Anti-Israel activist Linda Sarsour cheered at CUNY commencement speech


(JTA) — Linda Sarsour, a leader of popular opposition to President Trump and an anti-Israel activist, delivered without incident a controversial speech at City University of New York.

Sarsour, whose attendance as a speaker at Thursday’s commencement ceremony of the university’s Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy provoked anger among conservatives and supporters of Israel, was given a standing ovation by graduating students after she told them they must commit to demanding change, the Associated Press reported.

“We in this room together must commit to never being bystanders to poverty, lack of jobs and health care,” said Sarsour, whose speech last week prompted a protest rally outside the the university’s office.

Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, was one of the lead organizers of the Women’s March on Washington in January. In her talk she focused on poverty, joblessness and health care.

Dov Hikind, a Democratic Jewish state Assemblyman, who spoke at a May 25 rally opposing her speaking role, said having Sarsour speak at the event was tantamount to “giving a podium to promoters of violence.”

Sarsour, who is Muslim, in 2014 posted on Twitter a picture of a Palestinian throwing a rock, presumably at Israelis. She wrote that the photo was the “definition of courage.” She has endorsed the movement to boycott Israel and has come out in support for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – a position that critics of that prospect say equals the end of Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.

Nonetheless, Sarsour, who earlier this year raised $100,000 for the restauration of a Jewish cemetery where headstones were damaged as a result of vandalism, has also received support from some American Jews.

On Thursday, 130 prominent left-leaning Jewish activists signed a letter saying that Hikind has falsely accused Sarsour of supporting terrorists and of anti-Semitism, spurring “a wave of harassment directed against Sarsour,” including threats.

The letter calls the attacks against Sarsour “dangerous, disingenuous and counterproductive, undermining core Jewish values of compassion, humility and human dignity.”

Among the co-signatories were Jeremy Ben-Ami, the head of the J Street dovish lobby group on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; Naomi Klein, a journalist and author advocating a blanket boycott of Israel; Mark Hetfield, president of HIAS, the Jewish immigration agency; and dozens of rabbis.

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