Two groups that advocate on behalf of Jewish people are asking the Internal Revenue Service to conduct an investigation into whether the School of Law at the City University of New York violated the tax-exempt status it has when it allowed a graduate to deliver a “hate speech” at the school’s commencement ceremony last month.
The speaker at the May 12 commencement was Fatima Mohammed, who called on all of her classmates to lead a fight “against capitalism, racism, imperialism and Zionism around the world.”
In the speech, she also said that Israel indiscriminately murdered many Palestinians. Mohammed also criticized the New York Police Department as being “fascist,” and called for a “revolution” that would take on the “white supremacy” that she said is prevalent in the legal system.
On June 2, the International Legal Forum and the National Jewish Advocacy Center sent a letter to Daniel Werfer, the commissioner of the IRS, saying the agency needed to review if CUNY was engaging in lobbying or political activities because of the speech. If they are, then it would violate the non-profit status that the school currently enjoys.
The letter was signed by Arsen Ostrovsky, a lawyer who’s the CEO of the International Legal Forum, and Mark Goldfeder, who’s the director of the National Jewish Advocacy Center.
In the letter, they wrote that the speech has resoundingly been denounced by civic and elected leaders due to its “extremist rhetoric, divisive nature and explicit display of anti-Semitism.”
The leaders also said the CUNY Law School violated its status as a public non-profit that “prohibits engaging in substantial political or lobbying activities.” The school did so, the leaders wrote, when faculty at the school unanimously passed a resolution to pass a boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel.
The New York Post also reported that Republican state lawmakers in New York demanded that Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul withhold all taxpayer funds from any of the CUNY campuses throughout the state that allow such rhetoric at any event that is sponsored by the school.
Felix Matos Rodriguez, the chancellor of CUNY, as well as the school’s Board of Trustees denounced the address as a “hate speech,” further saying it was “unacceptable.”
That being said, the two Jewish advocacy groups said the response from CUNY’s chancellor was “not only late but also grossly inadequate.” They added that they believed CUNY actually has a history of anti-Semitism, which could’ve contributed to the speaker and the response from the school.
Despite the intense backlash about the speech, a group of CUNY Law faculty members signed a letter that said Mohammed’s speech was protected by the First Amendment. They have demanded that CUNY withdraw the labeling of the student’s address as being “hate speech.”
The faculty letter read:
“The implication that an elected-student speaker at an institution devoted to social justice and human rights was applauded by her peers, faculty and attendees for engaging in ‘hate speech’ is an affront to both the student speaker and our entire community.”