Who is Yaakov Fauci, the New Yorker squatting in Sheikh Jarrah?
"If I don't steal it, someone else is going to steal it."
Those were the words of Yaakov Fauci, an Israeli settler squatting inside the Kurd family's home in Sheikh Jarrah, in response to Mona el-Kurd, a Palestinian writer and a resident of the East Jerusalem neighbourhood.
The video has since gone viral and became one of the catalysts for global attention on the imminent eviction of six Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah who are to be replaced by Israeli settlers.
A brutal escalation of violence followed, in which Israeli airstrikes on Gaza killed at least 243 Palestinians, including 66 children. Rockets fired from the besieged Palestinian enclave killed 12 people in Israel. In the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, 29 Palestinians were killed.
A ceasefire has now been agreed upon between Israel and Hamas, but the illegal occupation continues in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah still await a delayed verdict on their appeal against forced eviction.
Some people on social media have described "Jacob from Long Island" as a blessing to the Palestinian cause, exposing clearly to the world how Palestinians' homes are being taken over by Israeli settlers.
But who is Fauci, and what are his views? Middle East Eye takes a look at his Facebook page, first reported by Ted Bey on Twitter, which reveals support for Donald Trump, Covid and anti-vax conspiracy theories, and extreme statements against Palestinians.
Palestinian eviction 'necessarily evil'
In his most recent Facebook posts, Fauci celebrated the attention he has garnered over the past month.
He updated his cover photo on 10 May to a cartoon of Nabil el-Kurd, Mona's father, kicking him out of Sheikh Jarrah. The cartoon was adapted from a photo taken by Middle East Eye with the 70-year-old Palestinian resident next to the writing “we will not leave”.
One of Fauci's friends joked that he should show the image to Kurd and recreate it, to which he replied "there are too many shabab [youth] around him all the time".
In another recent post, he photoshopped the "woman yelling at a cat" meme format over his face and Mona el-Kurd's, in an attempt to present himself as merely a helpless victim being shouted down by an angry woman.
Since the viral video Fauci has doubled down on his belief that he should live in the Kurd family's home.
"The right I have [to live there] is that the owner of the house wants me to live here and he wants there to be Jews living in this house," he said during an interview with VICE. "I got chosen, for whatever reason, it ended up being me."
"Not too many people want to live here and it's important to live here and it's important to… make sure that this neighbourhood is not lost in any future peace deal."
Fauci, who was born in Long Island, New York, has lived in part of the Kurd's house for over a decade, after being recruited by Nahalat Shimon International, a US-based settler organisation seeking to change the demographics of East Jerusalem.
He said that his position was "not to keep Palestinians out" but "to keep Jews in it". He described the forcible evictions as "necessarily evil".
"[Palestinians] are not coming back into here, so whether I am here, whether I am not here, whether it's me, whether it's someone else, whether it's a monkey, whether it's a giraffe, they’re not coming back into this house ever."
"If I leave, I will be replaced immediately, and I venture to think that whoever comes here is not going to be as easy going as I am".
Trump support and Covid conspiracy
Two of Fauci's Facebook profile pictures suggest he is a supporter of former US President Donald Trump.
In one picture, the American-born Israeli wore a 'Make America Great' hat. In another, he uploaded a picture of a man with a temporary tattoo with Trump's name on his forehead and a US flag in his hand.
"I fear it may be 'too late' for America. It was a nice run. Even Rome fell eventually," he commented under one of the pictures, reacting to President Joe Biden's victory.
Several of Fauci's posts over the past year promote scepticism and conspiracy theories regarding Covid-19 and the vaccine.
Last year, he posted an image of the Covid-19 virus photoshopped over the golden calf - a reference to a religious story in which the Israelites worshipped an idol after the long absence of Moses in the mountains. The post appeared to suggest that Israelis today were seemingly deifying the disease.
In another controversial post, he updated his profile picture to include a yellow badge, similar to the one Jews were forced to wear by Nazi authorities between 1939 and 1945 during the Holocaust. The picture reflected what he perceived to be the consequences of the vaccine.
One of his friends commented asking whether the badge was "a step too far".
"Not at all, if anything it's toned down. The last time they made certain people wear ‘badges’ no one dreamed what was to come either. It’s really better we nipped it in the bud this time," Fauci responded.
Another friend said that he showed the post to his mother, who had survived the Holocaust, and she was "disgusted" by it.
"You'd think a Shoah [Holocaust] survivor would be screaming bloody murder about forced medical experiments on the population. Who needs [Nazi physician who did deadly experiments on prisoners] Dr Mengele, when we do it to ourselves," Fauci replied.
Later in February, he updated his cover photo to an anti-vax banner describing the Covid-19 passport as "apartheid".
Despite his anti-vax sentiments, in April, Fauci updated his profile picture to signal that he had been inoculated.
"After a lot of careful thought, research, and massive internal soul searching with the help of my therapist, I finally decided to bite the bullet and get the shot," he said. "I realised that my objections were not coming from a holy place and I was just being defiant and non-conformist."
MEE reached out to Fauci for comment on his controversial views, but he did not respond by the time of publication.
