OpinionSchools & Higher Education

From CUNY to COVID, systemic antisemitism is the real issue

And the Biden administration is complicit in it.

CUNY Law School graduation speaker Fatima Mohammed, May 12, 2023. Source: Screenshot/SAFECUNY Twitter.
CUNY Law School graduation speaker Fatima Mohammed, May 12, 2023. Source: Screenshot/SAFECUNY Twitter.
Daniel Greenfield
Daniel Greenfield is an Israeli-born journalist who writes for conservative publications.

In May, the Biden administration released its National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, which promoted a definition of antisemitism written by an anti-Israel activist who had defended Islamic terrorism against Jews. The administration partnered with CAIR and refused to acknowledge Islamic antisemitism or address the worst cases of campus antisemitism at the government’s public universities, such as the University of California and City University of New York.

Earlier that month, Fatima Mousa Mohammed, an activist with Students for Justice in Palestine, took the podium as the commencement speaker at CUNY Law’s graduation ceremony. Mohammed had previously tweeted, “i pray upon the death of the USA on a public platform” and delivered speeches celebrating violence against Jews. The anti-Israel activist had advocated segregating Jewish professors and students, urging, “Demand that Zionist professors are not welcomed on your campus! Demand that Zionist students are not in spaces where Palestinian students are.”

Had any such remarks been directed at black or Latino students, Mohammed would never have been allowed to serve as commencement speaker, and likely would have been expelled.

At the commencement address, Mohammed celebrated the “rage that fills this auditorium” and expressed hope that it would “fuel … the fight against capitalism, racism, imperialism and Zionism around the world.” She hailed those “who brought the ferocity of the violence,” who she said will “carry the revolution.”

She praised CUNY Law’s support for BDS and described the Hamas fundraisers of HLF as “political prisoners.” That would presumably include Abdulrahman Odeh, who had celebrated a bus-stop suicide bombing as a “beautiful operation.”

CUNY is New York City’s public university system. Its money comes from the taxpayers of the city and the state. Its board of trustees is primarily appointed by the governor. CUNY’s chairman, William Thompson, was the former city comptroller. Thompson and other officials responded to the outcry by belatedly condemning Mohammed’s rant as “hate speech” and “a public expression of hate toward people and communities based on their religion, race or political affiliation.”

They did not, however, bother to define which people or religion might be the object of that hatred. Or promise to take any steps to prevent it from happening again. Most CUNY officials did not even sign that weak statement, which did not mention antisemitism.

When Mohammed had concluded her address celebrating violence and denouncing Jews, CUNY officials, including Dean Sudha Narayana Setty, applauded. Some even rose to give her hatred a standing ovation.

This could not have come as much of a surprise, since CUNY Law’s previous commencement speaker in 2022, Nerdeen Kiswani, was a leader of the same SJP-linked group as Mohammed, and had used her time to accuse a Jewish community trip to Israel of normalizing the “murder of the Palestinian people” and claim that she was “facing a campaign of Zionist harassment”.

Kiswani, like Mohammed, had called for the destruction of Israel and supported Islamic terrorist groups. At public events for the SJP group, she had declared, “I hope that a pop-pop is the last noise that some Zionists hear in their lifetime!”

CUNY Law had previously issued a statement that “the Law School supports the free speech rights of Nerdeen Kiswani, other Palestinian students” and that “criticism of Israel is protected speech” and “should not be tarred as anti-Semitic.”

The transformation of CUNY Law commencement addresses into jihadist rallies are only the most visible expressions of a systemic antisemitism that has led to Title VI complaints by students and faculty, seen Jewish professors investigated after reporting campus antisemitism and triggered City Council hearings over patterns of antisemitism at every level of governance.

The Biden administration spends a great deal of time invoking systemic racism, yet its National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism makes no meaningful reference to systemic antisemitism.

Unlike the “celebrities, athletes and politicians” promoting antisemitism that the strategy spends time on, systemic antisemitism in government institutions and by government employees is actually within the legitimate scope of government. The government has no authority over Kyrie Irving or Kanye West, but does hold authority over CUNY and New York government officials.

CUNY is only one example of systemic antisemitism within New York. And the most egregious examples have yet to be addressed because they represent the widest expression of systemic government discrimination against a minority group since the civil rights movement.

During the pandemic, the Cuomo and De Blasio administrations singled out religious Jewish communities at the city and state levels. Areas with a Jewish religious presence were specifically targeted for closures, fines, inspections and investigations by government officials.

Cuomo and DeBlasio did not bother to disguise the fact that they were targeting Jews.

Former Gov. Cuomo falsely claimed at one point that the COVID problem “is predominantly an ultra-orthodox cluster,” and blamed them for “making other people sick.” The governor stated that he would “meet with members of the ultra-Orthodox community tomorrow,” to tell them that “we’ll close the institutions down.”

Former Mayor DeBlasio issued a “message to the Jewish community, and all communities” that ”the time for warnings has passed. I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups.” This was the most blatant example of a stated intent to discriminate by a government official since the days of Bull Connor.

The Supreme Court in its ruling in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo found that a pattern of discrimination existed. Nor has anyone bothered to credibly deny that all of this took place. Behavior that would otherwise have led to Department of Justice intervention was simply shrugged off by the politicians and media who had also engaged in it. And while Cuomo and DeBlasio are gone, the state and city officials who engaged in discrimination are still on the job.

The Biden administration does not want to investigate the systemic antisemitism of its political allies, whether at CUNY Law or in New York in general because it’s complicit in it.

Among the co-signers of a defense of SJP antisemitism at CUNY was Ramzi Kassem, a CUNY law professor and terror lawyer who now serves as a Senior Policy Adviser for Immigration at the White House Domestic Policy Council. The letter Kassem signed accused Jews of “false claims of anti-Semitism used to suppress pro-Palestinian voices.”

Dr. Howard Zucker, who defended and led Cuomo’s pandemic response, and left under a cloud of scandal, has gone on to become the deputy director for global health at the CDC.

Taking part in systemic antisemitism doesn’t cost government employees their jobs, it gets them even better ones with an administration that talks about fighting public antisemitism from individuals, which it cannot do, while perpetuating systemic antisemitism inside its own house.

New York’s systemic antisemitism is a fundamental part of the Biden administration. The administration needs a national strategy to counter its own systemic antisemitism.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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