The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, an advocacy organization, condemned in a statement by the Center of the City University of New York Chancellor, Félix V. Matos Rodríguez’s criticism of a speech by student Fatima Mohammed at CUNY Law School’s graduation ceremony.
In its statement, a copy of which was sent to The Palestine Chronicle, the Center said that “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.”
Mohammed’s speech was given to the law school’s graduating class of 2023 earlier this month but it was noticed online by some media outlets last week. From there, it gained national and international attention as more pro-Israel publications and politicians harshly condemned it.
Watch: The City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law has faced criticism for removing a pro-Palestine commencement speech by Fatima Mohammed, a Muslim woman from Yemen and her great-grandparents are Jewish, from its YouTube page.
“Palestine can no longer be the exception… pic.twitter.com/XbVHUx0LvS
— Quds News Network (@QudsNen) May 25, 2023
In her 12-minute speech, Mohammed highlighted the student body’s activism saying “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.”
Mohammed went on to say: “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.”
Officials from both US major parties strongly attacked Mohammed, accusing her of antisemitism.
In its response to Mohammed’s speech, the CUNY Chancellor and the Board of Trustees condemned what they called ‘hate speech’.
The statement read in part. “Hate speech (…) 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.”
In response, the Center for Constitutional Rights said, “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.”
(The Palestine Chronicle)