standing here. I’m an American. It’s a free country. It’s not like Egypt,” Seldowitz responded.
Seldowitz can be heard saying in one video that he plans to “put up big signs here that say, ‘This guy believes in Hamas.’”
He continued: “You support killing little children. You’re a terrible person.”
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.”
Earlier, New York City Council member Julie Menin announced on X that the New York Police Department had launched a hate crime investigation against Seldowitz, condemning the rant as “truly abhorrent.”
Seldowitz later apologized for the incident.
“I regret the whole thing happened and I’m sorry … In the heat of the moment, I said things that probably I shouldn’t have said,” he said on Tuesday.
“If I had to do it all over again, I would not have raised the religious aspect,” Seldowitz added.
“I don’t think I’m an Islamophobic guy. I’ve spoken up for equal treatment of Muslims on numerous occasions with numerous different people.”
Seldowitz most recently served as the foreign affairs chair for Gotham Government Relations, which cut ties with him after the videos circulated online.