The City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law has come under fire for censoring a pro-Palestine commencement speech which highlighted Israel's brutal treatment of Palestinians.
Yemeni American Fatima Mohammed was selected by her peers, including members of the CUNY Jewish Law Students' Association, to give the student commencement speech earlier this month. Although the speech was livestreamed, like all the commencement speeches for the past nine years, the video of Mohammed's address — which she gave while draped in the famous Palestinian keffiyeh — has been removed from the school's YouTube page, apparently without explanation.
"Israel continues to indiscriminately rain bullets and bombs on worshippers, murdering the old, the young, attacking even funerals and graveyards, and as it encourages lynch mobs to target Palestinian homes and businesses, as it imprisons its children, as it continues its project of settler-colonialism, expelling Palestinians from their homes, carrying [out] the ongoing Nakba," said Mohammed.
She described the unique nature of CUNY Law and explained that students enrolled at the New York school need "to be equipped with the necessary legal skills to protect [our] communities, to protect the organisers fighting endlessly day in and day out… and confront the systems of oppression that rend violence on them."
In her address, Mohammed indicated that graduating from CUNY with the relevant legal skills will ensure that the "exception" which exists in addressing the injustices suffered by Palestinians can be challenged. "Palestine can no longer be the exception to our pursuit of justice."
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Students and activists say that Mohammed's speech was taken off YouTube because she paid attention to the plight of the Palestinians. There are media reports that CUNY Law removed the video due to false allegations of anti-Semitism. Since her speech, Mohammed has come under attack from Zionist groups. According to the CUNY Jewish Law Students' Association, which released a statement in support of Mohammed, calling her "our friend and classmate," the notorious anti-Palestine group Canary Mission has been "spreading disgusting lies".
"We, as Jewish students at CUNY Law, oppose and condemn the racist organisations like Canary Mission which are spreading disgusting lies about our friend," said the Jewish Law Students' Association. "The organisations currently attacking Fatima and the rest of CUNY Law's student body, with absurd and false claims of anti-Semitism, are doing so against the wishes of the majority of CUNY Law's Jewish students, who wholeheartedly stand with Fatima and have been grateful to have her as our classmate throughout law school."
The association added that, "As Jewish students attending an institution structured around social justice, we denounce both the murder and dispossession enacted in our name through the Zionist project and the harassment and lies that Zionist organisations are using to punish Fatima for her bravery and commitment to Palestinian freedom."
More than 15 CUNY Law student groups, including the Jewish Law Students' Association, condemned CUNY Law's decision to take down the video, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). CUNY Law is also being accused of taking down and censoring last year's student commencement speech by Nerdeen Kiswani. Both speeches were given by Muslim women and highlighted the suffering of Palestinians.
"We strongly condemn the apparent decision by CUNY Law to remove Fatima Mohammed's commencement speech, particularly considering its focus on social justice and the plight of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation," said CAIR in a statement issued about the ongoing "silencing" of voices that seek to shed light on human rights abuses committed by Israel. "Academic institutions should embrace robust discussions on international issues, including human rights, without fear of censorship or reprisal."