In several videos and profile pictures, the Israeli settler is seen outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
In August 2019, he posted a live video of himself with a group of Israeli Jews, flanked by Israeli police, in the courtyard of the Muslim holy site, with the caption "afternoon ascent to the Temple Mount".
In the background of the video, Palestinian protesters chant in opposition to the provocation.
"Can you hear the Arabs screaming in the background? Our peace partners, our cousins. If only the Jewish people knew the power of Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, as much as the Arabs did, we would long ago have a temple built," Fauci says in the video.
Israeli settlers regularly enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and often illicitly perform prayers on the site, where they believe the Second Jewish Temple once stood.
Activists have repeatedly sought to build support for an increased Jewish presence at the site, despite a longstanding joint guardianship agreement between Israel and Jordan, which retains control over Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.
Al-Aqsa Mosque was Islam's first Qibla, the direction towards which Muslims must turn to pray, before that was changed to Mecca, in what is now Saudi Arabia.
Palestinians fear settler tours inside the Al-Aqsa compound may begin to normalise Israeli claims to the area, and further extinguish Palestinians' aspirations for full rights and a state of their own, with occupied East Jerusalem as its capital.
In one of Fauci's pictures outside Al-Aqsa, in which the Dome of the Rock can be seen, one of his friends's commented "Please do not show anymore pics of that gold capped pimple".
"Hopefully it will be gone soon," Fauci replied.
The settler has made several controversial comments concerning the Israeli bombing of Gaza in 2014, which killed more than 2,200 Palestinians - mostly civilians.
In a post in June 2014, Fauci said that he would not be "hoping in vain that the Israeli government will finally come to its senses and carpet bomb our enemies into oblivion", and that he would not be calling for a "Jewish Spring" to rise up and "settle the score against those who have been trying to destroy us for as long as we have existed".
He said he wouldn’t be doing so "not because I don’t believe it is right, fair or just" but because of the fear of police arresting him for "expressing what every sane person on planet earth is thinking".
Fauci described himself as a "coward" who knew what needed to be done, but was not willing to pay the "personal price".
In a separate post, he said that he preferred the "nuke and pave approach" in Gaza, but knew it would not happen so offered a plan B.
The backup plan included cutting off water, electricity, and fuel supplies to Gaza, and that if Palestinians didn’t like it, they could “move to Sudan or Eritrea”.
"I would ideally say to go and DESTROY all of their infrastructure, but the human rights weenies will be up in arms," he said.
In a July 2014 post, he decried Israel for not "effectively bomb[ing]" Gaza and going on the offensive further.
"We think we are being merciful, we think we are morally superior, but the truth is we are acting in the most cruel and immoral way possible against our OWN brothers and sisters".
In a Facebook note from November 2009, Fauci made clear that he would not denounce Yaakov Teitel, an American-born Israeli nationalist settler who was convicted of the killing of two Palestinians.
Fauci's post, dated before Teitel's conviction in 2012, stated: "Even if he did do everything he is accused of… I refuse to throw him to the dogs in order to save face and find favour in the eyes of the world".
"Arabs are the enemy. Missionaries are the enemy, and while I might not personally choose to utilise such methods to combat them or encourage others to do so, I certainly will NOT NOT NOT condemn anyone that does."
Elsewhere, in two of Fauci's profile pictures, he wears a keffiyeh around his head in an attempt to mock Palestinians and link them to terrorism.
"You always thought I was a terrorist," he commented under one of the pictures. "I'm trying to score one of those ‘burqa babes’ from Beit Shemesh," he added.
Fauci is also the owner of a dangerous dog named Shiksa (a derogatory term used by some Jews to refer to non-Jewish people), which he unleashes on Palestinians as a purported form of protection.
In one profile picture, Fauci poses next to two topless men, stating: "I am proud that I am confident enough in my (hetero)sexuality to post this."
"This is an attempt at humour, I did NOT catch teh [sic] ghey," he adds, in a derogatory remark.
The New York-born settler also shared content from Rabbi Meir Kahane, the former Israeli Knesset member and founder of the extremist Kach party.
He shared a 1972 article by Kahane in which the rabbi denounces the modern-day way of celebrating the festival of Hanukah as “un-Jewish”.
Fauci also shared and lauded a Kahane quote which stated "Better a strong Israel hated by the world than an Auschwitz loved by it".
Kahane was born into an Orthodox Jewish family in New York in 1932 and believed in a homogeneously Jewish state run according to the Torah.
He called for the complete expulsion of Palestinians by force from their lands, and the annexation of the occupied West Bank.
Kahane's followers believe that the West Bank - occupied by Israel since 1967 in contravention of international law - and the eastern slopes of Jordan are part of the biblical kingdoms of Judea and Samaria.
The US State Department put Kach and Kahane Chai, two factions that emerged from Kahane’s original Kach party, on its list of foreign terrorist organisations following the 1994 massacre of 29 Palestinians at the Ibrahimi Mosque by one of its adherents.
Now, Kahane's followers of the Religious Zionism bloc have won six seats in the parliament and were endorsed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a bid to weaken his opposition and form a national coalition government.