NYC Public Schools Chancellor Told Congress He Takes Anti-Semitism Seriously—Weeks After He Held an Event With a Prominent Anti-Semite

Maher Abdel-qader has spread Holocaust denial and runs a Facebook group where Hamas terrorists are glorified

Maher Abdel-qader flanked by chancellor David Banks and other leaders at an Arab American Heritage event. (Arab America)
May 13, 2024

The head of the New York City public school system testified to Congress that he recognizes the "urgency of addressing" and "rooting out" anti-Semitism. Just weeks prior, he held an event alongside an anti-Semitic Democratic fundraiser who has promoted Holocaust denial and runs a pro-Hamas Facebook group.

Chancellor David Banks testified before the House Education and Workforce Committee on Wednesday to address the New York City public school system's response to rising anti-Semitism. He told the committee that his schools are "focused" on being a "candle in the darkness" in the fight against Jew hatred.

"At New York City Public Schools, we are focused on our charge to fight hate and foster inclusion through safety, engagement, and education," Banks said. "We’re working hard and we have a long way to go. There’s always more to do. I hope in New York we can be a candle in the darkness."

Less than a month before, on April 11, Banks and New York elected officials held an Arab American Heritage celebration which featured anti-Semitic Democratic fundraiser Maher Abdel-qader, who has promoted Holocaust denial and online content that describes Jews as "Satanic." Banks posed for a photo with Abdel-qader, who also is the founder and administrator of a Facebook group called "Palestinian American Congress" where members have posted anti-Semitic content and cheered Hamas terrorists.

In 2018, Abdel-qader shared a video that said Ashkenazi Jews are "not true Jews," accused Israeli Jews of "identity theft," and cast doubt on the validity of the Holocaust. "The Jews in Israel are not true Jews, they are Khazars Ashkenazi Jews, identity theft," the video said alongside a photo of a Jewish man wearing a ski mask to cover his face. "Research the truth about the Holocaust, and you’ll definitely start to question what you thought you knew," the video’s narrator says. In another post, Abdel-qader compared Israel to ISIS and accused the Jewish state of running "concentration camps."

In a 2017 post that echoed an anti-Semitic trope of Jews controlling the government, Abdel-qader claimed Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.) was a "foreign agent."

"Our US Congress is full of ass-kissing Israeli defenders. A few of them are actually unregistered foreign agents. Ben Cardin is one of them. He is convincing the rest of the lowlifes in Congress to throw away our rights to free speech, and kowtow to the illegal so-called 'state' of 'Israel,'" Abdel-qader said.

In the days after Hamas's Oct. 7 attack on Israel, members of Abdel-qader's Facebook group cheered the terrorist group's fighters.

An Oct. 12, 2024, post in Abdel-qader’s Facebook group read, "We don't want to throw you in the sea ... we want you to ride it back from where you came," accompanied by a photo of a Hamas terrorist with an elderly Israeli hostage. Another post commended the "achievements" of "resistance" fighters after they killed Israeli soldiers.

NYC Public Schools posted a photo online of Banks speaking at the event, with the caption: "Today we hosted our inaugural Arab American Heritage Month celebration!"

The revelation comes as other Democratic members of Congress also embraced Abdel-qader around the same time. "Squad" members Jamaal Bowman (D., N.Y.), Cori Bush (D., Mo.), Summer Lee (D., Pa.), Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.), and Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.)—many of whom face a pro-Israel primary challenger—embraced Abdel-qader at an April 18 Washington, D.C., event.

Abdel-qader served as Tlaib’s finance committee chair during her first congressional bid in 2018 and has donated thousands of dollars to her campaign. Tlaib repeatedly thanked him for his help multiple times during her 2018 campaign. In November, he advertised a fundraiser for Lee and Tlaib, saying the "Squad" members "wholeheartedly" support the "just cause for Palestine."

In one photo from the event, Abdel-qader stands front and center displaying a special document, flanked by Banks and other leaders.

The celebration included a "showcase" of Arabic cuisine, music, handmade artistry, and cultural exhibits. The event also "honored" Abdel-qader and a Palestinian New York City police officer who spoke about the importance of the "Palestinian cause" for their "coordination and contributions to making the event both unique and enlightening," Arab America reported. Banks "commended their hard work and leadership,"according to the report. Abdel-qader was listed as a contributor to the article.

A New York City Department of Education spokesman distanced Banks from Abdel-qader.

"At our Arab American Heritage event we had only two honorary speakers: NYPD captain Filastine Srour and New York state assemblyman Nader Sayegh. We did not invite this individual to our event, nor was he honored, and the chancellor neither knows this man nor endorses his views," the spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon. Abdel-qader did not return a request for comment.

Banks during his testimony indicated that both Jewish and Muslim students have experienced hardship since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, and the school system is working to accommodate both groups.

"Our classrooms are not insulated from the global stage. Since October 7, our students and staff—Jewish and Muslim, Israeli and Palestinian—have suffered immensely," Banks said.