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Former Obama Official Arrested for Harassing Halal Cart Vendor

One of several incidents was documented in a video on social media with more than 35 million views

Daily Life New York
A halal cart on the Upper East Side was subjected to harassment from Stuart Seldowitz, who served in the U.S. State Department’s Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs.
Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Melissa McCart is the editor for Eater New York.

An official, who served in the U.S. State Department’s Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs before becoming acting director of the National Security Council South Asia Directorate during the Obama administration, has been arrested for harassing a Yorkville food cart worker, as depicted in videos on social media. In circulating clips, he calls the vendor, “a terrorist,” accuses him of supporting Hamas, and ridicules Islam.

On Wednesday, Stuart Seldowitz was preliminarily charged with hate-crime stalking, one count of second-degree aggravated harassment, stalking with an intent to cause fear, and stalking at a place of employment, the NYPD confirmed to CNN.

In multiple videos that were crowdsourced on Tuesday to establish the man’s identity, Seldowitz taunts the worker about his citizenship status. He also says, “If we killed 4,000 Palestinian children, you know what? It wasn’t enough!” He threatens that Egypt’s General Intelligence Service, the Mukhabarat, “will get your parents. Does your father like his fingernails? They will take them out one-by-one.”

New York City Council representative for the Upper East Side’s district five, Julie Menin described Seldowitz’s actions to the Daily Beast as, “absolutely horrifying.”

Since it was posted on X, formerly called Twitter, on Tuesday morning, one video of Seldowitz has received over 35 million views.

The vendor works at the Second Avenue subway entrance at 83rd Street. In the videos, he asks Seldowitz to leave and does not engage with the harassment.

The Street Vendor Project, an organization that advocates for the rights of street vendors in New York, posted an Instagram on November 21, stating that it is in contact with the food vendor and providing support. “They feared speaking out would put them at risk of displacement b/c nearby building owners had tried to replace them with planters. No one should have to choose between harassment or displacement,” the post reads.

In an interview with Daily Beast, in which Seldowitz confirms he’s the man in the videos, he says it only shows one side and claims, “the vendor touched things off by expressing his support for Hamas.”

Seldowitz said that once a vendor allegedly expressed support for Hamas, he questioned the vendor, according to the Daily Beast, saying he thought “there should be some comment back to someone who is endorsing terrorism and the killing of innocent civilians.”

In response to the videos, a lobbying and communications group where Seldowitz served as chair, Gotham Government Relations, founded by David Schwartz, cut ties with him on X, and its website. “Gotham Government Relations has ended all affiliation with Stuart Seldowitz, an individual who hasn’t contributed to our work in years. The video of his actions is vile, racist, and beneath the dignity of the standards we practice at our firm.”

“I regret the whole thing happened and I’m sorry,” he told City & State New York. “But you know, in the heat of the moment, I said things that probably I shouldn’t have said.” An advocate says that Seldowitz has been taunting the worker for two weeks, according to CNN.

Meanwhile, Schwartz told City & State New York, “I’ll represent the food vendor pro bono if he wants to bring a lawsuit against Stuart Seldowitz. I’m absolutely outraged by this video.”

Update: 10:27 p.m. on November 22 to reflect Seldowitz’s arrest.