#WeStandWithNerdeen: CUNY must respect Palestinian rights

The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel expresses its strongest solidarity with Nerdeen Kiswani, Palestinian activist, law student and chair of Within Our Lifetime – United for Palestine. USACBI was honored to host Nerdeen earlier this summer in our webinar series, where her incisive analysis and commitment to justice was an invaluable contribution to the panel discussion. 

In the past days, Nerdeen has been subjected to a torrent of racist abuse and a coordinated campaign of harassment launched by Zionist organizations because of her public activism on Palestine. In response to this campaign, rather than defend their student, the CUNY School of Law administration has conflated anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism  thereby illegally subjecting Nerdeen to a hostile environment of additional harassment and abuse, 

Zionist organizations weaponized and misrepresented an old social media video, a moment involving Nerdeen and her friend where she holds a lighter and says she hates his “Israeli Defence Forces” shirt, to smear Nerdeen online and demand that CUNY School of Law expel her. To do so, they labeled her as “anti-Semitic” for protesting the symbol of an occupation army responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

This campaign, promoted by act.il, an online hasbara app funded in part by the Israeli government and deeply linked to Israeli intelligence and the military, falsely labeled Nerdeen’s friend as a Zionist and fellow student who was threatened by Nerdeen, when he was none of these things in reality. Act.il’s false and malicious campaign is a cynical ploy to protect the Israeli military and the settler-colonial, apartheid state their symbol represents, from any form of criticism, by falsely equating it with Judaism. 

Rather than offering protection to Nerdeen, asking how the university could support their student or even simply dismissing this pro-occupation censorship campaign, the CUNY School of Law administration saw fit join the witch-hunt by publishing and then deleting two social media posts, which condemned “hate and anti-Semitism,” and later, “hate and harassment.” In both cases, comments on the posts were quickly filled with right-wing, racist attacks on Nerdeen.. 

We are appalled, yet not surprised, to see yet another university administration complicit with and capitulating to racist, anti-Palestinian propaganda and attacks, at the expense of Palestinian students who are standing up  for justice. 

CUNY School of Law’s accommodation of the racist attackers echoes the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s firing of Dr. Steven Salaita, the San Francisco State University (SFSU) administration’s longstanding targeting of Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi, and numerous other cases. Indeed, on Sept. 23, as SFSU’s own AMED Studies department was subjected to a targeted campaign of abuse and censored by major technology corporations, the university president reportedly attended an anti-Palestinian, pro-Zionist vigil to condemn the censored event. 

We join with CUNY students and many organizations to demand that CUNY School of Law take down, remove, and apologize for its harmful social media posts that further spurred racist abuse against Nerdeen. We further insist that CUNY School of Law protect its students, including its Palestinian and Jewish students, from the harmful, false, and racist conflations of Zionism with Judaism, and of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. 

Further, we urge CUNY School of Law to publicly acknowledge the campaign of harassment against Nerdeen, take meaningful measures to protect her and fellow Palestinian students, and affirm that she will not be subjected to any disciplinary actions as a result of this witch-hunt designed to silence Palestinian voices. 

It is not only a right to protest the Israeli military and Israeli occupation, it is an obligation for all who are concerned for justice and fundamental principles of human rights and international law. The Israeli army’s logo is a symbol of hatred, oppression, racism, and violence directed on a daily basis against the Palestinian people throughout historic Palestine, who are subjected to siege, occupation, apartheid and colonialism, and against Palestinians in exile who have been denied their right to return for over 72 years.  Indeed, the IDF logo represents war crimes, crimes against humanity, extrajudicial killings, ethnic cleansing, and creeping genocide. 

We further emphasize that it is not only the responsibility of CUNY School of Law to protect students from racist campaigns, but also — as called for by Palestinian civil society, the Movement for Black Lives, and many others — to end CUNY’s own complicity with Israeli apartheid and occupation. We call upon CUNY to divest from corporations profiting from the colonization and dispossession of the Palestinian people, and to boycott Israeli academic institutions so long as the Israeli state continues to violate Palestinian rights. 

Photo credit: Joe Catron

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