‘Lynch mob’ speech shows Biden’s Jewish strategy has no teeth

The National Strategy on Antisemitism faced its first test within days. It failed...

June 08, 2023 12:15

The National Strategy on Antisemitism may sound like a souvenir from Adolf Eichmann’s desk, but it is the Biden administration’s effort to dam a rapidly rising flood of anti-Jewish incitement and violence. It faced its first test within days. It failed.

Readers with long memories will recall last week’s column. The Strategy is more than 60 pages long. It contains dozens of recommendations and resolutions, all designed to mobilise every level of the federal apparatus.

But it fails to define how anti-Zionism is the gateway drug to antisemitism. That is not a bug. It’s a design feature.

On May 30, the student speaker at the City University of New York’s Law School’s graduation ceremony was Yemeni-born Fatima Mousa Mohammed. In her speech, she accused CUNY of collaborating with “the fascist NYPD, the military, that continues to train IDF soldiers to carry out that same violence globally.

“Palestine can no longer be the exception to our pursuit of justice,” said Mohammed as she celebrated CUNY Law adopting pro-BDS resolutions. “Our morality will not be purchased by investors.”

Israel, she claimed, practises “settler colonial imperialism” and “continues to indiscriminately rain bullets and bombs on worshippers, murdering the old, the young, attacking even funerals and graveyard, as it encourages lynch mobs to target Palestinian homes and businesses”.

CUNY Law’s class of ’23 should, Mohammed said, “liberate the masses” from the “empires of destruction” through “the fight against capitalism, racism, imperialism and Zionism around the world”.

Her audience of students and academics applauded. When Jewish groups complained, the CUNY Law Student Group said that the speech was “submitted and approved at all levels of the CUNY administration, including by Dean Sudha Setty at CUNY Law, President Frank Wu at Queen’s College, and by CUNY Central, according to Dean Setty”.

On May 30, CUNY’s Board of Trustees and chancellor released a statement that called Mohammed’s remarks “hate speech as they were a public expression of hate to people and communities based on their religion, race or political affiliation”. Even worse, her speech was “particularly unacceptable at a ceremony celebrating the achievements of a wide diversity of graduates”.

This implies her speech would have been more acceptable had it been delivered to a less diverse audience. That probably wasn’t the board’s intention, but it does suggest the censorious and dim mentality that is the hallmark of contemporary managerialism.

The academy’s response is to censor speech except when it’s “anti-Zionism”, and enforce the higher tokenism of diversity, except for “viewpoint diversity”.

As the board knows, “hate speech” is not a legal term in America. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the First Amendment permits public expressions of hatred.

The First Amendment does not, however, protect “fighting words”, which it defined in 1942 as words “which, by their very utterance, inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace”.

Mohammed’s words did not inflict injury on her audience. They insulted Jews and the intelligence of everyone there, but insult is permitted under American law. It’s pretty much obligatory in American politics.

Nor did Mohammed “incite an immediate breach of the peace”. No one threatened her physically, no one tried to defend her physically, and no one threw a chair. The speech, as CUNY Law Student Group says, received “resounding applause” when it referred to the Class of 2023’s passing of a pro-BDS resolution “that CUNY faculty joined in passing”.

Jewish groups have three options. They can campaign for reducing free speech. Or they can respond to irritating or insulting speech with threats, disorder and violence. Or they can use the law as it currently stands.

Reducing free speech would mean reinterpreting the First Amendment. This is not impossible: as the National Strategy says, the Biden administration would like to do just that when it comes to the internet. It would set Jewish Americans, who are 2 per cent of the population, in opposition not just to the Constitution but also the vast majority of their fellow Americans.

And it would reduce Jews’ right to say things such as “I hate the KKK” or “Hamas is evil”.
Responding with threats, disorder and violence has worked splendidly for certain other groups in the US, and elsewhere. But Jews insist on being better than that, so it’s not an option. Which leaves the law.

In 2019, Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13899 (“Combating Anti-Semitism”) extended Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to include Jews and notified the Department of Education of its obligations.

Biden’s National Strategy says that it’s “unacceptable” when “Jewish students and educators are targeted for derision and exclusion on college campuses, often because of their real and perceived views about the State of Israel”, and also notifies the Department of Education.

The Inside Higher Ed website reported in January that the Department of Higher Education had, for unexplained reasons, delayed “updating the regulations” for Title VI until December 2023.

In April, Kenneth Marcus, of the Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, noted that the Biden administration has been “very strong when it comes to right-wing violators” but had yet to prove its commitment “when it comes to hate and bias incidents within their base”.

The bureaucrats in the Department of Higher Education refuse to enforce an Executive Order issued by Trump, a president they hate. Biden, a president they like, isn’t going to press them to do it, either. Instead he’s fobbing off the Jews with fine words.

This leaves only one course. If you cannot convince academics to behave decently and the Democrats to apply the law, you can force CUNY to comply. Almost all colleges in the US receive some kind of state funding, and some state colleges are entirely state-funded. In 2024, CUNY expects to receive $276.1million from New York State. This is 60 per cent of CUNY’s projected costs.

The Anti-Defamation League says it exists to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people”. It has tweeted repeated approvals of the National Strategy over the last week, and also a list of “LGBTQ+-themed books” that children can read for Pride Month.

There might be some Jewish content in Jacob’s New Dress, though the heartwarming tale of childhood sex-change When Aidan Became a Brother sounds more like a pitch for the Irish vote.

The ADL has said nothing about Fatima Mousa Mohammed’s speech. But two smaller groups, the National Jewish Advocacy Center and the International Legal Forum, have launched legal actions against CUNY for breaking the terms of its funding.

They argue that when CUNY law faculty unanimously passed a pro-BDS resolution in May 2022, they violated CUNY’s non-profit status, which “prohibits engaging in substantial political or lobbying activities”.

Instead of appealing to the conscience, hit them in their wallet. Or, if you take the New York Times: “She attacked Israel and the NYPD. It made her law school a target.”

June 08, 2023 12:15

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