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.

Read more at New English Review

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

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy