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GOP Jewish House members push bill to defund colleges that host events promoting anti-Zionism

The legislation comes amid a fierce debate over a graduation speech given by a recent CUNY law school student in which she harshly criticized Israel

A group of Republican House members, including the two GOP Jews in the body, have filed legislation that would punish colleges found to have promoted antisemitism and anti-Zionism on campus.

The “Stop Anti-Semitism on College Campuses Act” was introduced by Rep. Michael Lawler, a freshman from New York’s Hudson Valley whose district includes a significant number of Jews in Rockland County. The move comes after a graduating student, Fatima Mousa Mohammed, harshly criticized Israel in a speech at the City University of New York’s law school graduation last month. Some also charge that her anti-Zionism crossed into antisemitism.

A video of  the May 12 speech resurfaced recently. In it, Mohammed praised the school as a rare place where students could “speak out against Israeli settler colonialism.” She also encouraged “the fight against capitalism, racism, imperialism and Zionism around the world.”

CUNY’s chancellor and board of trustees denounced the commencement address as “hate speech.” 

Earlier at the event, some students booed and turned their backs on New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who defended the police department. He later condemned the student’s speech as “unacceptable” antisemitic rhetoric. “If I was on that stage when those comments were made, I would’ve stood up and denounced them immediately because we cannot allow that,” Adams said in remarks at the annual Jewish American Heritage Month reception at his residence on Wednesday. 

But some New Yorkers defended Mohammed’s remarks as free speech and criticized CUNY officials for calling Mohammed out.

CUNY has faced criticism in recent years over what some deem a culture of antisemitism. Earlier this month, the university threw its support behind state legislation that would require colleges to post campus hate crime statistics on their websites. 

The federal bill introduced on Thursday prohibits colleges from hosting and facilitating events that promote antisemitism on their campuses and would rescind federal funding for those that do. It also adopts the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s controversial definition of antisemitism, which has been used to condemn a wide range of criticism of Israel as discrimination against Jews. The recently released White House plan to counter antisemitism includes IHRA among other definitions. 

“CUNY should be ashamed of itself for allowing insidious antisemitism to permeate on its campuses,” Lawler said, “and my bill will ensure they face stiff penalties if they continue to let hate have a home.”

The measure is backed by Jewish Republican Reps. Max Miller of Ohio and David Kustoff of Tennessee. Its co-sponsors include Reps. Anthony D’Esposito of New York, Joe Wilson of South Carolina, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, as well as Jeff Van Drew, Chris Smith and Tom Kean of New Jersey. Lawler told The Algemeiner he’s seeking Democratic support to make it bipartisan.

Also on Thursday, members of the New York State Senate Republican conference sent a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul, urging her to speak out on the matter, and to withhold taxpayer funding from any New York state university or CUNY campus “that in any way supports, condones or allows hateful, anti-semitic and intolerant speech to take place at school-sponsored events.”

                

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