The City University of New York (CUNY) continues to face backlash over the antisemitic remarks of a speaker at its law school commencement ceremony earlier this month.
In her May 12 speech, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) activist Fatima Mousa Mohammed said, “I want to celebrate CUNY Law as one of the few, if not the only, law school to make a public statement defending the right of its students to organize and speak out against Israeli settler colonialism. That this is the law school that passed and endorsed BDS on a student and faculty level, recognizing that absent a critical imperialism settler colonialism lens, our work and this school’s mission statement is void of value. That as Israel continues to indiscriminately rain bullets and bombs on worshippers, murdering the old, the young, attacking even funerals and graveyards, as it encourages lynch mobs to target Palestinian homes and businesses, as it imprisons its children, as it continues its project of settler colonialism, expelling Palestinians from their homes, carrying [out] the ongoing Nakba, that our silence is no longer acceptable.”
Mohammed further urged graduates to join “the fight against capitalism, racism, imperialism, and Zionism around the world.”
She also asserted, “Law is a manifestation of white supremacy that continues to oppress and suppress people in this nation and around the world.”
“We joined this institution to be equipped with the necessary legal skills to protect our communities, to protect the organizers fighting endlessly, day in and out, with no accolades, no cameras, no votes, no PhD grants, working to lift the façade of legal neutrality and confront the systems of oppression that wreak violence on them,” Mohammed continued. “Systems of oppression created to feed an empire with a ravenous appetite for destruction and violence.”
Here in its entirety is the vitriolic, evil, antisemitic @CUNYLaw commencement address from Jew hater Fatima Mohammed. Unimaginably, it is even worse than last year’s hate spewed by Nerdeen Kiswani. No wonder CUNY Law, under state investigation, tried to hide this video. pic.twitter.com/nKCe1Kx2sc
— SAFE CUNY (@SAFECUNY) May 28, 2023
Mohammed’s diatribe has drawn widespread condemnation from national and local elected officials on both sides of the political aisle, as well as Jewish organizations.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who spoke at the same event, criticized Mohammed’s rhetoric, tweeting, “I was proud to offer a different message at this year’s CUNY law commencement ceremony — one that celebrates the progress of our city and country, and one that honors those who fight to keep us safe and protect our freedoms, like my uncle Joe, who died at age 19 in Vietnam while giving his life for our country.”
“We cannot allow words of negativity and divisiveness to be the only ones our students hear,” he added.
I was proud to offer a different message at this year’s CUNY law commencement ceremony — one that celebrates the progress of our city and country, and one that honors those who fight to keep us safe and protect our freedoms, like my uncle Joe, who died at age 19 in Vietnam while… https://t.co/vGRKntgH0G
— Mayor Eric Adams (@NYCMayor) May 29, 2023
In response to the growing controversy over Mohammed’s speech, the CUNY Board of Trustees and Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez issued a statement on Tuesday, saying, “Free speech is precious, but often messy, and is vital to the foundation of higher education. Hate speech, however, should not be confused with free speech and has no place on our campuses or in our city, our state or our nation.”
“The remarks by a student-selected speaker at the CUNY Law School graduation, unfortunately, fall into the category of hate speech as they were a public expression of hate toward people and communities based on their religion, race or political affiliation,” the statement noted. “The Board of Trustees of the City University of New York condemns such hate speech.”
It concluded, “This speech is particularly unacceptable at a ceremony celebrating the achievements of a wide diversity of graduates, and hurtful to the entire CUNY community, which was founded on the principle of equal access and opportunity. CUNY’s commitment to protecting and supporting our students has not wavered throughout our 175-year existence and we cannot and will not condone hateful rhetoric on our campuses.”
— The City University of New York (@CUNY) May 30, 2023
At the CUNY Law School graduation last year, another prominent anti-Israel activist, Nerdeen Kiswani, was invited to speak, and in her address she claimed was “facing a campaign of Zionist harassment by well-funded organizations with ties to the Israeli government and military on the basis of my Palestinian identity and organizing.”