On March 8th, the noted anti-Zionist organization, Within Our Lifetime, saw fit to celebrate International Women’s Day by posting a graphic featuring eleven women honoring them for their roles “in the struggle for Palestinian national liberation.” The chair of Within Our Lifetime, Nerdeen Kiswani, is a current student at the CUNY School of Law.
Three of the women featured in the graphic have had active roles in operations meant to kill civilians. Rasmea Odeh is directly responsible for the death of two civilians after taking part in the bombing of a grocery store in Jerusalem in 1969. Leila Khaled took part in the hijacking of El Al Flight 219 in 1970 and pulled the pin of a grenade while on the plane. Miraculously, it did not explode. Fatima Bernawi planted a bomb in the Zion Theatre in Jerusalem in 1967. Again, that device did not explode.
Several others are connected to terror groups and have long histories of inciting violence. Khalida Jarrar is a prominent member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an organization that has been designated a terror group by the United States and a host of other countries. Halady Halwani has ties to the Northern Islamic Movement, an organization banned by Israel in 2015 due to its affiliation with Hamas. She is a member of the Mourabitat, a network of female activists who are paid to “incite provocations” at Al-Aqsa. Dareen Tantor has openly called for an “intifada” within the Greenline, a word that is associated with unprovoked violent attacks against Jewish Israelis.
Given the heinous nature of the post, Instagram decided to suspend Within Our Lifetime’s Instagram account.
Many anti-Zionist groups, including Students for Justice in Palestine chapters and CUNY for Palestine, publicly called for Instagram to restore the Within Our Lifetime Instagram account. After four days, Instagram yielded to this campaign and decided to bring back its main account. Within Our Lifetime and the groups contributing to anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hostility on CUNY campuses continue to assert their heinous actions constitute “free speech.”
CUNY-affiliated institutions have long engaged in extreme anti-Zionist activities. In the last 12 months alone, the CUNY Professional Staff Congress Union declared Israel an apartheid state, the CUNY Law School student government passed a pro-BDS resolution that demonizes numerous pro-Israel organizations and clubs that operate within the CUNY system, such as Hillel, Bulldogs for Israel (Brooklyn College), and Students Supporting Israel at City College, and anti-Zionist activists from the PSC union protested outside of the home of CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez.
That protest was endorsed by several student groups, including the John Jay Student Council, the Jewish Students Law Association (JLSA), and the Student Organization For Every Disability United For Progress Club (SOFEDUP) at Brooklyn College.
Six Zionist professors have initiated a lawsuit against the union for subjecting them to “anti-Semitic, anti-Jewish, and anti-Israel,” rhetoric. These professors claim that they were “subjected to a hostile work environment on the basis of religion, and had no choice but to resign from the union.”
As an alumnus of the CUNY system, It is humiliating, disheartening, and disgusting to see these student organizations and the CUNY Law Student Government supporting a group that glorifies terrorists, vilifies Zionists, and regularly engages in antisemitic rhetoric. Antisemitic hate crimes in New York City almost quadrupled in January 2022 compared to January 2021. One-third of college students nationwide experienced antisemitism in the 2020-2021 school year.
Outsiders could interpret CUNY’s facilitation of this extremism within its student body as an endorsement of those ideas. Now more than ever, the university needs to take a stance on behalf of its Jewish and Zionist students to prevent further exclusion and disparagement of its students.
A slightly different version of this article appeared in the Algemeiner.