June 5, 2023
On May 12, 2023, City of New York School of Law commencement speaker Fatima Mousa Mohammed delivered a fiery tirade in support of “the fight against capitalism, racism, imperialism, and Zionism around the world”. Describing to the class of CUNY’s judicial graduates how law itself “is a manifestation of white supremacy that continues to oppress and suppress people in this nation and around the world”, she went on to mendaciously excoriate CUNY Central for training and cooperating “with the fascist NYPD, the military, that continues to train IDF soldiers to carry out that same violence globally.” The thrust of Ms Mohammed’s toxic rhetoric was in fact squarely aimed at the State of Israel and its supporters. After praising the law school for its endorsement of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, she bombarded her listeners with the calumnies which have sadly become common within the halls of academia:
“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 the ongoing Nakba… that our silence is no longer acceptable.”
In the wake of public denunciation of Ms Mohammed’s incendiary speech, CUNY School of Law initially removed it from their website, but it was soon restored following criticism by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. On May 31 the CUNY Board of Trustees finally issued a belated statement:
“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 Board of Trustees of the City University of New York condemns such hate speech.”
The Jewish Studies Zionist Network urges CUNY Central to take greater care to prevent any further public manifestations of “hate speech”, particularly the kind that targets Jews (i.e., antisemitism) which has become so pervasive on CUNY campuses. In that regard, we refer to our earlier statement recommending institutional adoption of the international Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, which would have alerted the CUNY administration that Ms Mohamed, in the guise of propagating social justice, was in fact using the CUNY law school pulpit to maliciously spout classic and vicious antisemitic tropes. CUNY must in future make a concerted effort to unequivocally denounce, prevent and combat the prevalence of Jew-hatred in all its institutions.
Furthermore, the JSZN expresses disappointment that the Association of Jewish Studies (AJS) has yet to publicly condemn Fatima Mohammed’s venomous broadside against the Jewish state and its adherents. Media outlets, politicians and CUNY itself have acknowledged that her unfortunate graduation address constituted “hate speech”. It is incumbent on Jewish studies organizations like the AJS and individual Jewish studies faculty to acknowledge the same and to explicitly censure CUNY School of Law for its egregious facilitation of antisemitism.