Earlier this year, City University of New York (CUNY) Law school graduate Fatima Mohammed was selected by fellow students to deliver a commencement speech.
She spoke emotionally about her grandparents watching from Yemen, reflected on her class’ experience of virtual law school during the COVID-19 pandemic, and criticized the use of the law to enforce and uphold white supremacy, policing and censorship.
She also celebrated CUNY Law’s work to amplify “the rights of its students to organize and speak out against Israeli settler-colonialism.”
Following her speech, Mohammed was attacked by Israel lobby groups, right-wing media and local, state and federal lawmakers.
CUNY’s chancellor and board of trustees also joined the smear campaign against her, condemning her address as “hate speech,” even though the speech was vetted beforehand.
In response, a coalition of civil rights groups, including Palestine Legal, made several demands. The coalition called on CUNY to retract the statement, issue a public apology, recognize that opposition to the political ideology of Zionism is a stance for equality and freedom, and hold trainings on anti-Palestinian racism.Mohammed says that she wants to “elevate the causes that need to be elevated and amplify the voices that have been ignored for far too long. And so whether it be championing the rights of Palestinians, or our fellow neighbors here in the United States, I just hope to be able to do meaningful work that surpasses just myself.”
Describing the relentless attacks against her, she adds that there has been an equal amount of support.
“It’s not a unique thing for us as organizers or those who speak out for Palestinian liberation to be subjected to such vicious attacks. But I think it’s time that we learned from history, and we become principled in the way that we defend and in the solidarity that we show. It was such a painful but such a beautiful moment where we saw so many people come together and say, ‘No, you can’t do that, and it’s not okay,’” she explains.
Amal Thabateh, a fellow at Palestine Legal and herself a graduate of CUNY Law School, says that many of these kinds of harassment campaigns are being pushed through the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism (IHRA), which conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish bigotry.
“We’re also seeing, in Fatima’s case, [that] false and inflammatory allegations of anti-Semitism underlie many of these attacks,” Thabateh says.
“These false accusations are employed as a strategy by Israel lobby groups to target and to suppress Palestine advocacy and speech. And these attacks against Fatima fall within this larger and widely criticized effort to silence students and to silence scholars and community advocates who speak out and speak about Palestinian rights by effectively equating criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish hate.”
Later in the broadcast, we speak with Radhika Sainath, senior staff attorney at Palestine Legal, and her client, Ahmad Daraldik.
In June, the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights finally opened a formal investigation into a complaint alleging that Florida State University discriminated against Daraldik.
After he was elected FSU student senate president in June 2020 and spoke openly about his experiences as a Palestinian, Daraldik was made an open target of a state-wide harassment campaign that included Florida state legislators calling for his removal and threatening to withhold funds to FSU.
In April 2021, Daraldik filed the first ever complaint alleging anti-Palestinian discrimination in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Sainath explains that the opening of this federal investigation could set a precedent for other students who have been smeared, bullied and harmed by Israel lobby groups and elected lawmakers.
“After filing numerous complaints – Ahmad filed them himself, actually – and [after he] tried to get support from the university and got radio silence, we basically resorted to filing the first ever complaint alleging a hostile environment based on anti-Palestinian discrimination,” Sainath says.
The opening of an investigation “should not have taken this long by their [Department of Education] own rules,” she explains.
“But we’re really glad that it happened. It signals that the Department of Education is taking these types of complaints seriously.”
She also describes the way in which the adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism by Florida State University has played a part in censoring speech critical of Israel and its state ideology, Zionism.
“Even though there are these attempts in Florida, and in other states to chill speech supporting Palestinian rights, or to pass these definitions to subject you to discrimination complaints, if that happens to you, please do contact us because you do have free speech rights under the First Amendment to criticize Israel – to the same degree that you can criticize any other country,” she notes.
Daraldik says that he experienced vicious anti-Palestinian racism while he was a student at FSU, and that the university’s own actions reinforced this hostile climate.
“Two cities in South Florida wrote resolutions about how horrible of a person I am from their perspective, which makes no sense because if you try and get to know me as a person, you’d understand that I’m just as chill as the next person,” he says.
“I’m not out here trying to attack nobody,” Daraldik adds.
“My goal has always been and will always be to help. And so for me to be labeled as someone that’s trying to create harm, and just being labeled as an aggressor, was really hard to accept because I know that’s not who I am.”
He hopes that the Department of Education will look at the evidence of harassment and racism, and return with an outcome that mandates the university put certain anti-discrimination policies in place – including removing the IHRA definition.
“I would hope that it creates a sense within universities that this level of discrimination is not acceptable, that this level of harassment is not acceptable,” he adds. “And that just because I’m a Palestinian doesn’t mean that you can try and erase me and walk all over me.”
Articles we discussed
- “CUNY caves to Israel lobby over anti-racist speech,” Nora Barrows-Friedman
- “Civil rights groups urge CUNY to retract anti-Palestinian statement and apologize,” Palestine Legal
- “Florida officials, Israeli government app bully Palestinian student,” Nora Barrows-Friedman
- “Dept. of Education opens investigation into anti-Palestinian discrimination at Florida State University,” Palestine Legal
Video production by Tamara Nassar
Theme music by Sharif Zakout
Subscribe to The Electronic Intifada Podcast on Apple Podcasts (search for The Electronic Intifada) and on Spotify. Support our podcast by rating us, sharing and leaving a review, and you can also donate to fund our work.
Lightly edited for clarity.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Welcome back to The Electronic Intifada Podcast. I’m Nora Barrows-Friedman. As we reported, in mid May, City University of New York Law School graduate Fatima Mohammed was selected by fellow students to deliver a commencement speech. She spoke emotionally about her grandparents watching from Yemen, reflected on her classes experience of virtual law school during the COVID-19 pandemic, and criticized the use of the law to enforce and uphold white supremacy, policing and censorship. She also celebrated CUNY Law’s work to amplify “the rights of its students to organize and speak out against Israeli settler colonialism.”
Fatima Mohammed: Like many of you, I chose CUNY School of Law for its articulated mission to be law in the service of human needs. One a very few legal institutions created to recognize that the law is a manifestation of white supremacy that continues to oppress and suppress people in this nation and around the world. We joined this institution – we joined this institution to be equipped with the necessary legal skills to protect our communities, to protect the organizers fighting endlessly day in and out with no accolades, no cameras, no votes, no PhD grants, working to lift the facade of legal neutrality and confront the systems of oppression that wreak violence on them. Systems of oppression created to feed an empire with a ravenous appetite for destruction and violence. Institutions created to intimidate, bully and censor and stifle the voices of those who resist.
