If my years fighting antisemitism have taught me one thing, it’s that the battle against Jew-hatred must be strategic. Even as we confront rampant anti-Jewish hate crimes, we do it with an eye towards the future, envisioning a world where antisemites wouldn’t dare voice their hatred publicly.
Education is key to that vision, which is why the City University of New York’s pattern of officially sanctioned antisemitism is so disturbing.
The public institution that educates the most heavily Jewish city in America has knowingly and repeatedly amplified anti-Semitic rhetoric on the taxpayer dime, creating a hostile atmosphere for Jews on campus and calling into question its commitment to
CUNY Law School graduate Fatima Mousa Mohammed, who largely devoted her recent commencement address to hatred of the world’s sole Jewish nation — to applause from the dean — is just the latest in a line of anti-Zionist activists to whom CUNY has handed a platform.
Nerdeen Kiswani, who has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” and routinely praised terrorists, including ax murderers, headlined last year’s law school graduation. She used her speech to call for the elimination of Zionism on campus — and given her hope that “a pop-pop is the last noise that some Zionists hear in their lifetime,” one wonders what methods she would sanction in the quest for that elimination.
Linda Sarsour, a Louis Farrakhan fan who once tweeted “nothing is creepier than Zionism” and believes all of Israel is “occupied territory,” gave the commencement at the CUNY School of Public Health’s graduation in 2017.
Let’s dispense with the obfuscation over whether these anti-Zionists are also antisemitic — criticizing Israeli policy is one thing, but calling for the ostracism and/or destruction of the world’s only Jewish state can only be described as antisemitic.
CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez and the board of trustees have condemned Mohammed’s address as hate speech. Their tells a different story, however, belying their damage control.
While attacking the board’s condemnation, the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations revealed that Mohammed’s speech had been “submitted, examined, and pre-approved by CUNY in written form and a verbal recording.”
CUNY officials apparently found no fault with allegations that Israel “indiscriminately rains bullets and bombs on worshippers,” “murders the old and the young” and “encourages lynch mobs to target Palestinian homes and businesses” — nor with Mohammed’s hope that the joy and rage felt by graduates would be “fuel for the fight against capitalism, racism, imperialism and Zionism around the world.”
Amid a historic surge of hate crimes targeting Jews, Rodríguez, to , saw fit to skip two City Council hearings regarding anti-Semitism at CUNY.
Not just bystanders
CUNY leadership’s actions reveal they aren’t just apathetic bystanders in the face of Jew-hatred. They are accessories to it, greenlighting antisemitic screeds as they duck opportunities to improve.
It’s time for New York to hold them accountable. Rodriguez must be removed from office, and Albany should take a serious look at how CUNY’s $2.8 billion in funding is allocated.
And the school must officially adopt and enforce the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, which clearly defines as antisemitism the anti-Israel slanders and double standards CUNY’s recent commencement speakers promoted.
New Yorkers shouldn’t have to send involuntary contributions to a school that has become a megaphone for Jew-hatred. We deserve public higher education that promotes respect and inclusion instead of lionizing the next generation of antisemites.
Liora Rez is the executive director of StopAntisemitism, a nonprofit watchdog organization that holds antisemites accountable across the country.