On 12 May, the Cuny University of New York (Cuny) School of Law’s commencement ceremony video was briefly removed from YouTube after the graduation. It was allegedly taken down because Fatima Mohammed, the student speaker, brought attention to Palestine and criticised policing issues. The video was later reinstated, leading to elected officials and influential individuals posting it on social media to criticise Mohammed’s speech.
During her address, Mohammed, a Muslim-Yemeni student chosen by her classmates, denounced Israel’s crimes and human rights violations. She called for justice and an end to silence regarding Palestine. The Cuny board of trustees and the chancellor released a statement categorising Mohammed’s speech as “hate speech,” distancing themselves from it.
Several politicians, such as US Senator Ted Cruz and Congressman Ritchie Torres, criticised Mohammed’s speech as anti-Israel and denounced her statements. Palestinian activist Mohammed el-Kurd responded to Torres, highlighting his campaign contributions from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Former US Congressman Lee Zeldin also condemned the university and called for a halt in taxpayer funding.
Nour Odeh, a Palestinian political analyst, defended Mohammed, criticising the politicians for targeting a college student and attempting to suppress freedom of expression. In her speech, Mohammed also called out New York City mayor Eric Adams for his stance on issues such as the killing of Jordan Neely, a homeless man, which sparked protests in the city.
Adams responded to Mohammed’s speech on Twitter, emphasising his message of progress and unity. He expressed the need for positive and unifying words for students to hear.