In US academic tradition, university administrators choose commencement speakers they believe embody the zeitgeist of their institutions and as such, will be able to inspire graduating students to take that spirit with them into the world outside.
In this context, it makes perfect sense that Ayman El-Mohandes, dean of the Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy at City University of New York (CUNY), invited Linda Sarsour to serve as commencement speaker at his faculty’s graduation ceremony.
Sarsour embodies Mohandes’s values.
Mohandes’s Twitter feed makes his values clear. His Twitter feed is filled with attacks against Israel.
Mohandes indirectly accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of wishing to commit genocide. Netanyahu, he intimated, wishes to “throw the Arabs in the sea.”
He has repeatedly libeled Israel as a repressive, racist, corrupt state.
Mohandes has effectively justified and legitimized Islamic terrorism and the Hamas terrorist regime in Gaza. The Islamic terrorist assault against Israel, led by Hamas from Gaza, is simply an act of “desperation,” he insists.
By Mohandes’s lights, Hamas terrorists are desperate not because they uphold values and beliefs that reject freedom, oppress women and aspire to the genocide of Jewry and the destruction of the West. No, they are desperate because Israel is evil and oppressive.
Who could Mohandes have chosen to serve as his commencement speaker other than Sarsour, given his positions? Sarsour, the rising star of the Democratic Party, not only shares Mohandes’s values and positions, she has taken those common values and positions and amplified them on the national stage.
Sarsour has taken support for Islamic terrorism and Jew hatred – positions that not long ago were considered beyond the pale in the Democratic Party – and moved them into the mainstream of the Democratic Party.
In fact, Sarsour has gone far beyond Mohandes. She has left him in the dust with her willingness to shill for radical Islam and its oppression of women and express openly her desire to see Israel destroyed while embracing Islamic terrorists and murderers.
Whereas Mohandes generally has shielded himself from accusations of bigotry, support for Hamas, and misogyny by basing his Twitter posts on statements by non-Muslim opponents of Israel like Kenneth Roth from Human Rights Watch, Sarsour has publicly embraced Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists.
She unapologetically justifies Islamic misogyny, attacks opponents of Islamic misogyny and terrorism and whitewashes Islamic violence against women.
Indeed, Sarsour has mainstreamed all of these things by fusing support for Islamic terrorism, misogyny and antisemitism with black anti-white racism and leftist hatred for police and law enforcement agencies more generally.
So in light of Sarsour’s trailblazing role in advancing Mohandes’s apparent values as signaled through his Twitter feed, his decision to have her speak to his graduating class this Thursday is entirely understandable.
The only truly challenging aspect of Mohandes’s invitation is that he didn’t tell the truth about why he chose to honor her. He didn’t say he invited her for her pioneering work in mainstreaming antisemitism, anti-Americanism, anti-white bigotry, Islamic misogyny and terrorism in the Democratic Party.
To the contrary, he hid those things.
Mohandes wrote that he invited Sarsour to speak at commencement because her work “has emphasized women’s health issues in the New York area.”
No it hasn’t.
At least, not unless you consider calling for women to have their vaginas carved out “emphasizing women’s health issues.”
In 2011, Sarsour used her Twitter feed to call for precisely that in a shocking verbal assault against two female icons – Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has dedicated much of her career to protecting Muslim girls from female genital mutilation and was herself victimized by the barbaric practice, and Brigitte Gabriel, who as a Lebanese Christian suffered firsthand the wrath of Islamic supremacism during the Lebanese Civil War.
In Sarsour’s words, “Brigitte Gabriel= Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She’s asking 4 an a$$ whippin’. I wish I could take their vaginas away – they don’t deserve to be women.”
Earlier this month, during a speech at Dartmouth College, Sarsour was asked by a student how her professed feminism could be squared with her expressed support for genital mutilation of her ideological opponents.
Sarsour’s response was telling.
First, she delegitimized the student, insisting that since he is “a young white man” he had no right to ask her such a question.