In this moment, in this moment of celebrating who we are, I want to celebrate CUNY Law as one of the few, if not the only law school, to make a public statement defending the right of its students to organize and speak out against Israeli settler-colonialism. That this – that this is the law school that passed and endorsed BDS on a student and faculty level, recognizing that absent a critical imperialism, settler-colonialism lens, our work and the school’s mission statement is void of value. That as Israel continues to indiscriminately rain bullets and bombs on worshippers murdering the old, the young, attacking even funerals and graveyards, as it encourages lynch mobs to target Palestinian homes and businesses, as it imprisons its children, as it continues its project of settler-colonialism, expelling Palestinians from their homes, carrying the ongoing Nakba that our silent – that our silence is no longer acceptable.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Following her speech, Fatima was attacked by Israel lobby groups, right-wing media and local, state and federal lawmakers – and CUNY’s chancellor and Board of Trustees also decided to join the smear campaign against her, condemning her address as hate speech even though the speech was vetted beforehand. In mid-June, a coalition of civil rights groups including Palestine Legal called on CUNY to retract the statement, issue a public apology, recognize that opposition to the political ideology of Zionism is a stance for equality and freedom, and hold trainings on anti-Palestinian racism, among other demands.
We’re joined today by Fatima Mohammed and Amal Thabateh, a fellow at Palestine Legal to discuss all of this. Fatima and Amal, thank you so much for being with us on The Electronic Intifada Podcast.
Fatima Mohammed: Thank you so much for having us.
Amal Thabateh: Thank you so much for having us, Nora.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Thank you. Fatima, I know you’re incredibly busy with studying for the bar exam. So we’ll start with you and then we can let you go. First tell us about yourself how you got involved in Palestine solidarity activism and what you hope to do as a lawyer – and how significant the issue of Palestine is to you.
Fatima Mohammed: Hi, everyone. Thank you so much, Nora, for having us here. I was born in Yemen. So, you know, coming from Yemen, I think, you know, that really has a lot of influence on my experiences and just my positionality in the world. And so I was – I’ve always cared deeply about Palestine, because of my family, my upbringing, and mostly, my faith, you know, it’s really anchored on justice and sort of centering the oppressed in all the work that we do. And so growing up, you know, my community and my faith and just my upbringing really centered the Palestinian cause as sort of like the litmus test for principled people and principled activists.
And so I grew up just constantly, unfortunately, seeing the pain and the violence that the Palestinian people were subject to, and sort of feeling a really strong sense of responsibility, not just as, you know, a fellow human being sharing this earth with everyone. But you know, as an American citizen, whose money is being funneled and funding this violence. And so I grew up going to a lot of the protests that were organized by then, I think it was Students for Justice in Palestine National, and now it’s Within Our Lifetime.
And so I grew up, you know, going to these rallies and trying my best to sort of join the cause as best as I could from New York City, and ended up going to law school. My first semester of law school was actually the first semester where Nerdeen Kiswani, the Within Our Lifetime chair, was attacked. And so it’s kind of – that’s how my journey at law school started. It was started organizing to defend Nerdeen Kiswani and three years later, Nerdeen is leading WOL and defending me. And so it’s like a very full circle thing. But, yeah, it’s really been something that I deeply care about. And I think something that a lot of us should care about, because of how complicit we are not, you know, just by staying home and just not saying anything we are complicit in many ways.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: And you’re studying for the bar, you just graduated, what do you hope to do with that degree? And where do you see your work needed the most?
Fatima Mohammed: Yeah, so you know, like many law students, law graduates, the future doesn’t seem very clear to me in terms of like, what my next steps are, but I do hope that I’m able to use my JD and my future license to champion the cause of human needs to different communities, whether it be communities here or abroad, and to sort of, you know, elevate the causes that need to be elevated and amplify the voices that had been ignored for far too long. And so whether it be championing the rights of Palestinians, or my fellow neighbors here in the United States, you know, I just hope to be able to do meaningful work that, you know, surpasses just myself.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Fatima, talk about the support you’ve received from your cohort and members of faculty along with, you know, people like Nerdeen, who have been through what you are going through. You were selected to speak at the graduation ceremony in May, by fellow law students, and you could hear that applause after, you know, various moments in your speech. And they’ve been instrumental in your defense afterwards. How important has it been to receive that kind of support and solidarity?
Fatima Mohammed: Yeah, you know, from this place, I’m from this tiny room, I really want to send so much gratitude and love to know everyone who supported me, faculty, students at CUNY Law and beyond, you know, there has been such – so much support that it honestly leaves me overwhelmed, and it helps me stay grounded and helps me stay sane at a very, very difficult time. You know, it’s, it’s crucial, because it’s just not about me, right. It’s about the principle. And I think, for far too long, organizers for Palestinian liberation have, you know, when they’re thrown under the bus, they’re either immediately forgotten, or folks don’t feel so comfortable for many different reasons.
One being just the vicious smear campaigns we’re subjected to, to come out and defend us and I think this is one of you know, it was such a beautiful moment that so many people came out and said, you know, this is actually wrong and we can no longer continue to no demonize and, you know, subject organizers or people who speak for Palestinian rights to such a vicious vitriol from these different groups. And I think, you know, looking from now, having a bird’s eye view like it’s very I’m looking at our history, it’s very normal that people who fight for justice and who are on the right side of justice, are not celebrated and are not given their flowers in their due time. And I think, you know, very often, the biggest and most influential civil rights leaders were subjected to such vicious harassment to – were attacked and vilified in many different ways. And many were assassinated.
And so it’s not a unique thing for us as organizers or those who speak out for Palestinian liberation to be subjected to such vicious attacks. But I think it’s time that we learned from history, and we become principled in the way that we defend and in the solidarity that we show, and I think this was one of – it was such a, you know, it was such a painful but such a beautiful moment where we saw so many people come together and say, No, you can’t do that, and it’s not okay. And I think it really, really does show that the movement for Palestinian liberation is moving forward, and it’s growing, and that the masses largely support Palestinian liberation – and the manufactured rage by Zionist groups and elected officials who continue to fail their constituents but have time to harass organizers that they’re not representative of the mass, of the masses, and they’re not representative of the people who do want to see a free Palestine within our lifetime.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Absolutely. What advice do you have for other students who take up the issue of Palestinian rights and are scared that they’ll be bullied by outside political forces and pro-apartheid lawmakers?
