On May 12, Fatima Mousa Mohammed, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine, took to the stage at the City University of New York (CUNY) law school commencement ceremony, where she delivered a speech as the class valedictorian of 2023.
Mohammed used a good chunk of her 12-minute speech to bash Israel, where she accused the Jewish state of indiscriminate murder of children and attacked Zionism. She praised CUNY Law for being “one of the few if not only law schools to make a public statement defending the rights of its students to organize and speak out against Israeli settler colonialism” and that CUNY Law “passed and endorsed BDS on a student and faculty level.”
A speech like this which completely removes the entire context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and pushes the notion that Israel is a demonic state that indiscriminately murders Palestinians is nothing more than a modern-day blood libel. She referenced Israel as one of the “systems of oppression created to feed an empire with a ravenous appetite for destruction and violence.”
Mohammed claimed that donors and investors controlled decisions and policies behind the scenes at CUNY. She is not the first to imply that Jews have money and control the world.
Mohammed’s speech only got worse: “As Israel continues to indiscriminately rain bullets and bombs on worshipers 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 the ongoing Nakba.”
Mohammed also referenced the inaccurate notion of deadly exchange, a campaign perpetuated by Jewish Voices for Peace. This group uses Judaism as a weapon to push antisemitism under the guise of anti-Zionism. Deadly Exchange calls for an end to cooperation between Israeli and American police forces. Indeed, Mohammed condemned CUNY Central for its continued collaboration with the fascist NYPD and called it the military that trains IDF soldiers to carry out the attacks.
Shortly after this speech, Mohammed appeared at an anti-Israel rally where she passionately called on attendees to demand that Zionist professors are not welcomed on your campus and to demand that Zionist students are not present in spaces when Palestinian students are.
This should come as no surprise since the true objectives of the Boycott movement against Israel are pretty straightforward: Do everything possible to isolate the Jewish state (and, in turn, isolate Jews). The reality is that Mohammed is not an isolated case and this is not CUNY Law’s first antisemitic commencement speech.
CUNY Board of Trustees Fails To Condemn Antisemitism
Weeks later, in response to all the backlash, CUNY’s Board of Trustees published a statement condemning the CUNY Law’s commencement and denounced it as hateful rhetoric. While that may seem like a nice gesture, the reality is that even the Trustees are not calling that speech what it was: antisemitic.
CUNY allowing giving a platform to this level of antisemitism rightly sparked outrage among the American Jews and other policy leaders as Mohammed’s speech was also considered widely anti-American. But beyond the anger and at a time when the Biden administration is attempting to tackle antisemitism, a bigger question needs to be asked about how we finally tackle the pervasive and growing antisemitism-infested Western campuses.
US members of Congress introduced legislation to defund universities that host antisemitic events to combat antisemitism. Republican Rep. Mike Lawler has introduced the Stop Anti-Semitism on College Campus bill, which proposes to revoke federal funding from educational institutions that endorse or propagate antisemitic ideologies. Under Title IV of the 1956 Higher Education Act, the bill would prohibit institutions of higher education that authorize Anti-Semitic events on campus from participating in the student loan and grant programs.
Lawler said, “No college or university should receive a single dollar of federal education funding if they peddle in the promotion of antisemitism at an event on their campus.”
Ynet reports that CUNY’s budget for 2023 is approximately $4.3 billion (NIS 16 b.), most of which comes from the state. The school is under investigation by the US Department of Justice for instances of antisemitism.
The fact that these types of drastic measures need to be taken to deal with CUNY’s antisemitism problem only shows us how campuses are not getting better. I remember sitting at York University in Toronto as a student leader, days before Apartheid Week, at a faculty meeting. As president of my campus’s Israel club, the senior faculty wanted to meet with me knowing that Jewish students were in store for a rough week. They were sympathetic but said, “We don’t like it, but there is nothing we can do.”
That can no longer be a legitimate response. The time has come for policymakers and school boards to see these campuses for what they really are and take bold and brave steps to rid them of Jewish hatred.
The writer is a social media activist with more than 10 years of experience working for Israeli, Jewish causes and cause-based NGOs. She is the co-founder and the COO of Social Lite Creative, a digital marketing firm specializing in geopolitics.