Then, she intimated that she never wrote the offensive post.
Then, she insisted that her words are unimportant because she wrote them when she was in her 20s. (She was 31 in 2011).
In her uplifting words, “People say stupid sh*t sometimes, right?” Finally, Sarsour insisted that what she said is irrelevant.
“I will be judged by my impeccable record for standing for black lives and immigrant rights, and women’s rights and LGBT rights. You judge me by my record and not by some tweet you think I did or did not tweet 10 years ago or seven years ago, or whenever it was.”
But if we judge her by her record, we see the only thing that is impeccable about it is her consistent, unapologetic defense of Islamic misogyny, terrorism and Jew hatred.
Sarsour has been extolled for her championing of women’s rights by former president Barack Obama, and New York Senator Kristin Gillibrand. But it is not clear when she has ever done so in her own community.
For instance, as Ian Tuttle reported in National Review, in 2014 Sarsour (who was then leading efforts to fuse the Black Lives Matter movement with anti-Zionism) published an article on CNN.com titled, “My hijab is my hoodie.”
There Sarsour conflated the death of Trayvon Martin with the 2012 murder of Shaima Alawadi.
Alawadi was a Muslim woman who was beaten to death in her California home.
Sarsour alleged that Alawadi was murdered because of Islamophobia. But this was a lie. And it would be bizarre if Sarsour didn’t realize it was a lie when she wrote the article.
If Islam had anything to do with Alawadi’s murder, it may have served as a justification for her Muslim husband’s decision to beat her to death. Her husband was arrested for her murder in 2012. He was convicted and sentenced to 26 years to life in prison in 2014.
That wasn’t the only time that Sarsour used false allegations of American anti-Muslim bigotry to whitewash Islamic misogyny.
In 2014 she took to her Twitter feed to defend Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women while belittling Saudi gender apartheid that among other things, bars women from driving cars.
In her words, “10 weeks of PAID maternity leave in Saudi Arabia. Yes PAID. And ur worrying about women driving. Puts us to shame.”
In 2015, she extolled Sharia law, which among other things allows men to marry four women and sanctions wife beating and child brides.
As she did in her defense of Saudi misogyny, Sarsour defended Sharia by ignoring its hatred of women and pretending it is no different from progressive socialism.
Again turning to Twitter, she wrote, “You’ll know when you’re living under Sharia law if suddenly all your loans and credit cards become interest free. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?” As for LGBT rights, Sarsour pretends to support them. But she is silent about the systematic oppression of homosexuals in Muslim society.
With everything related to Jews and Israel, Sarsour has been outspoken in her bigotry, support for terrorism and anti-Jewish supremacism. Sarsour is a leader of the antisemitic boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that seeks to bar pro-Israel voices from college campuses and wider American society.
Sarsour was one of the organizers of the anti-President Donald Trump woman’s marches in January. Yet, Sarsour insists Zionist women cannot be feminists.
She recently publicly embraced a Hamas terrorist. She rejects any cooperation with Jewish groups that support Israel. Her relatives have been served time in Israeli prisons for terrorist activities on behalf of Hamas. Hamas of course, calls for the genocide of world Jewry in its charter.
Sarsour supports the Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh who murdered two Israeli students in a bombing in a Jerusalem supermarket in 1970.
The most notable aspect of Sarsour’s “impeccable record” is that it is all in the public square. She has hidden nothing.
This tells us the most distressing thing about the Left’s decision to promote her. The Left is empowering Sarsour not despite her views, but because of them.
She is being elevated by CUNY, by the Democratic Party and by major American media outlets because she mainstreams Jew hatred, anti-Zionism and Islamic misogyny, not despite the fact that she does those things.
Sarsour has been rightly condemned by opponents of Islamic misogyny, supremacism and terrorism and by supporters of Israel.
But the truth is she’s not the real problem.
The real problem is that Mohandes was right to invite her. Not only does she share his values, she embodies the zeitgeist of the American Left today.
A version of this piece also appeared on The Jerusalem Post