Fatima Mohammed: Yeah, well, I think I want to start by saying that that is a very valid concern, and that it is not okay. And so I don’t want to misrepresent my enthusiasm as a way of saying that this is sort of, you know, something that should be normalized, because it shouldn’t, there should never be a scenario where people who are speaking for liberation are speaking for Palestinian liberation, Black liberation, Indigenous liberation, are subjected to such vitriol, Islamophobic, misogynistic attacks by people in positions of power. You know, I’m a 24-year-old law graduate. In comparison, theoretically, I have no power. Which brings me to the second point, which I think is the more optimistic, and the point that grounds me the most, and one that I want to know, deliver to other students and other people who are listening, is that our words hold so much power. And we are so much more powerful than we think.
And, you know, this entire smear campaign was just evidence of how powerful words are, and how important it is that we speak up and how important it is that we elevate these causes. And so I think, let this moment or let this fear be something that inspires you to recognize the power of your words, and in whatever capacity you can. I know, folks, not everybody gets the opportunity to do a graduation speech and, you know, seldom do those opportunities come, but in any way that you can, at your workplace, at your home, at your dinner table, wherever you can to sort of champion the cause and elevate the cause, do so. And there are so many people who are going to come out to support you, and there’s so many people who have your back.
And you know, this is just a droplet in the water in comparison to the sacrifices that the people in Palestine who are resisting the occupation daily have to go through. And it’s just such a tiny sacrifice, at least for me, that’s how I view it, to just speak up, especially as people who are, like I said, who have – who are complicit by being Americans, and who fund this violence. And I think we’re past the awareness stage. Right? We’re past, you know, the Palestinian people have documented these atrocities. They’ve documented their displacement. They’ve documented their houses being bulldozed, they’ve documented the riots by – they’ve documented everything, they’ve documented their pain, the violence and their suffering, the least that we can do, is, you know, honor that in the ways that we can, and defend them and speak, speak alongside them, because they’ve, they’ve been shouting, and they’ve been screaming very, very loud and it’s time that we hear them.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: It just struck me – like how significant it was that not only were you selected to give that speech by your fellow, you know, law graduates and faculty, but that there was just such an enormous amount of applause during it, when you were speaking, that it seems, you know, like more than consensus, it was like – what was it like for you to talk about, you know, the ongoing Nakba and the violence of Zionism and the Israeli state, and look out and see that audience right there with you. What was that like?
Fatima Mohammed: I think that was probably one of the most beautiful moments of my life. And it’s a moment that I will honor because it’s a moment that’s been, you know, it was a three-year process of organizing on campus, you know, these things don’t just happen naturally, there was a lot of organizing, a lot of mobilizing that happened on campus to bring about such a beautiful audience. And I think, you know, mainstream and right-wing tabloids and elected officials have been very determined in sort of making me out to be a lone wolf who just went rogue. And just took the mic and just said, whatever. And that’s just simply divorced from the reality of what happened.
Anybody who’s in the room would have seen my classmates in tears, crying in applause, and they would have seen my mother crying in applause, and they would have seen a class and an auditorium standing on their feet, giving applause to sort of recognizing our support for the Palestinian movement for liberation, and I think it’s, it’s just so beautiful to see. And it’s why I felt so inspired. And so I still feel so proud of that moment that I did speak about what my classmates entrusted me to speak about, no, my classmates know who I am. They know – they know who I am, what I’m about, what I organize for. And that is why they selected me to be their class speaker. And they entrusted me with that. And, you know, it wasn’t just limited to Palestinian liberation, like you said, I spoke about a lot of different topics.
And so to CUNY Central and Board of Trustees who sort of categorized everything as hate speech, by no legal definition, they even failed to sort of explain or distinguish which part was hate speech. And it’s just to me, a moment that shows just how disconnected the Board of Trustees is from their students and from their institutions. And it’s a moment to recognize that for other institutions and other student bodies, that this is possible, that this is, you know, we can have institutions, and we can have student leaders who sort of champion the cause for Palestine and who bring it forward, and that we should be celebrated. And I really hope that this is one of many, many institutions, and that CUNY Law doesn’t stand alone in their support for Palestine.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: And obviously, your support for Palestine isn’t going anywhere. And I mean, I know that – you talked about this in a recent interview with Jewish Currents. And you said, like, given the chance, you know, not only would you say the same thing in that speech, but that you would do it louder. How does it feel to, like, stand in that sort of integrity, and commitment and principle? And how will that help carry your work as a lawyer going forward?
Fatima Mohammed: Yeah, well, I think that integrity is a gift from my ancestors, it’s a gift from my faith. It’s something that I can’t sort of talk about without feeling so moved by everybody else who’s come before me, who’s brought me to this place. And so, you know, there, I have absolutely no regrets. And in same way that I stood, and the sound of that applause still rings in my ears. And it’s that it’s that sound that carries me forward. Because it’s the sound of a failing Zionist propaganda narrative. It’s the sound of a movement for Palestine moving forward, and it’s the march for liberation, that’s moving forward.
And so my commitment to Palestine and my commitment to movements for liberation was never guided, or was never principled by what right-wing tabloid media organizations or elected officials think of me. It’s always been grounded by what I feel is right and what I know to be right and what my faith teaches me to be right. And what my community tells me is the movement for liberation. And so it’s, there’s been so much – there’s so many emotions and so many feelings, but I really hope that folks understand that, you know, repression and censorship and chilling Palestinian organizers is starting to become a lost cause because it’s only going to inspire more and more people to speak out.
I was made aware of Jana Abulaban, who also spoke at her commencement and said that she was inspired by my speech and – it shows really that these tactics are starting to fail because the movement is growing. And the reality is there. Nothing I said in that speech was uncontested by the lived reality of the Palestinian people. It’s been documented. It’s been spoken about by many different human rights organizations, and to sort of distance yourself from the reality, that’s an issue for you to deal with as a lobbying group. It’s not really something that I carry. And I think the shame and the regret is theirs to carry when in years ahead, they will realize that they stood on the wrong side of history.
