Anti-Israel activist delivers graduation address at 'hotbed of radical antisemitism'

Controversial anti-Israel activist Nerdeen Kiswani delivered CUNY Law’s commencement speech highlighting a resolution passed by the school to cut all ties with Israel.

'CUNY School of Law has been a notorious hotbed of radical antisemitism in recent years,' Professor Jeffrey Lax told Campus Reform.

On May 14, controversial anti-Israel activist Nerdeen Kiswani delivered CUNY School of Law’s commencement speech, which highlighted a resolution passed by the school’s Student Government to cut all university ties with Israel. 

CUNY stands for the City University of New York. 

According to Kiswani, “CUNY Law is the first university in the country to publish a statement standing with the freedom of speech of those fighting for Palestinian liberation."

The BDS resolution, written in November of 2021 and passed by the student government in December, was endorsed by the CUNY Law faculty on May 12.

The resolution asks for CUNY Law to “cut all ties with organizations that repress Palestinian organizing and end its complicity in the ongoing censorship, harassment, and intimidation of Palestine solidarity activists.” 

This call includes unapologetically endorsing the “Palestinian-led call for Boycott Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel”, ending contracts with any companies that profit from Israeli colonization, cutting all exchange programs with Israel, and being transparent with all university finances.  

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According to the resolution, CUNY “has a vibrant community of anti-zionist Palestinian, Muslim, Arab, and Jewish students who have been active in resisting Israeli settler colonialism”, but also “has a history of censoring, repressing, harassing, and surveilling Palestine solidarity activists, including current CUNY Law students and co-sponsors of this resolution”. 

The resolution goes on to claim that CUNY Law is complicit “in the ongoing apartheid, genocide, and war crimes perpetrated by the state of Israel against the Palestinian people through its investments in and contracts with companies profiting off of Israeli war crimes.”

It further asserts that CUNY Law works with NYPD who participate in “Deadly Exchange programs with Israel in which the NYPD sends officers to learn Israeli military and policing tactics and vice versa.”    

Kiswani claimed in her speech that she has “been facing a campaign of Zionist harassment by well-funded organizations with ties to the Israeli government and military on the basis of my Palestinian identity and organizing." 

She further charged that “[working with Israel] normalizes Israel’s colonization and murder of the Palestinian people and it shows that that part of CUNY’s leadership is disconnected from and unaccountable to the CUNY community." 

This was in response to the Chancellor going on a trip to Israel with ten presidents and deans from CUNY campuses after the School of Law government passed the BDS resolution.

In response to Kiswani’s claim of “Zionist harassment”, Jeffrey Lax, a Professor at Kingsborough Community College (CUNY) and one of the founders of Students And Faculty for Equality at CUNY (S.A.F.E. CUNY), told Campus Reform that “it is, in reality, a complaint by her that some are opposed to her calls to discriminate and even to harm Jewish individuals based on their religion, national origin, or ethnicity.”

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Lax went on to say that Kiswani did not identify the harassment she had received and that maybe “she believes Instagram is a ‘Zionist Harasser’ for banning her group In Our Lifetime for inciting violence on its platform.” 

According to Lax, “the students at CUNY School of Law voted for Kiswani to deliver the commencement speech.” 

He continued by saying “CUNY School of Law has been a notorious hotbed of radical antisemitism in recent years."

S.A.F.E. CUNY, which advocates for Zionist Jews discriminated against by CUNY, wrote on its Twitter account that “For those who agree that Zionists ought to be dead, she did not disappoint. OUTRAGEOUS @cuny and @ChancellorCUNY! This is a shameful mark that will be remembered.”

S.A.F.E. CUNY released a statement that in part said, "Honoring a Jew-hating bigot who has called for violence to Jews makes Jews at CUNY unsafe." 

Campus Reform obtained a screenshot of the entire statement. 

Despite support from CUNY Law students and faculty, CUNY Chancellor Matos Rodríguez has distanced himself from the resolution, writing that “CUNY does not support and to be clear cannot participate in BDS activities, and is required to divest public funds from any companies that do.”

“CUNY also continues to reject outright all assertions that the University is complicit in any way in censorship, harassment or surveillance of Palestinian solidarity organizations and in apartheid, genocide and the commission of war crimes against the Palestinian people”, Rodríguez continued. 

The Chancellor concludes by stating that we must “counter the violence, hate, antisemitism and racism that can creep into our campuses, our country and the world.”

Campus Reform contacted every individual and CUNY School Law for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.