The CUNY School of Law’s graduating class elects a commencement speaker every year, and this year’s commencement was given by Fatima Mohammed, a Yemeni-American student and activist.
During her speech on May 12th, 2023, she highlighted the Zionist entity’s illegitimate settler-colonial occupation of the Palestinian people. She also discussed the broader issue of “CUNY central” committing to its Zionist donors over the interest of their students. Her speech also pointed to the Israeli Regime bombing Gaza this past week and the corruption of the NYPD.
Over the course of the weeks following her speech, American politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, began slandering and attacking her, referring to her words as “anti-semitic.” The reaction of Zionist lobbyists, various political leaders and even “CUNY central” after Fatima’s speech is very telling of the fragility of the Zionist entity as well the strength of those supporting Palestinian liberation.
The days following Fatima’s speech were filled with a Zionist backed campaign from politicians all across the US establishment. This included Republican Senator Ted Cruz, Democratic NYC Congressman Ritchie Torres as well as NYC Mayor Eric Adams who himself was invited to the 2023 CUNY Law commencement where he was heavily boo-ed by students.
Imagine being so crazed by hatred for Israel as a Jewish State that you make it the subject of your commencement speech at a law school graduation.
Anti-Israel derangement syndrome at work. pic.twitter.com/15iACGJUVn
— Ritchie Torres (@RitchieTorres) May 29, 2023
This phenomenon of conflating anti-zionists with anti-semitism is certainly not new and was widely spread in this campaign against Fatima. Chaumtoli Huq, an associate professor of law at the CUNY school of law spoke to Middle East Eye stating, “critiquing state policy is not the same thing as expressing a biased view about Judaism or the Jewish community.”
The array of politicians and media outlets who jumped on this campaign against Fatima’s speech truly is indicative of how deeply rooted Zionism is across the US establishment. In the midst of Zionist media attention on Fatima’s commencement speech, CUNY Law deleted the livestreams from both 2022 and 2023.
The class elected speaker from 2022, Nerdeen Kiswani, most known for her activism work in Palestinian-led community organization, Within our Lifetime, faced a similar campaign last year. The law school had kept Nerdeen’s speech up all year and had only deleted it along with the 2023 commencement ceremony. They later put both ceremony live streams back up after protest from students.
On June 1st, 2023, the Board of Trustees of CUNY released a statement labeling Fatima’s speech as “hate speech” stating that “they were a public expression of hate toward people and communities based on their religion, race or political affiliation.” This statement shows CUNY central’s commitment to supporting Zionist investors over the multiple students that have spoken up against Zionist settler-colonialism and that have also shown support for their classmate, Fatima. It also shows their hypocrisy when it comes to the “freedom of expression.”
This repression of voices like Fatima’s is part of a broader agenda from CUNY Central to censor Palestinian student organizers. Last year as Palestinian organizers continued to gain popularity from students, CUNY Chancellor Rodriguez mentioned that he’s looking for CUNY to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-semitism, which includes conflating anti-zionism with anti-semitism.
Within recent years, CUNY Central has become riddled with partnerships and funding from Zionist organizations such as the Jewish Community Relations Council, which seek to increase support for Israel amidst the successful work from Palestinian organizers.
Just in recent weeks, President Raab of Hunter College banned Nerdeen from speaking on campus for a Nakba Day event. This is indicative that CUNY central has increased their censorship efforts as Palestinian student organizers gain more momentum and accomplishments.
Multiple CUNY Law faculty members signed a statement calling on the Chancellor of “CUNY central” to rescind the statement of “hate speech” stating that such a statement has “endangered a student.”
The letter states, “We are deeply disappointed that CUNY leadership gave further amplification to this ugly and dangerous smear campaign.” CUNY Law’s Jewish Students Association also defended Fatima with a statement of support. They stated that their own members proudly chose Fatima to be the speaker and that, “for years, Zionist organizations have been enacting targeted harassment campaigns against Palestinian and Muslim law students at the CUNY School of Law. As a public-interest focused law school, we have a duty to stand with Palestinians against Zionist oppression, as Fatima has done.”
In their statement, they also called on CUNY Law to defend and support their student body instead of remaining silent in the face of CUNY Central’s claims as well as attacks from multiple Zionist politicians.
Meanwhile, Republican Congressman Mike Lawyer released legislation this past week to “rescind federal funding for colleges that promote anti-semitism on their campuses” in response to Fatima’s speech. These exhaustive measures taken in order to come after CUNY Law for their students’ organizing efforts portray how threatened they feel for Palestinian liberation mobilization on CUNY campuses.
These malicious statements about Fatima and the threats against her are all indicative of how politicians across the US establishment fear the support from her classmates and justice seekers around the world.
NYC Palestinian organization “Within Our Lifetime” launched a campaign #westandwithfatima to defend Fatima and CUNY’s organizing efforts in the midst of escalating attacks from Zionist organizations and politicians. The campaign includes a petition, a link to an email to send to CUNY Central demanding they recant their accusation of “hate speech,” as well as sources to learn about the history of CUNY’s repression of Palestinian activism.
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