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Stuart Seldowitz, ex-Obama official, faces hate crime, stalking charges for harassing New York City halal cart worker, police say

Stuart Seldowitz charged after harassing NYC halal cart worker, police say
Stuart Seldowitz charged after harassing NYC halal cart worker, police say 01:59

NEW YORK -- Police made an arrest Wednesday after several videos of a man spewing hateful rhetoric at a halal cart worker went viral.

It happened at an Upper East Side food cart on Second Avenue and 83rd Street.

Stuart Seldowitz, 64, is facing multiple charges, including aggravated harassment, hate crime and stalking.

Seldowitz had been a career State Department official, and also worked in the Obama administration as acting director for South Asia in the National Security Council. 

Police said Seldowitz is the one seen in several cell phone videos going on hateful rants at the Adam Halal Food Cart.

In a video, Seldowitz is seen saying, "I'm gonna put big signs here that say, 'This guy believes in Hamas," "You're a terrorist, you support terrorism," and "If we killed 4,000 Palestinian kids, you know what, it wasn't enough."

Through a translator, Mohamed Hussein, 24, said Seldowitz was not a customer but came over to ask him where he was from, and when he replied Egypt, his translator says, "The guy started telling him, you're supporting Hamas."

Hussein then started filming. The video doesn't show the initial encounter.

CBS New York tried repeatedly to get in contact with Seldowitz, who alleged to other news outlets that Hussein said he supported what Hamas did and that's what got him so upset. It's a claim Hussein denies.

"We would rather if he came and apologized instead of him trying to flip the story," cart co-owner Islam Moustafa said.

"We have no problem with nobody. Don't try to create problem. People could die for something like this," said Yasser Nawer, part owner of the cart.

Nawer says he doesn't understand why Seldowitz would keep showing up to try to provoke a reaction amongst heightened tensions over the conflict in the Middle East.

"I don't know what you're trying to do, trying to say. Situation is very irritated anyway, we don't need more spice in the situation," he said.

But what happened at the food cart has seemingly only brought people together.

"We have mostly Jewish customer in this building. [Two customers] made cake for us last night," worker Bahaa Hassan said.

Neighbors set up a table next to the cart, encouraging people to sit down and eat together.

"They're really wonderful people and they care about the community that they're in, and they certainly don't deserve this," Upper East Side resident Stephanie Merabet said.

Since the Israel-Hamas War began on Oct. 7, reports of antisemitic and anti-Muslim incidents have risen rapidly.

The Anti-Defamation League, a nonprofit organization that fights antisemitism and extremism, has reported a 316% increase in antisemitic incidents in the U.S. in the month following the war compared to the same period in 2022.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has seen a 216% increase in requests for help and reports of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias compared with the average number of monthly complaints the organization received last year.

Roxana Saberi contributed to this report.

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