Rewarding Jew Hatred at CUNY Law

The anti-Semitic crybully becomes the whining victim.

As if to further confirm that the City University of New York School of Law (CUNY Law) has become a cesspool of anti-Israel activism masked as social justice, the school chose its most radical and toxic student, Nerdeen Kiswani, to give one its commencement addresses on May 13th.

Kiswani is a perfect example of the radical who whines about being victimized for her aggressive activism, what The New Criterion’s Roger Kimball has defined as a “crybully,” someone “who has weaponized his coveted status as a victim.”

That behavior was on full display during Kiswani’s activist speech, when she began by complaining about “facing a campaign of Zionist harassment by well-funded organizations with ties to the Israeli government and military on the basis of my Palestinian identity and organizing.” Apparently, she is oblivious to the fact that these organizations may have had good reason to respond to her unrelenting vitriol against Israel, Zionism, and Jews.

Kiswani, it will be remembered, was featured in a provocative 2020 TikTok video when she was a second-year student at CUNY Law, one of the many examples of her long record of toxic activism.

In the video, Kiswani is seen attempting to light on fire an IDF-emblazoned sweatshirt worn by an individual sitting with her, expressing her hatred for the IDF and the nation it defends. This loathing apparently animates Ms. Kiswani’s life, since she was fully engaged as the former vice president and president of the virulent student group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Hunter College and at the College of Staten Island. She is also the chairperson of Within Our Lifetime (WOL), an anti-Israel activist group in New York City, where, at one repellant rally, she called on supporters to “globalize the Intifada, from New York to Palestine,” in other words, to murder Jews everywhere in the name of Palestinian self-determination.

Canary Mission, a website that tracks and catalogs the anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activism of individuals and organizations and compiles online dossiers on them, has a voluminous file on Kiswani. It notes that she has “spread hatred of America, incited hatred against pro-Israel donors, promoted hatred of Israel and demonized Zionism”; and has “glorified intifada, honored leaders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group and expressed support for other terrorists in her WOL activism.” Kiswani, the Canary Mission dossier also notes, “has opposed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism and is a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.”

[Related: “Bulldozing Debate about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”]

And, as evidenced by her infamous TikTok video, Kiswani is perfectly willing to use and celebrate violence against Israeli Jews. In fact, when in 2017 Palestinian terrorists killed four people and injured 17 others by ramming them with a vehicle on a Jerusalem promenade, Kiswani lauded and encouraged the celebration of the murders, ghoulishly noting that “Palestinians in Palestine are giving out sweets in celebration. I will not hide from this. I will not be ashamed or embarrassed by this. These celebratory actions are what keep the resistance moving forward, they are what keep it alive.”

No university, and certainly not an institution like CUNY, engulfed as it is in woke activism, would tolerate a white supremacist student group that purported to exist only to promote pride in being white. No anti-gay or anti-Muslim group would ever be allowed on an American campus either. And that same university would never compound the moral harm of this group’s activism by inviting its leader to speak as the representative of its student body at graduation events.

But the woke anti-Semites in the audience for Kiswani’s speech regularly interrupted her talk with cheers and applause, obviously in thrall with her lofty, but empty, nod to social justice. Kiswani trumpeted that she embraced all her fellow CUNY travelers who are “fighting for black, Latinx, indigenous, Palestinian liberation and for the freedom of all people living under colonial domination, imperialism, and white supremacist structures both around the world and here in the U.S.,” signaling that only oppressed victims are worthy of support, but clearly not Jews.

And since Kiswani has repeatedly called for the “liberation” of Palestine (which, not coincidentally, includes present-day Israel), the continuation of an Intifada, and the eventual extirpation of the Jewish state, it is clear that any Jewish student at CUNY or anyone who supports Israel is not part of this high-minded progressive coalition of woke activists.

The issue here is not whether Kiswani has the freedom of speech to utter her calumnies against Israel, Zionism, and Jews. The fact that she has done so, publicly and promiscuously, for years and has never been censured or censored for it by the CUNY administration is evidence that, at least on her campus, she enjoys unrestricted First Amendment rights. But it is one thing to allow the toxic rants of a student activist in her role as a member of different groups and organizations on and off campus—it is another thing altogether to allow her to promote her toxic ideology as a featured speaker at that institution’s graduation exercise. No one from CUNY’s administration or faculty seems to have vocally denounced the choice of Kiswani or her speech itself. No one in the audience tried to shout her down, heckle her, or disrupt the speech.

That was not the case, however, in 2018, when legal scholar Josh Blackman was invited by the CUNY Law’s Federalist Society to lecture on free speech. Woke law students, claiming Blackman was a racist and a white supremacist based on some of his writings, discourteously and in violation of CUNY’s own code of conduct tried to shut down and aggressively disrupted his event. No such opposition from fellow law students or faculty was evident at Kiswani’s speech.

[Related: “Suppressing Pro-Israel Views at the University of Chicago”]

Most troubling, of course, is that Kiswani was chosen, not in spite of her radical speech and behavior—much of it blatantly anti-Semitic—but precisely because of it. CUNY Law has collectively enlisted itself in an anti-Israel campaign, complete with the incessant slanders, libels, and lies about the Jewish state. Kiswani acknowledged as much when she noted that “we’ve been able to pass a BDS resolution through student government which CUNY faculty just officially endorsed yesterday,” not to mention the school’s “statement standing with the freedom of speech of those fighting for Palestinian liberation.”

