Why the City University of New York Should Not Have Allowed a Bigoted Anti-Zionist to Speak at Its Commencement

Last Thursday, after some controversy, Linda Sarsour, the anti-Israel boycott activist and leader of the January 21 women’s march, addressed students of the City University of New York (CUNY) at their graduation ceremony. As a reason for her to have been disinvited, Sarsour’s critics pointed to her praise for Saudi Arabia’s treatment of its female subjects, her ferocious anti-Zionism, her belief in anti-American conspiracy theories (e.g., that the 2009 “underwear bomber” was a CIA agent), and her public, vulgar sniping at the Dutch-Somali intellectual Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In response, various CUNY faculty members argued that canceling her talk would violate principles of free speech. A.J. Caschetta disagrees:

CUNY’s Chancellor James B. Millikin released an April 26 statement saying that while the views Sarsour “reportedly” has on Israel are “anathema to the values of higher education,” forgoing a commencement speech by Sarsour “would conflict with the First Amendment and the principles of academic freedom.” . . . But [such] arguments conflate and grossly misunderstand free speech and academic freedom. Which speakers a university, even a public one, invites to deliver commencement speeches is not a First Amendment issue. This is not a matter of deciding whether to allow this or that student demonstration or campus guest lecture to take place; it’s a formal endorsement, not of what the speaker says, but of the speaker’s qualifications and ability to inspire an audience.

Of course, Sarsour has a First Amendment right to her anti-Zionism and even to her anti-Semitism. But CUNY does not have a First Amendment obligation to honor her or provide a platform for her.

Academic freedom is another thing entirely. Sarsour is not a CUNY faculty member, or even an academic. Even if she were, her academic freedom would be violated only if Millikin tried to influence the content of her teaching. . . .

The problem, most likely, is that Sarsour received far more faculty support than any conservative who ever made it past the first round of nominations at CUNY. If university administrators want to wilt under pressure and allow this kind of spectacle to take place, they should at least find the courage not to cite the First Amendment and academic freedom as the reasons.

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Read more at New English Review

More about: Anti-Zionism, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, BDS, Feminism, Freedom of Speech, Politics & Current Affairs, University

 

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy