A screenshot of ​former State Department official Stuart Seldowitz making racist remarks to a Manhattan food vendor.

A screengrab of video footage shows former U.S. State Department official Stuart Seldowitz as he unleashes a racist tirade at a food cart vendor in New York City.

(Photo: @itslaylas/X.com)

Ex-US Diplomat Rebuked for Islamophobic Rants at NYC Vendor

Stuart Seldowitz, who worked for the State Department under Clinton, Bush, and Obama, was videoed saying, "If we killed 4,000 Palestinian kids, you know what? It wasn't enough."

A man caught on video launching racist tirades at a New York City food cart vendor has been identified as former State Department official Stuart Seldowitz.

Seldowitz worked under former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. He served as Obama's acting director for the National Security Council South Asia Directorate and as deputy director and senior political officer in the U.S. State Department's Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs under Clinton and Bush, according to Vice. In one of the videos, he is recorded saying, "If we killed 4,000 Palestinian kids, you know what? It wasn't enough."

"Stuart Seldowitz was an Obama national security advisor, and significantly, his territory was south Asia," human rights lawyer and congressional candidate Qasim Rashid tweeted in response to the news. "That means he built policy for hundreds of millions of Muslims—yet all this time he saw us as subhuman. The lasting harm of his racist mindset—that's systemic white supremacy."

The videos were posted on the platform known as X, formerly Twitter, by a Columbia University graduate student. In the first video, posted Tuesday, the student asked for help identifying a man in a green sweatshirt who was harassing a food cart vendor stationed off 83rd Street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan.

In the first video, Seldowitz threatened to share the man's identity with the Egyptian Mukhabarat intelligence agency.

"The Mukhabarat in Egypt will get your parents," Seldowitz said. "Does your father like his fingernails? They'll take them out one by one."

When the vendor asked him to leave, he refused, saying it was "a free country. It's not like Egypt." He then took the man's picture with his phone and laughed.

"I'm not worried about this particular Stuart Seldowitz, the one we now know. I'm worried about the many, many Stuart Seldowitzes currently placed at the highest levers of power in the Biden administration."

Seldowitz then asked the vendor if he had raped his daughter like Mohammed did and asked him what he thought about people using the Quran as a toilet.

"This Islamophobic bigotry is absolutely reprehensible," Manhattan Borough President Mark D. Levine tweeted in response to the recording. "No one in this city should be subjected to this venom."

In a second video, Seldowitz asked the vendor about his immigration status, to which the vendor answered that he was an American citizen. Toward the end of the video, Seldowitz told the man that he supported terrorism and the killing of children, to which the man answered, "You kill children, not me."

"I didn't kill children," Seldowitz said, but then continued, "You know what, if we killed 4,000 Palestinian kids, you know what? It wasn't enough."

Palestinian officials say that Israel's bombardment and invasion of the Gaza Strip has killed at least 5,500 children since October 7, with a further 1,800 missing and likely buried under rubble, Al Jazeera reported.

Seldowitz toldThe New York Times Tuesday that his attacks on the vendor sprang from an initial conversation in which Seldowitz asked the man if he was Egyptian and the vendor voiced approval of Hamas. None of the videos show the vendor saying anything along those lines.

"At that point, I got rather upset and I’ve said things to him, that in retrospect, I probably regret, though—that I do regret," Seldowitz said. "Instead of focusing in on him and what he said, I expanded into insulting his religion and so on."

However, despite his disparaging remarks about Islam, Seldowitz denied that he was Islamophobic.

"I've worked with Muslims," he said. "I have many people who are Muslims and Arabs and so on, who know me very well and who know that I'm not prejudiced against them."

"This case shouldn't be dismissed as an outlier. It should trigger reflections about the institutional environment that allowed him to have a successful career without being sanctioned by anyone."

Two vendors at the Q Halal Cart toldDocumented that Seldowitz first visited the cart and made racist remarks on November 7.

"It hurts man, I don't feel safe," 24-year-old Mohamed, who recorded the videos, told Documented. "I told him to leave many times and he always says that 'it's a free country.'"

Another cart worker, who said he was not the one featured in the videos, told the Times Tuesday that he had called the police in response to Seldowitz' harassment last week. The police showed up but said there was nothing they could do, after which Seldowitz returned two more times. The police told the Times that no one had filed a report against Seldowitz but that the captain of the 19th Precinct was informed and keeping tabs on the situation.

Seldowitz's remarks have not been without consequences, however. Once he was identified as the speaker in the videos, the Gotham Government Relations lobbying firm, with which he had been affiliated, cut all ties with him.

In a statement posted on X, the group said Seldowitz had not contributed to their work in years.

"The video of his actions is vile, racist, and beneath the dignity of the standards we practice at our firm," the statement continued.

While Seldowitz no longer serves in government, some wondered how many other officials share his views.

"I'm not worried about this particular Stuart Seldowitz, the one we now know. I'm worried about the many, many Stuart Seldowitzes currently placed at the highest levers of power in the Biden administration, working on Middle East policy," İyad el-Baghdadi, president and founder of the human rights group the Kawaakibi Foundation, tweeted. "What, you thought he's the odd one out?"

Author Reem Al-Harmi asked how many more "so-called 'experts' on the region" there were "making decisions affecting millions of people in the Middle East, while holding racist, Islamophobic, and vile views on Islam and Muslims?"

Mohamed Dhia Hammami, a PhD student in politics and security, pointed out that Seldowitz had won the State Department's Superior Honor Award three times.

"This case shouldn't be dismissed as an outlier. It should trigger reflections about the institutional environment that allowed him to have a successful career without being sanctioned by anyone," Hammami tweeted.

Former Defense Department worker Jasmine M. El-Gamal said she had met many people with similar views to Seldowitz's while working as a translator in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay.

"Many people were trained to look at the region strictly through a military lens," El-Gamal said. "For U.S. officials the Middle East was 'quicksand' that 'dragged' the U.S. into conflict and was to be 'depressurized,' 'deescalated,' or, preferably, avoided—right up until today, when the Biden team's job was to 'keep the Middle East way from his desk.'"

This means that Seldowitz's remarks didn't occur in a "vacuum" as officials aren't trained "to treat the Middle East as a region full of humans, only problems to be solved or avoided."

El-Gamal concluded: "The way to change that, of course, begins with changing the narrative and lens through which the region is viewed; having more diversity in leadership that will offer different perspectives; and by condemning at the highest levels people like Stuart & his actions."

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