And so I’m really excited for a future of lawyering that’s centered around fighting for those who are oppressed, that’s centered by my faith and that’s centered by disciplined principles. And I think we can no longer waver when it comes to Palestine, we can no longer exceptionalize Palestine as the sort of radioactive taboo subject, even in liberal spaces, I think we can no longer afford to do that. And we shouldn’t, and it’s the wrong decision to make. And so to the extent that folks are plugged in, and are supporting organizing efforts on the ground to – whether it’s for BDS or other missions, I think folks should really take this moment to just one step closer does that need to be something where you’re like thrusting yourself 100 per cent in, but just take one step closer towards fighting for this movement.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Beautiful, thank you so much. And if you have time, you can continue to join us, otherwise we can let you go. I know that you’re very, very busy. But I wanted to bring Amal in, Amal you’re the Michael Ratner Justice Fellow at Palestine Legal. You also graduated from CUNY Law yourself. Take us through your initial reactions to what Fatima just said in the context of how students are not just stepping up their opposition to Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism, but facing these kinds of smear campaigns.
Amal Thabateh: Yeah, absolutely. And exactly like you said, I’m also a recent CUNY law graduate, Palestinian American organizer living in New York. So a lot of what Fatima is saying resonates with me, not just in a personal capacity, but also very clearly in our work at Palestine Legal. You know, Fatima has been targeted by anti-Palestinian groups in a very racist, Islamophobic harassment campaign, and like she mentioned it’s been exasperated by public officials at her own university, over comments she made in a commencement speech advocating for the liberation of Palestine and justice for all.
And Fatima’s story is definitely not unique. Over the past decade, we’ve seen over 2,000 incidents of suppression of advocacy for Palestine, and so Fatima is one of many who are, one of many students who are being censored, punished and vilified for her advocacy for Palestine. Like Fatima, you know, alluded to, she received a resounding applause for her speech when she discussed the harms experienced by Black and Brown communities in the US, the experiences of Palestinians living under settler-colonialism, and celebrated CUNY Law’s mission of lawyering in the service of oppressed communities and those in need. And so this targeted campaign against Fatima, which has been exacerbated by public officials, including members of Congress, state lawmakers, and right-wing media outlets, is a harassment campaign that many Palestine activists have faced and are facing.
And I think, you know, again, Fatima’s story is definitely not unique, and she’s one of many, unfortunately, the attacks against Fatima are part of a widespread harassment campaign to shut down criticism of Israel by attacking Palestinians and attacking their supporters. And like, we’re also seeing in Fatima’s case, false and inflammatory allegations of anti-Semitism underlie many of these attacks.
These false accusations are employed as a strategy by Israel lobby groups to target and to suppress Palestine advocacy and speech. And these attacks against Fatima fall within this larger and widely-criticized effort to silence students and to silence scholars and community advocates who speak out and speak about Palestinian rights by effectively equating criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish hate. And by turning the political ideology of Zionism into a protected class, including by pushing a, you know, a definition of anti-Semitism that that conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish hate. And so, you know, I wanted to sort of place what Fatima is experiencing into this sort of broader context of this widespread harassment campaign that’s happening to many, many activists and students and scholars, not just one.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Exactly. Talk a little bit more about the tenor of the backlash. There was one local lawmaker who wrote to the New York state Bar Association demanding that they refused to let Fatima take the exam. And then we have people like Congressman Ritchie Torres, Senator Ted Cruz and others piling on, Representative Josh Gottheimer even called on the Department of Education to strip CUNY Law’s federal funding. Talk a little bit about this and how you and other civil rights organizations are addressing this.
Amal Thabateh: Yeah, absolutely. So after Fatima spoke at her commencement speech on May 12, she received, you know, a lot of harassment on social media. And it began – a huge harassment campaign began against her. And the CUNY Board of Trustees is complicit in fueling a harassment campaign. Like Fatima mentioned, on May 30, the board and the CUNY Chancellor published a statement condemning her speech as hate speech, claiming that it was, quote, a public expression of hate towards people and communities against their religion, race or political affiliation.
This is a very clearly false and harmful characterization that’s being weaponized against a visibly Muslim and Arab American woman. And so instead of taking steps to address the harassment that Fatima was facing, a student of CUNY, CUNY joined in on the anti-Palestinian bullying campaign, and CUNY’s statement reinforced the the smear campaign that was being led by public officials and pro-Israel groups, really resulting in a really severe online harassment campaign and new attacks. And, you know, the smearing and harassment and intimidation of Palestine rights activists have serious consequences. These attacks harm reputations, they harm careers of students and scholars and workers, and they encourage censorship of activists infringing on their First Amendment rights.
And we see that happen with my exactly like you mentioned, a New York City Councilmember and right-wing, anti-Palestinian organizations have called on the character and fitness committees of the New York courts to find her unfit to practice law and to deny her admission to the bar. And, you know, there’s also been a role of the IHRA definition, here, too. And that’s been at play as well. On June 6, like you mentioned, Representative Gottheimer wrote a letter to the Department of Education, demanding the defunding of CUNY Law, on the premise that Fatima’s speech constituted a violation of the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And so in his letter, Gottheimer references one of the distorted IHRA definition’s illustrative examples.
And this really illustrates how its weaponization, the weaponization of IHRA is contributing to a dangerous erosion of First Amendment rights on this – to dissent on issues of public, of critical public concern. And it’s an escalation of anti-Palestinian bias and anti-Palestinian discrimination. And it really speaks to larger efforts that are that are being led by pro-Israel groups that are lobbying the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to adopt the IHRA definition in order to use it as a guide when investigating Title IV complaints. You also mentioned the federal bill, I believe, that Representative Mike Lawler introduced to block funding to US schools that allow events where students criticize Israel.
So this – you know, speaking to this larger tactic that has resulted in hundreds of bills that have been introduced, and state legislators in the US Congress targeting Palestine advocacy. And so we’re seeing – we’re seeing the targets and harassment coming from many different sources. And I think, again, like it has really escalated in ways that I think even took me a bit to surprise. You know, while I’m not surprised to see the harassment of Palestine advocates, or the intimidation, or the cyberbullying, I was very surprised to see so many different, you know, actors at play here attacking Fatima and really surprised to see the public statement condemning it as hate speech, like Fatima mentioned, by no legal definition.
