The IRS has been urged to revoke City University of New York’s tax exempt status by two Jewish advocacy groups after a graduate delivered a speech which has been labeled an ‘explicit display of antisemitism’.
The National Jewish Advocacy Center and The International Legal Forum said the speech by Fatima Mousa Mohammed on May 12 was part of CUNY’s ‘long-standing promotion of antisemitism’.
The group sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel claiming that CUNY engages in ‘persistent lobbying’ and repeatedly engages ‘in activities that institutionally promote a specific political viewpoint against Israel’. This, the groups say, means the university should not qualify for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.
In her commencement speech in May, Yemeni immigrant Mohammed told fellow students: ‘I want to celebrate CUNY law as one of the few, if not the only law school, to make a public statement defending the right of its students to organize and speak out against Israeli settler colonialism.’
The National Jewish Advocacy Center and The International Legal Forum said the speech by Fatima Mousa Mohammed (pictured) was part of CUNY’s ‘long-standing promotion of antisemitism’
She also made a string of other incendiary claims, including that ‘the law is a manifestation of white supremacy’ and the NYPD and the US military are ‘fascist’ organizations.
The letter demanding the university’s tax exempt status be revoked said: ‘This speech has garnered widespread condemnation from federal, state, and local lawmakers, as well as civil society leaders, the Jewish community, and even New York Mayor Eric Adams, due to its extremist rhetoric, divisive nature, and explicit display of antisemitism.’
The letter said the speech ‘did not occur in a vacuum’. It also cited the CUNY faculty council’s approval in 2022 of a resolution which supports pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).
Arsen Ostrovsky, the CEO of the International Legal Forum, a pro-Israel group which has called for CUNY to lose its tax exempt status
‘CUNY’s clearly identifiable pattern of hosting speakers who express anti-Israel sentiments or criticize Israeli policies reveals a systematic effort to influence public opinion and shape political discourse,’ the letter added.
‘The most recent speaker urged the audience to revolt against the law, which she deems a part of white supremacy.
‘She also used the platform she was given to promote the boycotting of Israel, specifically acknowledging that this was a policy supported and facilitated by CUNY Law School.
‘By repeatedly inviting and supporting such speakers, CUNY actively promotes a particular viewpoint that aligns with the BDS movement.’
CUNY was approached for comment.
Like the majority of universities in the United States, CUNY is tax exempt under IRC Section 501(c)(3) because of its role as an educational institution. The exemption means it doesn’t have to pay federal income tax.
But there are strict rules which ban such organizations from engaging in political activity.
The demand for CUNY to lose its status comes after lawmakers in Congress tabled legislation designed to rescind federal funding for colleges ‘that promote antisemitism on their campuses’.
CUNY received federal grants and contracts worth at least $152 million in the year ending June 30 2022, according to a its accounts.
Fatima Mousa Mohammed (pictured) used her commencement speech to blast the NYPD and the US military as ‘fascists’ and called on her peers to continue to ‘revolution’ against capitalism and racism across the country
Mohammed’s speech renewed scrutiny on the institution and also drew fierce criticism from politicians across the spectrum.
She described CUNY as ‘one of very few legal institutions created to recognize that the law is a manifestation of white supremacy that continues to oppress and suppress people in this nation and around the world’.
Congressman Mike Lawler said: ‘This is exactly why I am finalizing legislation to strip universities of their funding if they engage in and promote anti-Semitism.
‘CUNY should be ashamed of itself — and should lose any federal funds it currently receives.’
Joel M. Petlin, Superintendent of the Kiryas Joel School District, said: ‘Listen to all 13 minutes of this hateful graduation speech, and you’ll learn what she thinks of the law, police, border security, and how she singles out the only democracy in the Middle East.
‘As a New Yorker, I’m shocked that I subsidized her education.’
Texas Senator Ted Cruz added: ‘City University of New York class day speaker slanders Israel & enthusiastically celebrates antisemitism.
‘Cheers on open borders & releasing violent criminals from jail. And decries the “fascist NYPD.” This is a LAW school. Paid for with tax dollars.’