April 27, 2017
Chancellor James B. Milliken
The City University of New York
205 East 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017
Dear Chancellor Milliken:
Last year, when we brought to your attention the many anti-Semitic incidents that Jewish students had endured at CUNY, you emphatically responded that CUNY condemns anti-Semitism and all other forms of bigotry and discrimination, and you underscored CUNY’s responsibility to promote and encourage tolerance and civility. Particularly given this recent history, we cannot fathom how CUNY’s School of Public Health & Health Policy could select a supporter of radical Islamic terror and a bigot like Linda Sarsour to be the school’s commencement speaker, and how you would permit that decision to stand.
Please consider these facts about Sarsour:
- Her values conflict with American values. 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 will soon be 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 also expressed regret after U.S. forces captured Iraqi dictator and mass murderer Saddam Hussein, saying, “my Arab pride was hurt.”
- She promotes violence against Jews and terror wars against Israel. 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.” 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.”
- She 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.”
- She openly supports the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
- She ostracizes and 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.
- She condemns and delegitimizes brave, true feminists who speak out against radical Islam. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, once a devout Muslim, has courageously criticized the role that Islam plays 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.”
Knowing all this, you have nevertheless refused to rescind CUNY’s decision to honor Sarsour, claiming that rescinding it would violate the First Amendment and principles of academic freedom. This is not a free speech issue. Sarsour does not have a right under the Constitution or anywhere else to be the commencement speaker at CUNY, nor is CUNY obligated to provide her with a podium.
You would never rely on the First Amendment and hold on to a CUNY commencement speaker once it was revealed that the invited speaker had a history of bigotry toward African Americans, Hispanics, women or the LGBTQ community. You would rescind the speaking invitation immediately – as you should. It is appalling that CUNY in particular would be so deaf to anti-Semitism. It was just over a year ago that at a CUNY rally sponsored by “Students for Justice in Palestine,” protesters were screaming that Jews 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.”
Show that you are truly committed to fighting bigotry and promoting tolerance at CUNY. Please withdraw the invitation to Sarsour and confer the honor of speaking at a CUNY commencement on someone who is truly worthy. Linda Sarsour is not.
Very truly yours,
Morton A. Klein, National President
Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., Director, Center for Law & Justice
Zach Stern, Managing Director, ZOA Campus