And we express a lot of these concerns in our coalition letter. And sort of expressed the different ways in which the statement and this campaign has, you know, severe concerns as it relates to First Amendment rights and state and federal discrimination laws and Title VI concerns as well. And like you mentioned, you know, in our letter, we’re demanding that they retract this statement and issue an apology. But I think, you know, a lot of the harm has been done, but this is sort of the least that we can do.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: And has there been any communication from CUNY yet, that you know of, since you sent the letter?
Amal Thabateh: We have not heard from CUNY yet. So it’s just been silence from their end.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: And Fatima, you wanted to jump in?
Fatima Mohammed: Yeah, I think I really just wanted to underscore, sort of contextualizing what’s happened to me and understanding that this is not sort of like an individual, viral sort of disorganized kind of something that just randomly escalated, right? I think when we start, when we look at it sort of from the bigger picture, the rage in itself was manufactured, right? Like you’re talking about a student who gives a speech, the whole room is in applause. And then two weeks after that speech is done, between like the day and night, you wake up to like, New York Post at your home, and sort of an entire campaign being thrusted, and being a target of a national hate campaign where my livelihood and my safety was placed at risk, you know?
And so, sort of understanding that it’s part and parcel of a larger, larger, deliberate campaign that seeks to not only militarize public schools and CUNY here specifically, but it’s attempting to deepen ties that CUNY has and these public institutions have to Israel and to other oppressive institutions and regimes. And so – I just, one last thing I really wanted to add was that in this last month, right, and in those two weeks, that the hate campaign was at its height against me, as mainstream media continued to defame and incite violence against me, and as they caved in and and allied with the Israeli lobby against me, Israeli occupation forces admitted to shooting Mohammed Tamimi in the head at just two years old. And on June 8, at the heels of the anniversary of the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh, Israel attempted to murder not one but two journalists, … and Rabie. And these were, these were journalists wearing their vests and they were documented, documenting the atrocities and the violence that was happening to them. And none of that, of course, is being called out to be wrong, or none of that is, you know, invoking these elected officials to speak out against this depravity and this violence.
But of course, they find the time to sort of do the complete opposite and to use their social media platforms, where there are hundreds and hundreds of people, to place me as a target for a national smear campaign. And so I think this moment really should call in folks who even don’t really understand the politics of the situation, which is not that difficult to understand. But, you know, it should really bring people to pause why a mayor of New York City is amplifying a right-wing tabloid magazine that relies consistently throughout history on Islamophobic, racist, misogynistic vitriol against organizers. And I think it’s a moment for all of us to sort of understand that these campaigns are really part of larger efforts. And that this is not a coincidental thing. This is not because my speech was just so amazing. It really – I would love for that to be the case. But it’s really not. It’s part of a very deliberate campaign to silence us and to sort of scare people off.
And I truly believe that there’s this effort to make me to make an example out of me to sort of, if you speak for Palestine, this is what can happen to you. And so I think, to the extent that there are organizations that have not yet spoken out, or have not yet made a statement, or have not yet done whatever they can to sort of make their position be known that this is not okay. I think this is me inviting them to do so. Because I think this is a moment where you have so many different groups and so many different actors, trying to effectively remove me from the space and to silence me, even if it’s at the cost of my livelihood, of my safety and my security. And I think it’s a very dangerous precedent that they’re trying to set.
And I think it needs to be met with equal opposition for what’s happening. And so, you know, there are wins that are happening for Palestine here. And there are wins that are happening in Palestine by the Palestinian people who are resisting this violence. And I think that’s – the backlash is against that, and I think we’re all sort of just being used by the Israel lobby and by these elected officials as pawns to sort of make their their positions and their their allyship with with Israel known, even if it’s at our expense, but that’s all I have to add. And I really just wanted to thank you again and thank all the listeners, and thank everybody who’s come out to support me in any way that they have. I have not been on social media because not the best time to be on social media right now. But I’ve I’ve been sent so much love and I just wanted to send it right back.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: I can’t wait to see what you do next, Fatima. I’m really a – you know, all of us here at The Electronic Intifada just have so much awe and admiration for you and for your speech and for your strength in the face of all of this, just an avalanche of hate and racism and Islamophobia. And so yeah, we really appreciate you coming on and speaking your truth.
And Amal, finally, can you just give us a quick overview of how people can continue to support Fatima and get more information on how to, you know, encourage, pressure CUNY to do the right thing and defend their graduate instead of pile on the smear campaign against her?
Amal Thabateh: Yeah, absolutely. I just – before I, before I get into that I just really want to add in to Fatima’s last point, which is about the unity and the resistance. You know, these massive campaigns and harassment campaigns are backfiring, there has been an outpour of love and support for Fatima, an outpour of rage at CUNY and the elected officials’ shameful targeting of a student over her political views on Palestine and other progressive issues. So ultimately, neither Israel nor its allies in the US can shut down a movement for justice and freedom.
And whatever repressive tactics they use, it’s really up to us to make sure that such efforts are exposed as repressive tactics and that we continue to grow our movement despite them. There are a lot of different ways folks can support Fatima. A lot of different organizations and coalitions are circulating, you know, sign-on letters. You can, you know, support her by sharing and boosting, you know, support statements on social media, by sharing our coalition letter, you know, reaching out to your representatives and reaching out to, you know, members of Congress to express your support and your condemnation or their hateful statement against Fatima. Also just, you know, staying tuned with our work. You know, this is definitely not the end, and there certainly will be a lot more opportunities to get involved and to support Fatima down the road.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Amal Thabateh, Michael Ratner Justice Fellow at Palestine Legal and a graduate of CUNY Law school. Thank you so much for being with us today. And we’ll have links to the stories we’ve written about the situation at CUNY and the letter that the civil rights organizations, including Palestine Legal, wrote to CUNY on the blog post that accompanies this episode. I’ll thank you so much for being with us.
Amal Thabateh: Thank you so much for having me, Nora. It’s been such a pleasure.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Same, and please stay tuned. We’ll be right back with Radhika Sainath, senior staff attorney at Palestine Legal and her client Ahmad Daraldik to talk about a developing situation involving how he’s fighting back against a similar smear campaign orchestrated by Israel lobby groups and lawmakers in Florida, all the way from 2020 until now, we’ll be right back.
