Top Five Attacks on Activists in New York

Attack on Linda Sarsour the latest in year of suppression

Over the past year New York has been a hotbed of suppression of Palestine advocacy. The suppression is part of a nationwide effort, often backed by Israel advocacy groups, to shield Israel from criticism.

We compiled a list of some of the worst attacks against activists in New York from the past year.

Activist Linda Sarsour. Photo:  Flickr/Festival of Faiths

Activist Linda Sarsour. Photo: Flickr/Festival of Faiths

1) Smeared and Blacklisted: The most recent case of suppression against Palestinian rights activists in New York is the campaign to silence Linda Sarsour, who is scheduled to speak at the CUNY School of Public Health’s commencement ceremony next week. The smear campaign is led by New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind and anti-Muslim bigot Pamela Geller. While the mainstream media has extensively covered the rightwing frenzy over recent speech cancellations at UC Berkeley and elsewhere, few media outlets have covered the attacks on Sarsour as part of broader pattern to silence those who speak out in support of Palestinian rights, “where apologists sing the praises of free speech, while bending over backwards to shield Israel from any protest or criticism.” One of the most chilling attacks came from New York’s own governor, Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, who released a McCarthyite public blacklist pursuant to a widely-condemned anti-BDS executive order he signed last summer.

Andrew Cuomo. Photo:  CBS

Andrew Cuomo. Photo: CBS

2) Fast-Tracked: Three anti-BDS bills were fast-tracked in the New York State Senate in March without debate or oversight. The bills are blatantly unconstitutional attacks on the First Amendment right to advocate for Palestinian rights.

3) Censored: Fordham University’s attack on their students continued for over a year until they denied students’ request to form a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) club, sidestepping the student government’s approval of their request. Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights are representing the students in a lawsuit challenging this discriminatory denial.

Fordham students are suing the university over its SJP ban.  Photo: Fordham Observer

Fordham students are suing the university over its SJP ban. Photo: Fordham Observer

4) Threatened: On three separate occasions over the course of the past academic year, NYU SJP has received violent threats, including death and rape threats, due to their activism in support of Palestinian rights. For example, less than a week after Trump issued his Muslim ban, the NYU SJP chapter received an email that threatened to expose members’ immigration statuses and family member IDs, to US and Israeli federal agencies. The threats have also targeted Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ solidarity and immigrant groups. To add to the threats to their advocacy, NYU SJP members were ejected from Washington Square Park for leafleting because the NYPD claimed it was causing attendees of an Israeli Independence Day rave “anxiety.”

5) Investigated: After the Zionist Organization of America alleged that SJP was responsible for anti-Semitic activity on CUNY campuses, an independent task force was assembled to investigate the claims. A months-long investigation conducted by a former federal judge and prosecutor found in September 2016 that no incident of anti-Semitism was attributable to SJP. In fact, the report described “a tendency to blame SJP for any act of anti-Semitism on any CUNY campus,” which it called a “mistake.”

From the state legislature to anonymous online harassment, New York advocates for Palestinian rights are facing intensifying threats to their speech rights. 

Thank you for supporting our work so we can fight this widespread suppression – in New York and around the country.