The mission of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) includes fighting Israel-bashers and anti-Semitic bigots. Yet both groups have publicly ignored and failed to condemn The City University of New York (CUNY) for selecting Israel-bashing, anti-Semitic bigot Linda Sarsour as a commencement speaker. CUNY should not be honoring someone with a record of supporting radical Islamic terrorism, and of virulently attacking feminists who are Zionists and who speak out against Islam’s role in tolerating the abuse of women. It is frightening that by giving Sarsour this visible and prestigious podium, CUNY is legitimizing, mainstreaming, and giving credibility to anti-Semitism and radical Islamic terrorism – and yet ADL and AJC are silent.
ADL’s silence is particularly troubling since the organization does not hesitate to speak out about anything it perceives as racism or Islamophobia. Its self-described foremost mission is “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people,” yet ADL promotes the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel Black Lives Matter movement and the extremist anti-Israel group J Street. ADL was also quick to condemn and make demands of Trump advisors Sebastian Gorka and Steve Bannon, while initially praising anti-Semitic Israel-basher Keith Ellison.
So why the silence about bigot Linda Sarsour and CUNY’s decision to honor her?
- After all, Sarsour 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 will soon be deported for concealing her terrorist crimes on her U.S. immigration forms – and said she was “honored and privileged to be here in this space, and honored to be on this stage with Rasmea.” Sarsour also expressed regret after U.S. forces captured Iraqi dictator and mass murderer Saddam Hussein, saying, “my Arab pride was hurt.”
- Sarsour promotes violence against Jews and terror wars against Israel. She 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.” When there was 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 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 openly supports the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
- Sarsour excludes Jews and other Israel supporters from the fight for women’s rights and equality, promoting the false notion that if you are a Zionist, then you cannot be a feminist. There is absolutely no conflict between Zionism and feminism.
- Sarsour condemns and delegitimizes brave, true feminists who speak out against radical Islam. Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former member of the Dutch parliament and once a devout Muslim, has courageously criticized Islam’s role in tolerating the abuse of women, such as genital mutilation and so-called honor killings. She knows about these abuses first-hand, and has faced death threats for her advocacy on behalf of girls and women. Instead of showing her respect, Sarsour disgustingly tweeted that Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “vagina should be taken away” and that she does not “deserve” to be a woman.
- 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.”
This is not a free speech issue. Sarsour has no First Amendment right to be a commencement speaker at CUNY, nor is the CUNY administration obligated to provide her with a podium. CUNY has the right to invite a speaker – and to withdraw an invitation – for any reason it chooses.
Other leaders in the Jewish community have spoken out about CUNY’s decision to honor Sarsour:
- Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said that he was “troubled” by her selection: “She has lauded those who throw rocks at Israelis, she favors Sharia law and has tweeted, ‘Nothing is creepier than Zionism.’ There is no reason she should be given recognition. It never would be permitted if someone had made similar comments about another ethnic or religious group.”
- Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis: added, “She’s a terrible choice. I don’t understand the selection of someone who is consistently anti-Israel. Her dislike for Zionism and the Jewish people is very clear.”
- Democratic New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind: “She is someone who associates with radical Islamists; supports them; shows support for them. She is someone who has said, clearly, she thinks throwing rocks at cars in Israel is a good thing. I mean, it’s just nuts. It makes no sense. It’s crazy to have this woman be the person who’s going to speak to the students.” Indeed, Assemblyman Hikind himself questioned and criticized the ADL’s silence: “I hope everyone at the ADL is ok. I’m genuinely concerned. I know they’d never be silent about an issue as important as this if everything was normal. The ADL speaks out 24/7 on defamation of the Jewish people and nothing can be more defamatory than Linda Sarsour’s statements about Jews and her glorification of Arabs throwing rocks at Israelis. But following the invitation from CUNY for Sarsour to address their graduates, the ADL’s silence has been deafening and shameful.”
- Democratic New York City Councilman David Greenfield said that Sarsour “opposes the national self-determination of the Jewish people and promotes violent attacks against citizens of the only Jewish state. At a time when anti-Semitism is up over 200 percent in New York City, we should be using our tax-payer funded institutions to unite our city not further divide it.”
It is time to hear from ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt and AJC’s David Harris, too. As leaders of organizations that are often referred to as the “Jewish defense agencies,” they should publicly condemn CUNY’s selection of Linda Sarsour as a commencement speaker, and urge CUNY to rescind her invitation and confer the honor of speaking at a CUNY commencement on someone who is truly worthy.