NEW YORK, Saturday, June 3, 2023 (WAFA) - Palestinian and Arab human rights organizations and figures in New York affirmed their solidarity and support for the American student of Arab origins, Fatima Mohammed, who is facing, and her university, a vicious campaign of incitement waged by Zionist organizations and pro-Israel groups for her condemnation of the Israeli occupation during her speech at City University of New York’s (CUNY) Law School’s graduation ceremony.
Palestinian and Arab organizations and personalities sent dozens of letters to the university administration and officials in the state, affirming their solidarity with Mohammed, a Yemeni-American law student, and demanding an end to the incitement against her and CUNY and to stand by the Palestinian right and what came in her speech.
Critics of the speech called for even cutting federal funding to CUNY law school, which prompted the university’s Chancellor and Board of Trustees to issue a statement condemning Mohammed’s speech.
The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights condemned in a statement CUNY Chancellor’s and Board of Trustees’ criticism of the graduation speech by Mohammed, chosen by her fellow students to deliver the address, and defaming her by alleging that she engaged in hate speech.
“Following rebukes from politicians on both sides of the aisle – including renewed calls to cut off CUNY’s federal funding – the university’s Chancellor and Board of Trustees released a statement defaming Fatima by alleging that she engaged in ‘hate speech.’ The Chancellor’s and Board’s careless, overbroad, and dangerous use of the term fails by any legal standard. Ironically, virtually any student in the graduating law school class in attendance could have told them that criticizing government human rights abuses is not hate speech, any more than criticizing abuses by the Israeli government is anti-Semitic,” said the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Mohammed devoted part of her speech to condemning human rights violations against Palestinians by the state of Israel, drew connections between long-standing fights for Palestinian and Black liberation, and celebrated the students and faculty of the Law School for taking a stand for human rights.
“Smearing critics of Israeli policies as engaging in hate speech or being antisemitic is a worn and discredited tactic, but it can still wound, especially when the target is a young student and Muslim. Rather than protect its student by defending her freedom of speech in the face of toxic attacks, the Chancellor and Board of Trustees are creating a dangerous situation, while undermining the core academic freedom that is the basis of its own mission. It is unfortunate that the CUNY Chancellor and Board continue to create a Palestine Exception to Free Speech, defame a student for defending human rights in her speech, and attempt to create a one-sided political narrative that its students and faculty must adhere to. That is not the education that students want or deserve. A university that lives its mission and values would be doing the exact opposite,” said the Center.