Welcome back. We continue our discussion on how students and civil rights organizations are pushing back against the bullying tactics of the Israel lobby and Israel-aligned politicians. Palestine Legal writes that the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has finally opened a formal investigation into a complaint alleging that Florida State University discriminated against Palestinian student Ahmad Daraldik. After Ahmad was elected FSU student senate president in June 2020 and spoke openly about his experiences as a Palestinian, he was made an open target of a statewide harassment campaign that included Florida State legislators calling for his removal and threatening to withhold funds to FSU. Ahmad filed the first ever complaint alleging anti-Palestinian discrimination in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in April 2021.
We’ll speak with Ahmad in a few minutes, but first we’re joined by Radhika Sainath, senior staff attorney at Palestine Legal who’s been at Ahmad’s defense for three years now. Radhika, thank you so much for being with us on The Electronic Intifada Podcast.
Radhika Sainath: Thank you for having me on Nora. Big fan of the show.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Oh, thanks. We’re big fans of yours. We just talked about the situation at CUNY Law school in New York. Take us through what’s happened recently at Florida State University with your client Ahmad Daraldik, who’s been waiting more than two years for the Department of Education to open up the complaint. We spoke about this for an article I wrote in December 2022, you were still waiting for a response from the government about the complaint that was filed in April 2021. Let’s have you begin by refreshing our memory about what happened to your client when he was elected student senate president, and why this complaint is significant.
Radhika Sainath: Sure. So in June 2020, our client Ahmad Daraldik made history as the first Palestinian elected as president of the Florida State University student senate. Following this historic vote, there was a campaign to remove and silence Ahmad, driven by, you know, anti-Palestinian people, students, politicians, even the university itself. And the underlying basis of it was just this myth that opposition to Israel’s occupation or colonization or military violence is anti-Jewish. You know, after Ahmad was elected, he came out as being proudly Palestinian, and he spoke about his experiences growing up under military occupation.
He spent many years of his life living in the West Bank. This was a period like now where the Israeli army was routinely raiding Palestinian villages, he and his sister were teargassed, his little sister in their homes. And he talked about these experiences in these stories, and people didn’t like it. And basically, there was a horrific, anti racist, horrific anti-Palestinian campaign against Ahmad. He received so many just awful messages, hateful messages, calling him like sand n-word, saying that he should be castrated, things that I just don’t want to mention or repeat.
And instead of taking action to support him, Florida State University doubled down, they contributed to the harassment campaign, Florida’s president, then-president at the time, put out a statement, condemning Ahmad saying that he was anti-Semitic, again, for you know, sharing his stories about what it’s like being Palestinian. So, you know, after trying to, after filing numerous complaints, Ahmad filed them himself, actually, and in you know, try to get support from the university and got radio silence, we basically resorted to filing the first ever complaint alleging a hostile environment based on anti-Palestinian discrimination, in violation of the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 two years ago, as you said, it took a really, really long time for the Department of Education to open up an investigation. It should not have taken this long by their own rules. But we’re really glad that it happened. It signals that the Department of Education is taking these types of complaints seriously.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Yeah, I mean, over the past, I don’t know what it’s been, 10 years, we’ve focused on the Title VI complaints that Israel lobby organizations, sometimes aided and abetted by Kenneth Marcus, who was the head of the Office for Civil Rights, had been filing to the Department of Education alleging that just the mere presence of student activists and Students for Justice in Palestine chapters, and the mentioning of Israel’s war crimes was somehow a violation of Title VI. So it’s interesting to see that we can, you know, also use these tools that are set up to protect students using the same – the same Title VI complaints.
What precedent could this set for other students who have been bullied, smeared and harmed in the same way that Ahmad has, if the Department of Education finds that what Ahmad has been alleging in his complaint is found to be what happened?
Radhika Sainath: Yeah, you know, we hope that it sends a message, I mean, whatever happens, that that other universities understand that they cannot discriminate against Palestinians in this way, or tolerate this bigoted, harassing climate, where students who are Palestinian, or students who support Palestinian rights are discriminated against, treated differently, investigated, again, for either taking a stance for Palestinian equality, or just talking about what it’s like to be Palestinian. And so I think it’s really important that other universities get that message. And, you know, whatever happens, you know, regardless, we you know, this is we will be filing more of these, you know, and I think Ahmad is the first student in the country to file this type of complaint based on anti-Palestinian discrimination.
We filed another one a couple of months ago against George Washington University on behalf of three students, and the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights just open up an investigation there as well. So, you know, I think it’s really important for schools to understand also that they should not be adopting or relying on the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism and its contemporary examples, because it can lead to discrimination against Palestinians. And it’s problematic for so many different reasons.
But at the minimum, you know, adopting a definition of anti-Semitism that would make it, you know, unlawful or, you know, could subject you to a discrimination complaint, because you criticize Israel would mean that Palestinians could not talk about what it’s like being Palestinian, or that they deserve equal rights, because that is inherently criticism, criticism, critical of Zionism, and the Israeli settler project, right? And so that would be a double standard that would lead to students being treated differently, again, based on their Palestinian identity. So I think it’s really important that universities understand that they will just, you know, be embroiled in a morass of discrimination complaints if they adopt this definition. So one of the things that we’re asking for is for the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights to make sure that universities don’t adopt or rely on this definition as well.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Right. And let’s talk more about that. Especially in Florida, the IHRA, IHRA definition and anti-BDS legislation has played a part in the situation for students being harassed in Florida. When we first reported on the story of the situation at FSU in 2020, students were worried that these draconian censorship measures would invite more harassment and smear campaigns on to students who advocate for Palestinian rights. In 2019, Florida’s notorious Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill redefining anti-Semitism and making it illegal to speak out in public institutions against Israel’s human rights violations, essentially adopting, you know, full bore the IHRA definition. Can you talk about the legal landscape in Florida for students who believe that Palestinians should have human rights?
Radhika Sainath: Sure, and I just want to be clear for your Florida listeners, yeah, you know, the Constitution is the highest law of the land. So even though there are these attempts in Florida, and in other states to chill speech supporting Palestinian rights, or to pass these definitions to make it critical to make it, you know, to, to subject you to discrimination complaints, if that happens to you, please do contact us because you do have free speech rights under the First Amendment to criticize Israel, to the same degree that you can criticize any other country, it is unlawful for a state or a city or university, you know, that’s public, to say, to treat speech supporting Palestinian rights differently from other types of speech. That’s called viewpoint discrimination, and it’s unlawful, the First Amendment does not allow for it.
