Lavine denounces CUNY Law commencement’s ‘hate-filled’ speech

Lavine denounces CUNY Law commencement’s ‘hate-filled’ speech
CUNY School of Law. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. License:

A CUNY School of Law 2023 graduate is under scrutiny in the wake of her commencement speech, which denounced the State of Israel and the injustices of local law enforcement. Many politicians have since condemned her speech, including Nassau Assemblymember Charles Lavine (D-North Shore).

Queens resident Fatima Mousa Mohammed, a Yemeni immigrant, spoke during her graduation commencement on May 12, praising the university for backing its students’ right to organize and protest against “Israeli settler colonialism,” referencing the state of Israel and the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

“As 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 as it imprisons its children, as it continues its project of settler colonialism expelling Palestinians from their homes,” Mohammed said.

She said the CUNY School of Law is “one of the very few legal institutions created to recognize that the law is a manifestation of white supremacy that continues to oppress and suppress people in this nation and around the world.”

Mohammed referred to the “fascist NYPD” in her speech and applauded her fellow graduates who will work in their careers to protect communities “terrorized by the surveillance state.”

“Let us remember that Gaza just this week has been bombed with the world watching,” Mohammed said. “That daily brown and Black men are being murdered by the state at Rikers.”

Lavine, president of the New York Chapter of the National Association of Jewish Legislators, sent a letter to CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez criticizing the speech given by Mohammed and the university’s lack of immediate action to denounce it.

The letter was signed by other members of the chapter.

Lavine calls the speech “grotesquely inappropriate and designed to demean and antagonize Americans and Jews” and “hate-filled” in the letter.

“The conduct did not occur in a vacuum,” Lavine said in the letter. “It was enabled by CUNY refusing to take meaningful action when the Law School Government Association and the law school faculty endorsed the BDS movement against Israel, setting the stage for the hate-filled diatribe.”

The letter also said that the speech paints America as a “colonial imperialistic nation imprisoning innocent people.”

Lavine demanded in his letter that the chancellor, CUNY Board of Trustees and the dean of the law school denounce the speech. He also requested the university to establish a Jewish advisory council to develop a written policy to address the issue.

A May 30 statement from CUNY and its chancellor acknowledged Mohammed’s speech as hate-speech, condemning it.

“This speech is particularly unacceptable at a ceremony celebrating the achievements of a wide diversity of graduates, and hurtful to the entire CUNY community, which was founded on the principle of equal access and opportunity,” the university stated. “CUNY’s commitment to protecting and supporting our students has not wavered throughout our 175-year existence and we cannot and will not condone hateful rhetoric on our campuses.”

Dozens of CUNY School of Law faculty have since expressed support for Mohammed and asked for the university to retract its statement denouncing her speech, who has since received threats and harassment, as reported by The Gothamist.

“The implication that an elected-student speaker at an institution devoted to social justice and human rights was applauded by her peers, faculty, and attendees for engaging in ‘hate speech’ is an affront to both the student speaker and our entire community,” the faculty letter states, as reported by The Gothamist.

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