One has to wonder if the CUNY community fully comprehends what “Palestinian liberation” means and how such a catastrophic and genocidal event would affect the 6.8 million Israeli Jews who live there now, were the delusional fantasies of BDS proponents realized.

On this single global issue and for this one group of perceived victims—the Palestinians—has the entire law school committed itself to stand in solidarity? Does it support “resistance” by the Palestinians, a euphemistic term for terrorism against Jews? Does it deem Zionism to be racism? Does it believe Israel is an illegitimate, colonial outpost created by imperialism and maintained through apartheid and the oppression of a wholly innocent indigenous people who only seek peace? Those notions comprise the ideology of the BDS movement—WOL’s tenets are just as extreme and lethal.

That CUNY supports Kiswani and her fellow activist students because they purport to defend the downtrodden does not erase the fact that their ideology is one in which the well-being of Jews is inconsequential. They believe that the continued existence of the Jewish state is an irritating detail that can be cured by a “globalized Intifada” in which Israelis are slaughtered and their state is eliminated once and for all.

When you allow a speaker at a graduation ceremony to bray about being victimized by those who take issue with her rhetoric, you are no longer a place where true debate and reason prevail. You have created, instead, an echo chamber in which like-minded, misguided radical activists have corrupted the purpose of the university. That is not what a university should do or be. And that is not a place where the country’s future lawyers should be taught.

A university should, and must, recognize which student groups have a legitimate, valid mission, and which are animated by extremist ideology and a penchant for spreading bigotry, ethnic hatred, and historical falsehoods.

Allowing a bigoted, anti-Semitic activist to speak on behalf of a professional school at a public university is a profound betrayal of higher education’s values and purpose.


Image: Evulaj90, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Richard L. Cravatts

Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., a Freedom Center Journalism Fellow in Academic Free Speech and President Emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, is the author of "Dispatches From the Campus War Against Israel and Jews."

9 thoughts on “Rewarding Jew Hatred at CUNY Law

  1. I’m an attorney. I have always hired young, local lawyers and law school graduates. (As an aside, two young ladies that I’ve hired went on to become judges and other attorneys have done very well) There is absolutely no chance that I will ever hire a CUNY Law graduate.

  2. The headline cries out about Jew Hatred at CUNY-Law but its the same old right wing bait and switch, conflating anti-Zionism and critique of Israel for anti-Semitism. For the record I am an American Jew who knows anti-Semitism first hand and can tell the difference. Israel has become an abomination, a stain on everything I was brought up to understand about being Jewish.

    Condemn Kiswani’s juvenile, hysterical, gleeful embrace of violence and I’m with you but don’t try to sucker me with talk of anti-Semitism. Its just a cheap emotional ploy to get good people to look past Israel’s abhorrent behavior, cloak with equally hysterical cries of anti-Semitism and never-again-ism, appealing to lingering Jewish anxiety (even in the US) about yet another wave of hostility to Jews.

    That anxiety has some merit as we see real anti-Semitism erupting in North America, anti-Semitism coming not from Islam or pro-Palestinian university students but from the America’s right wing movements, movements that loves a vaguely fascist Israel but hates Jews as the core of a liberal, cosmopolitan, educated “elite.” This whining about commencement speakers who offend you with some harsh language about Israel diverts us from the real threat to Jews and everyone else in American. The I’m done with the yiddishe shneyelekh, the real crybullies on the block.

    1. You make questionable claims of “right-wing switch and bait” and that “Israel is an abomination”. You assume you are correct but offer no evidence or facts. Your reply amounts to a harsh criticism of Dr. Cravatt’s essay. If half of what Dr. Cravatt’s says about Ms. Kiswani is true, she is the abominable one and those who allowed her to speak. Dr. Cravatt’s is not conflating anything. Palestine was offered–multiple times–99% of their demands. Palestine rejected them all. This moral outrage supercedes any consideration of Israel’s actions. Palestine is the aggressor, the bully, and is hell bent on destroying Israel. I am very grateful Dr. Cravatt’s wrote about this person and the world needs to see Palestinian activists for their true intent—hatred of Israel and all things Jewish.

      1. Yes, that too….

        While there might be some mouthy schmucks on the right, they are harmless.

        Unlike those who instead chant “kill the Jews” – AND MEAN IT!

    2. Your ignorance is shocking.

      Not all Jews live in America ,and those in Europe face high levels of anti semitism from the left and Islam .
      When pro Palestinian marches in England have ‘death to Jews ‘ ,’rape Jewish women’ etc being chanted it is not the right wing .
      Go on you tube and watch multiple videos of Jews being assaulted for no reason ,usually by Muslims unfortunately and wake up ,you are literally doing what American Jews did during the Nazi period in Germany and sticking your fingers in your ears and going ‘nah nah I can’t hear anything ,I can’t see anything ‘
      Jews are fleeing certain countries not because of the right wing but because of the hostility they face from segments of the Islamic community .

      You are a privileged **** who thinks your narrow little word reflects the entire Jewish community with almost no idea what you are talking about .

  3. My take on this is a bit different – and remember that Blackman was accused of being a white supremicist.

    This is an attack on WASPs – White Anglo Saxon Protestants – with Jews serving as a substitute for the largely invisible WASPs.

    At the risk of both oversimplifying things and offending people, Israel largely reflects American values. Traditional American values that the tenured radicals in academia have long rejected.

    And you can only shout “AmeriKKKa Sucks” so much….

    Israel is halfway around the world – I think this hatred is a lot more locally focused.

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