So I think that’s really important to understand. Despite that, it can be really hard, right? Because, you know, and I think that’s why, you know, pro-Israel groups are trying to pass these laws or to introduce these laws, because people don’t understand, they’re confused, low level administrators call Palestinians in or their supporters, Students for Justice in Palestine, to question them, they’re treated differently, they’re subjected to investigations, even if ultimately, and this is what happened in our George Washington University case, you know, Palestine Legal is there and we can help you and you’re cleared, it is – it makes things really hard, and you shouldn’t be treated differently, again, because you’re Palestinian, or because you’re speaking out for Palestinian human rights.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Exactly. And what can students – I mean, you know, besides reaching out for, for legal help from Palestine Legal or the Center for Constitutional Rights, et cetera, what options are available for students who are facing these kinds of smear campaigns and bullying tactics and harassment by not just, you know, like, on-campus Israel lobby organizations, but by state and federal lawmakers as well?
Radhika Sainath: Yeah, you know, I would say, of course, you know, organize – that that’s the most important thing, and to keep speaking out, it’s so important to share your stories. And it can be really hard, but, but it’s so important because I do think that the tide is changing in this country. More and more people, especially younger people understand what’s happening in Palestine and that the situation is untenable, and it must end. More people are speaking out against Zionism. So I would say keep doing what you’re doing. And if you need legal help, we’re here.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Excellent. Thank you so much Radhika Sainath. She’s the senior staff attorney with Palestine Legal. Thanks for all you do. And we’ll be right back with Ahmad Daraldik.
Welcome back. I’m now joined by Ahmad Daraldik, who we spoke to in 2020 when he was at the center of attacks by Florida lawmakers and Israel lobby groups. And as Radhika Sainath just said, the Department of Education has opened up a long awaited investigation into Ahmad’s allegations of anti-Palestinian discrimination at Florida State University. Ahmad, thank you so much for being with us on The Electronic Intifada Podcast.
Ahmad Daraldik: Thank you for having me, Nora. I’m excited to be here, you know? It’s been a long time waiting for justice.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Yes. Well, thank you so much. We’re really glad you’re here, too. So, Palestine Legal says that the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights will examine whether Florida State University stood by while a hostile environment ballooned on campus and whether the university’s own actions reinforced this hostile climate in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Can you talk about what you experienced personally, after you were elected student senate president and what your complaint details? Take us back to 2020.
Ahmad Daraldik: Yeah, I’ll start with saying it’s a lot. You know what I mean, like there’s, there were so many things that happened, it’s really hard to be able to just recall every single, every single step, right? But the main situation was, I’m elected on June 6 in 2020, three days later on a Monday, I’m being like, over the weekend, basically, it starts to blow up on a Facebook group chat, where I’m starting to be attacked for an Instagram post. And then I respond to the Instagram post using an old Facebook and then that kind of blew even more out of proportion.
And from there, it started to just kind of, literally, it was like snowballing, like down a hill where it started to become bigger and bigger and bigger of a situation where at first, it’s just like a few students involved, to then, cities are getting involved. You know, representatives are getting involved, the university administrators are getting involved, there was even a tweet at one point, reaching out to the admissions office making sure, like, trying to get me basically removed from the university, as someone that they think shouldn’t be a student anymore. So it was, it was a lot, you know what I mean? Like I, I experienced a level of discrimination that I never expected, you know what I mean, I came to this university, hoping for opportunity, I came to this university hoping for an education that was something that I couldn’t get when I was back home in Palestine, it’s not the same level of education, as you know, an American university, especially one that’s in the top 20.
And so I was, I would say, I was pretty, I was pretty distraught and hurt by the situation just because it was like, You’re in this role. You’re supposed to be serving students, I’m here, I’m serving students, I’m doing these things, trying to make sure that their voices are heard, whether it’s trying to help them when it came to building like a race, like a diversity and race, you know, ad hoc committee or building one that was for survivors and advocating for survivors of sexual assault. And, you know, that work that I was doing for students didn’t even matter anymore, because I was now labeled and highlighted as something that I’m not. And it kind of just, you know, it made my job as a student leader a lot harder. And then it gave people, you know, more reason to come after me, because now that I can’t do my job, because I’m being attacked constantly. It gives them another reason to be like, Oh, look, he’s not even doing this. He’s not doing that. But it’s like, how can you do anything when every single minute of every single day, when you’re in this position, you’re being harassed and attack?
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Right. I remember when we first reported this story that there was, you know, for example, there were local lawmakers, but also state and federal lawmakers who were attacking you. I remember there was a, I think, Florida high level official of like the COVID response unit –
Ahmad Daraldik: Jared Moskowitz, he was – And then there was like the whole branch that came from like the House of Representatives, the Jewish caucus decided that, you know, I’m a target that they need to attack. There was Helendale Beach, it’s a city, Ventura city in South Florida, two cities in South Florida wrote resolutions about how how, like, I guess, horrible of a person I am from their perspective, which makes no sense because if you try and get to know me as a person, you’d understand that I’m just as as chill as the next person, like, I’m not out here trying to attack nobody, really my goal is always been and will always be to help. And so for me to be labeled as someone that’s trying to create harm, and, and just being labeled as an aggressor, was really hard to accept because I know that’s not who I am.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Right. Absolutely. And the university stood stood by and let it happen.
Ahmad Daraldik: Well they stood by and more than just let it happen, they kind of like – they fanned the fire, you know, the university president released a letter to the entire – in an announcement to the entire university, labeling the situation, you know, very differently than what it should have been labeled. And then even beyond that the university president directly sent me a letter after a situation in July of 2020, just basically, you know, berating me and directly stating – there was like this one quote that I usually won’t forget, it’s like, you know, you want to – he said, like, I want to make it very clear that I have lost complete and utter faith in your leadership, something along those lines.
And, you know, right, and that coming from a university president when you know, this guy’s – but, you know, this guy’s like, 60 – But you know that coming from somebody who’s, you know, he’s like, 60, 70, I don’t know how old the guy was, you know what I mean? President Thrasher was an older gentleman. And for me, I’m at the time, I’m 20 years old, this guy with this level of experience is deciding that because of people that are not even at our university, that he wants to label me in such a way and come after me in such a way – And when he could have been a friend, he could have been someone who tried to actually guide and support me, because that’s what he was doing at first, but then the pressure became too much by all these outside forces that he decided, oh, it’s better to leave him, you know, to hang, let them dry out, on the outside have, you know, let whatever people get whatever they want from him.
