Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network expresses our strongest solidarity with Nerdeen Kiswani, a Palestinian organizer and the chair of Within Our Lifetime – United for Palestine. Nerdeen has been subjected to a slew of racist, Zionist attacks, not only on social media but directly through demands for her university to expel her, because she clearly upholds Palestinian rights and rejects occupation, oppression and settler-colonialism, including the symbols of the Israeli occupation forces, such as the logo of the Israeli army.
The racist campaign targeting Nerdeen has focused on a social media protest performance video shared in bad faith by a Zionist organization aiming to incite harassment against the second-year law student at CUNY Law. The protest performance in question features the specific logo of the Israeli military: the same force involved in the murder, extrajudicial execution, siege, ethnic cleansing and creeping genocide of the Palestinian people on a daily basis, and the same force involved in excluding Nerdeen from her homeland.
In response to this racist campaign against their student, rather than protect a law student and community leader, the CUNY Law administration chose to make two public posts on their social media profiles, first declaring that “CUNY Law stands against hate and anti-Semitism,” then replacing that with “CUNY Law stands against hate and harassment,” before deleting both of the posts, although leaving another “CUNY Law stands against hate” image up on Facebook.. In both posts, university administration expressed concern for the “pain caused by a social media video,” yet showed no concern at all for their student targeted in a series of vicious social media attacks and threats to “have her expelled” from her university.
In other words, the law school administration was concerned about the feelings of those who were allegedly “hurt” by a protest performance implying that “Israeli Defense Force” sweatshirts and merchandise could be burned, although it is difficult to understand any form of “hurt” caused by a protest against the symbols of an occupying, invading military force. The well-being of Nerdeen and fellow Palestinian students – not to mention the countless thousands of Palestinians slaughtered and wounded by the Israeli military and the over one million imprisoned in its occupation prisons – rated nary a mention, although the university now claims that it will be issuing a future statement.
The comparison to anti-Semitism in this case is so absurd as to be truly offensive. As noted by CUNY’s Jewish Law Students Association, “Conflating symbols of Israel — a settler-colonial nation-state with one of the most powerful militaries in the world, and a record of well-documented human rights abuses — with symbols of Jewish people silences the free speech that CUNY Law purports to hold so dear.”
Zionism is a racist ideology built on the dispossession of Palestinian land and the destruction of Palestinian lives. It is anti-racist to oppose Zionism, and anti-Zionism is essential to fighting racism, especially when the occupation of Palestine is so central to the U.S. imperialist project globally. Further, we emphasize not only that we stand in solidarity with Nerdeen Kiswani, her freedom of expression and her commitment to Palestinian liberation, but that resistance to war criminals, colonizers and occupiers is in fact a duty.
The logo and symbol of the Israeli occupation forces should be reviled and viewed as a hate symbol. The sword at the center of that logo is a killing sword that has been aimed at the throat of Palestinians for over 72 years, the millions of Palestinians dispossessed and exiled from their homeland and the millions inside Palestine who confront occupation on the ground on a daily basis. The symbols of the occupation army – and the occupation army itself – must be boycotted, protested and resisted by all means. To condemn those who stand against a racist, occupation army is to stand on the side of racism, injustice and oppression. CUNY must not only end its anti-Palestinian approach to its students, it has a responsibility to act and comply with the Palestinian and global call for an academic boycott of Israel and Israeli institutions.
Palestinians’ expressive and artistic resistance is repeatedly subjected to criminalization, harassment and suppression, from the imprisonment of Palestinian poets like Tawfiq Zayyad and Dareen Tatour to the systematic marginalization of Palestinian artists and filmmakers to the Mossad assassination of Palestinian writers like Ghassan Kanafani and Wael Zuayter. We stand with Nerdeen Kiswani, and we stand with the Palestinian people.
Please join us and numerous organizations, students and alumni at CUNY to take action and say that #WeStandWithNerdeen:
- Post your statements, photos and solidarity actions online and use the #WeStandWithNerdeen hashtag. Push back against the flood of racist abuse on social media!
- Email Mary Lu Bilek, the Dean of CUNY Law, with a brief message expressing your support for Nerdeen. The Dean’s email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.Sample Message:Dear Dean Bilek,I am appalled to see CUNY Law’s response to the racist, anti-Palestinian harassment targeting one of its students, Nerdeen Kiswani. Rather than defend a student under attack and subjected to hundreds of threats on social media, CUNY School of Law created statements and social media posts that further encouraged this racist harassment campaign.I am further shocked to see that CUNY School of Law conflated Zionism with Judaism and anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Further, CUNY Law’s statement appears to imply that the Israeli military, known for war crimes and crimes against humanity, is in some way deserving of protection from revulsion directed against its logos and symbols. In reality, it is the Palestinian people who require protection and support against an occupying military force responsible for extrajudicial killings, mass incarceration, home demolitions, land confiscations, ethnic cleansing and creeping genocide.
CUNY School of Law has a responsibility to its students, particularly Palestinian students, and the community as a whole, to retract its prior statements on this matter, address its deceptive and damaging misrepresentation of anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism, and take meaningful action to protect the targeted student. I expect to see swift action taken to rectify the wrongs committed by the CUNY administration against its own student.
See more statements of solidarity with Nerdeen:
- #WeStandWithNerdeen campaign (shared and pasted by many organizations, including Palestine Legal, Al-Awda Palestine Right to Return Coalition, US Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, Within Our Lifetime – United for Palestine): https://twitter.com/cuny_nlg/status/1309174393818558466
- CUNY Law National Lawyers Guild statement:
- Jewish Law Students Association, CUNY: https://docs.google.com/document/d/15ywy-N7mvwSqY2MHWyhqBZKlnJkjD3ekN-3qFSqfncA/edit
- Latin American Law Students Association, CUNY https://www.instagram.com/p/CFh81NYJXYV/
- Formerly Incarcerated Law Students Advocacy Organization (FILSAA), CUNY https://samidoun.net/site/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/WhatsApp-Image-2020-09-24-at-20.51.18.jpeg
- Samidoun statement: https://samidoun.net/2020/09/westandwithnerdeen-samidoun-stands-with-cuny-student-palestinian-activist-targeted-in-zionist-attacks/
- The Red Nation support: https://twitter.com/The_Red_Nation/status/1308858404170067974
- International League of Peoples’ Struggle – US: https://ilpsusinfo.wordpress.com/2020/09/24/ilps-stands-in-solidarity-with-palestinian-activist-nerdeen-kiswani-within-our-lifetime-against-zionist-attacks-westandwithnerdeen/
- BAYAN USA: https://m.facebook.com/BayanUsaNE/photos/a.412647062091424/3483060488383384/
- Collectif Palestine Vaincra (France): https://www.facebook.com/CollectifPalestineVaincra/posts/1482174251984284