New York law school graduate criticized for speech on Israeli Occupation


Published: 2023-06-02 21:17

Last Updated: 2024-06-20 11:07

New York law school graduate criticized for speech on Israeli Occupation
New York law school graduate criticized for speech on Israeli Occupation

Both Republicans and Democrats in the United States have joined in criticizing a recent speech by a New York law school graduate that scrutinized the Israeli Occupation.

Democratic Congressman Ritchie Torres labeled the graduate as "crazed," while former Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin condemned the speech as "raging antisemitism."

Even Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas joined the chorus of disapproval against the Yemeni-American speaker, Fatima Mohammed. The City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law, where Mohammed delivered the speech, echoed the sentiment, describing it as an expression of hate toward religious, racial, and political groups.

Although Palestinian rights advocates find the accusations bewildering, asserting that Mohammed's speech contained no hate or bigotry, the vilification of her aligns with a broader trend of public attacks on critics of the Israeli Occupation, aimed at discouraging further scrutiny of the country's policies. Advocates argue that such attacks only embolden Palestine solidarity activists to speak out more forcefully.

The controversy surrounding Mohammed's speech gained national and international attention after 'pro-Israel' publications and politicians continued to condemn it.

Director of advocacy for Israel-Palestine at Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), Adam Shapiro, a US-based rights group, said pro-Israel organizations and politicians are hoping that such attacks would dissuade Palestine solidarity activists from speaking out.

Shapiro told Al Jazeera: "But I think it’s actually having the opposite effect. I think this actually emboldens more people to speak out."

Her 12-minute address covered various social justice causes and commended CUNY Law for defending students' right to voice their opposition to Israeli Occupation settler colonialism. Despite frequent interruptions by applause from fellow graduates, Mohammed faced severe backlash for highlighting Israeli Occupation actions, such as indiscriminate attacks on worshippers and encouraging lynch mobs to target Palestinians.

“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,” she said.

While Mohammed's speech was politically charged, her supporters emphasize that CUNY Law's mission statement explicitly promotes social justice. However, attacks on pro-Palestine advocates have become commonplace, with accusations of anti-Semitism and attempts to cancel their events and protests.

Professors critical of the Israeli Occupation have lost their jobs due to pressure campaigns, and political nominees have faced withdrawal from human rights and diplomatic positions based on past criticism of the Israeli Occupation.

Despite the mounting criticism, many Arab, Muslim, and Palestinian rights advocates have rallied behind Mohammed, praising her impassioned stance against white supremacy, state surveillance, and Israeli Occupation colonialism.

Organizations such as the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USPCR) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NY) have condemned the efforts to stifle voices seeking to shed light on human rights abuses. Jewish Voice for Peace, an anti-occupation group, also defended Mohammed, denouncing the false characterization of her speech as anti-Semitic and expressing agreement with her pursuit of justice for Palestine.

Critics directed their ire particularly at Congressman Torres, accusing him of perpetuating racist and Islamophobic tropes by associating Muslims with uncontrollable hatred of Jews. They contend that his actions amount to bullying a young Muslim woman who lacks the same level of power and influence. The controversy continues to unfold, leaving many divided on the issue of free speech and the right to criticize the Israeli Occupation's policies.