And it’s not my situation anymore to deal with, you know what I mean? So it was, it was tough to realize that that was the level of, of, of kind of, you know, mindset that I was dealing with, with all these people that they were on this wavelength of, you know, attack attack attack, when I’m always like, somebody who wants to bring people in. So it was it was very, like very much a different experiment, experience, sorry, but it’s, it’s something that I think helped me grow a lot as a person and understand how people work better and kind of push me to put myself in spaces that actually need me versus being in spaces that are just going to cause hurt, you know.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: And three years later, you’ve obviously graduated, talk about what you’re doing now. And if the smear campaign still affects you today,
Ahmad Daraldik: Well, truthfully, I, I’ve been wanting to graduate, I haven’t been able to graduate yet, because of what I went through, I’ve been behind in my coursework. And I haven’t really found that moment to catch myself and be like, Okay, you’re done. Like I’ve been wanting to graduate for almost like two years now. Like, if I didn’t do all the things that I did, if I wasn’t in student government, if I didn’t fight back, I probably would have graduated in 2022. But we’re already in 2023. And because of everything I went through, and because of that level of trauma that was left on me with no support, really, it was just something that was kind of overwhelming for me to really process and understand that I allowed my schoolwork to fall behind when I should have been focusing on that, excuse me.
I should have been focusing on that instead of, you know, focusing on the struggle, like I think the struggle is important. I think everyone needs to fight. But at the same time, making sure that an individual’s good is what you should be doing, you need to always take care of yourself first. And sometimes, you know, I put myself on the back burner, because I knew that there was bigger, more important things that I needed to fight for. But at the same time, that’s not necessarily the best thing that I should have been doing.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Ahmad, how significant is it that the Department of Education opened up this investigation, even though it took about four times as long as other complaints the department receives to be processed and opened? What’s your reaction on the DOE finally saying yes, we’ll start an investigation?
Ahmad Daraldik: Well, I was definitely frustrated that it took this long, you know what I mean? Like I was like, Okay, how much longer how much longer like, every year, I’m still waiting and waiting and waiting, but to finally get the relief and, and just knowing that it’s moving forward, there’s finally a step to get us to some type of justice to some type of closure, some type of understanding of what Palestinians face in this country, especially on university campuses was was was empowering. You know what I mean? It got me stoked and excited to continue the fight, it got me ready to, to want to make sure that the message is heard that, you know, Palestinian lives matter, especially in the time that you know, we are in right now. Like it’s so tumultuous in Palestine.
When you look at what’s happening in Jenin, and you just look at what’s happening in the West Bank in general, you see the constant harassment of Palestinians, the constant murder, and it’s not something that you can take lightly. And so being a Palestinian and going through my own type of struggle, because of my identity in this country, just reminds me of the parallels of how much worse it could be if I still was, if I was still back home in the West Bank.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: And how is your family and community in the West Bank right now?
Ahmad Daraldik: I think all the people from my family, specifically they should be okay. I haven’t heard anything about them being like in some type of injured situation, but at the same time, you never know – things can switch at the flip of a hat, flip of a coin. You know what I mean? There’s no, there’s no idea when something will happen. It’s just you always have to be prepared that something bad will slash could happen because the, you know, the Israeli occupation forces are a force that doesn’t necessarily want to be predictable. They’re intentionally doing things to play with Palestinians’ heads, to intentionally manipulate them and get them to act in a way so that they can justify their horrific actions.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: If the Department of Education, after it concludes this investigation, finds that your allegations are correct, and that there was this incredibly hostile, racist, Islamophobic, anti-Palestinian environment that was created on campus, what kind of precedent do you hope this sets for other students who are facing the kind of racist and discriminatory attacks by Israel lobby groups and the lawmakers that support them?
Ahmad Daraldik: Precedent wise, I would hope that it creates, you know, a sense within universities that this level of discrimination is not acceptable, that this level of harassment is not acceptable. And that just because I’m a Palestinian doesn’t mean that you can try and erase me and walk all over me. Because at the end of the day, my biggest goal in this case is hoping that, you know, once the Department of Education actually investigates it, and and hopefully they see that there was discrimination, they come out with an outcome that says, oh, Florida State needs to put these policies in place, they need to revoke the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, they need to create an Arab student union, they need to create these different bases of knowledge to help people understand what being a Palestinian is, and kind of the true, the true foundation of what that conflict, you know, conflict, they use the term very, very lightly and loosely, because I don’t believe it’s a conflict. It’s an occupation, it’s a genocide.
But – you know what I mean, like by actually talking about it, about the realities of what’s going on. And even beyond that, like, I think I deserve an apology. I think any person that faces this level of harassment deserves an apology. And even beyond that, they need to make sure that I graduate, because the only reason that I’m not on track is because of their actions. And it’s like, there’s only so much that one person can do and say, unless other people understand that, you know, I’m not speaking from from nowhere, I’m speaking because, you know, there’s, there’s backing, there’s evidence of what I went through, and it’s something that wasn’t easy, and it’s something that wasn’t, that wasn’t acceptable whatsoever, you know, what I mean? Like, no person should have to face that level of harassment, no matter who they are, no matter what they’re doing. Because at the end of the day, it’s not something that’s beneficial to society, and it’s not beneficial to human interaction and human connection in general.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: What advice do you have to other students who saw what was happening to you three years ago, and see what’s happening to students, graduates like Fatima Mohammed?
Ahmad Daraldik: I would say, you know, stand in your truth, there’s no reason that you should put your torch down, because someone tells you that it’s not bright enough or someone decides that, you know, it’s going to hurt them because you’re speaking your truth. Because at the end of the day, what matters is justice. What matters is speaking up and standing up. And regardless of who you are, where you are, what you are, as long as you know that your truth is true. And that you know, you’re standing up for something that matters and is going to put push people forward instead of putting people down. And then you stand up and you speak the heck out, you know what I mean? You’re not just gonna sit there and allow these things to happen to you and you need to move forward and you need to push and even fight because at the end of the day, if we don’t do it, nobody else is.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Right, we’re gonna continue to watch the Department of Education’s investigation very closely, Ahmad Daraldik, thank you so much for being with us on The Electronic Intifada Podcast and please keep us posted.
Ahmad Daraldik: Thank you.