A Jewish councilman and a prominent Arab-American activist got into a Twitter war over a tweet she posted commending a child’s “courage” for throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers.
The Twitterstorm began Sunday, when Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab-American Association of New York, posted the photo of a toddler, who was heading down the road towards IDF soldiers in riot gear with rocks in both hands. “The definition of courage,” she wrote.
In the online battle, first reported by the New York Post, Sarsour, a close associate of the de Blasio administration, battled it out with critics, including Queens Councilman Rory Lancman, who chimed in on Oct. 13 with, “No the definition of barbarism.”
“@lsarsour You must be especially proud of the 13-yr-old Palestinian who stabbed the 13-yr-old Israeli. #barbarism” he retorted, to which she replied:
“@RoryLancman don’t put words in my mouth. Shame on you. Using my tax payer $$ to attack people online. Go do your job.”
This set off a flurry of retorts from Jewish tweeters noting the $164,050 her group has received in City Council funding since 2012 and calling for the funding to stop. (Lancman declined comment on the Post’s question of whether he thought the city should pull the group’s funding.)
Sarsour then retweeted a post calling Zionism “the root cause” of all the violence, criticized Lancman for “attacking a constituent on foreign policy issue when they weren’t asked” and noting that one should “Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference,” before continuing the back and forth.
“The Zionist trolls are out to play. You will never silence me,” she added.
Lancman said in a statement that, “Attacking Jews at their homes, schools, supermarkets, cafes, buses, roads, synagogues and seder tables is barbarous, and enlisting children to commit those acts is even more so,” the Jewish Press reported.
Sarsour campaigned heavily for Bill de Blasio in the 2013 mayoral race and his administration, in turn, has repeatedly featured Sarsour in press releases on his education initiatives, according to the Post.
She is also a senior strategist for the Campaign to Take on Hate and co-founded Muslims for Ferguson and the Muslim Democratic Club of New York. She has received a bevy of awards the “Champion of Change” award from the White House, the New York City Council’s Shirley Chisholm Women of Distinction Award and the inaugural American Muslim of the Year honor from the Council on American Islamic Relations, according to the Jewish Press.
The mayor, meanwhile, has confirmed that he will visit a bilingual school with Arab and Israeli students during his three-day trip to Israel, which begins tonight, The New York Times reported.
“Building inclusivity and tolerance between all of the region’s people is critical to that goal,” de Blasio spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick wrote in a statement to Gothamist. “There’s no better place to start than with kids.”
The mayor decided to visit with Palestinians in Jerusalem instead of going to Ramallah, in the West Bank, a move his administration had been considering before the recent spike in violence raised security concerns from American and Israeli authorities, according to the Times.
At least two Jewish leaders told the Times they supported the visit, with Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, deeming the school visit “‘acceptable,’ given the mayor’s consistent support of Israel,” the Times reported, and Borough Park Councilman David Greenfield calling it good way to strike a balance.
“I think it’s wise that the mayor is skipping a visit to the West Bank while Israel is currently under a campaign of terror,” Greenfield told the Times. “It is certainly appropriate for him to reach out to the Palestinian community by visiting a school in Jerusalem.”