On May 13, 2022, the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law featured an individual who has openly called for and celebrated violence and bigotry as one of the commencement ceremony speakers.
Nerdeen Mohsen Kiswani was selected as one of two student speakers by the “Class of 2022” at CUNY Law. Kiswani is also one of the founders of the extremist organization Within Our Lifetime (WOL). The organization’s “points of unity” include proclaiming Palestinians have a right to “resist…by any means necessary.” Just last month, Kiswani was seen at a WOL demonstration, in front of a “Globalize the Intifada” banner, screaming into the microphone: “By any means necessary, we will free Palestine.”
Last week, her personal Instagram account had “liked” a post celebrating the murder of three Israeli civilians in an ax and gun attack with the text “The independence of their soul from their body is the only independence they will celebrate today” over an image of a man holding a bloody ax. Likewise, the WOL Instagram account has celebrated rocket attacks on Israel, posting “When Gaza launches, the sun rises.”
Notwithstanding, repeated studies and polls show the vast majority of Jews are pro-Israel or Zionist. Kiswani engages in constant campaigns of dehumanizing them and calling for overt discrimination against them. A recent WOL campaign demands “Zionist professors” not be welcomed on campus, and that “Zionist students” not be allowed in spaces where Palestinian students are.” Kiswani enthusiastically shared a video of Muna El-Kurd referring to Israelis as “Zionist dogs” who must be cleansed from “Palestine,” while also dehumanizing Zionists as worse than the disease Listeria.
As CAMERA has documented, Kiswani has been featured on webinars alongside speakers who routinely malign Jewish organizations as a vast, nefarious conspiratorial network that must be “dismantled.” At recent WOL demonstrations, maps showing Jewish targets in New York City were even handed out, and a Jewish man was physically attacked.
The decision to platform the personality behind these truly disturbing incidents of bigotry and praise for terrorism is shocking. It cannot be allowed to pass without severe condemnation. This is particularly so given that New York City is seeing levels of antisemitic violence not seen in decades.
CUNY Law has shown a disturbing acquiescence and even overt support for Kiswani’s hatred. In March, the CUNY Law student government’s Instagram account openly called to #BringBackWOL after WOL’s Instagram account was temporarily suspended. The post (which can still be found on Facebook) that got the account suspended was celebrating a number of terrorists, such as Rasmea Odeh who was involved in the murder of two Jewish college students.
On June 30, 2021, the CUNY Law interim dean issued a statement defending Nerdeen Kiswani over previous incidents. The law school wrote at the time:
“[W]e are united in opposing all forms of racism, including anti-Palestinianism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia; we condemn anti-Palestinian, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, and other racist violence; we recognize and respect one another’s right to be a part of our community…”
Since then, Kiswani’s conduct has become far more egregious. It’s time for CUNY Law to make its position clear. CUNY Law’s selected student commencement speaker has openly praised and called for violence against Jews and Israelis. She has openly sought to deny the right of the vast majority of Jewish students and faculty members to be at CUNY. Are these the values CUNY Law believes best represent the school? The Class of 2022? Does CUNY Law condone the vicious hatred that this speaker has displayed?