April 25, 2017
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Dear Governor Cuomo:
We write to express our shock and horror that CUNY’s Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy has selected the extremist Linda Sarsour to deliver the keynote address at its upcoming commencement ceremony. Sarsour is a bigot and a divider. It disgraces the state and city of New York for a taxpayer-funded university to confer this honor on her.
Sarsour openly supports the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. She also opposes the right of the Jewish State of Israel to exist, expressing her unbridled hatred on Twitter with statements such as “Nothing is creepier than Zionism” and “[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is a waste of a human being.”
Sarsour posted a photo of a young Arab child walking toward Israeli soldiers, holding rocks in both hands, and praised it as “the definition of courage.” In response to the justifiable backlash from New York City Council Member Rory Lancman and others, Sarsour tweeted, “The Zionist trolls are out to play. Bring it.” Sarsour also tweeted her support for the intifada – the term for the Palestinian Arab terror war against Jews in Israel – describing it as “invaluable on many fronts.”
Sarsour was one of the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington last January, but her feminism is selective and bigoted. She has claimed that if you are a Zionist, then you cannot be a feminist, which of course is false. There is no conflict between Zionism and feminism. Sarsour has also demeaned and condemned one of the world’s most courageous and outstanding feminists, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has spoken out against the role that Islam plays in legitimizing abuses against women. Ayaan Hirsi Ali knows about these abuses first-hand. She was once a devout Muslim who publicly criticized Islam for legitimizing abhorrent practices such as genital mutilation, and faced death threats for her advocacy. Instead of showing her respect for standing up for girls’ and women’s rights, Sarsour tried to delegitimize her for speaking out against radical Islam, disgustingly tweeting that Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “vagina should be taken away” and that she does not “deserve” to be a woman.
Sarsour’s values conflict with American values. She expressed regret after U.S. forces captured Iraqi dictator and mass murderer Saddam Hussein, saying, “my Arab pride was hurt.” When she recently shared a podium with Rasmea Odeh – who had been convicted of murdering two college students in a 1969 supermarket bombing in Israel and who is being deported for concealing her terrorist crimes on her U.S. immigration forms – Sarsour said she was “honored and privileged to be here in this space, and honored to be on this stage with Rasmea.”
Sarsour claims to care about bigotry – except when it is directed against Jews, stating that anti-Semitism “can’t exactly compare to . . . anti-black racism or Islamophobia.” She also showed shocking insensitivity and ignorance about the suffering of black slaves in the U.S. when she tweeted, “The sacrifice [that] the black Muslim slaves went through in this country is nothing compared to Islamaphobia [sic] today.”
CUNY of all places should not be elevating and honoring Linda Sarsour, given the recent appalling revelations of anti-Semitism on several CUNY campuses. You will recall, for example, that at a rally sponsored by the “Students for Justice in Palestine” group, the protesters were screaming that Jewish people are “racist sons of bitches,” shouting “Go back home, and get the f–k out of my country,” and chanting “Jews out of CUNY” and “Death to Jews.” CUNY should be bending over backwards to demonstrate that it will have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism. Instead, CUNY is showing breathtaking insensitivity by honoring and giving a prominent podium to a bigot, and someone who is using women’s issues to ostracize Jews and other Israel supporters from the fight for women’s rights and equality.
Please do all that you can to ensure that CUNY rescinds the speaking invitation to Linda Sarsour. There are many truly inspiring leaders worthy of the honor of speaking at a CUNY commencement. Linda Sarsour is not one of them.
Morton A. Klein, ZOA National President
Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., Director, Center for Law and Justice