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May 23, 2019 11:52 am

NYU Convocation Speaker Calls for BDS Against ‘Apartheid Government’ in Israel

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

Steven Thrasher speaking at NYU’s doctoral convocation ceremony, May 20, 2019. Photo: Screenshot.

A speaker at New York University’s doctoral convocation ceremony on Monday applauded his colleagues at the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis (SCA), which recently pledged non-cooperation with NYU’s Tel Aviv campus, “for supporting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement” against Israel.

In a speech that immediately followed remarks by NYU President Andrew Hamilton, Steven Thrasher — a graduate of the SCA department — said to applause that he was “so proud” of NYU’s chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, the Graduate Student Organizing Committee labor union and SCA for supporting BDS “against the apartheid state government in Israel.”

“Because this is what we are called to do, this is our NYU legacy,” he said. “We must stand together to vanquish racism and Islamophobia and antisemitism and injustice and attacks on women and attacks on abortion rights in Tel Aviv and Shanghai and Abu Dhabi, New York City, Atlanta, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco and everywhere in the world.”

Thrasher has been appointed assistant professor of journalism and inaugural Daniel H. Renberg Chair on social justice and LGBTQ media studies at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He is expected to officially take up the position next month.

Authors of the SCA resolution have insisted that it was not a boycott or an extension of the BDS campaign, which has been denounced by major Jewish groups in the US and globally. The measure was rejected by NYU’s administration, as well as the school’s Jewish chaplain and hundreds of faculty members, among them faculty and alumni of the NYU School of Medicine, who called for action against “climate of anti-Semitism at NYU that creates a hostile environment for Jewish students, prevents honest discourse and limits academic freedom on our campus.”

It drew support from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and the group Academia for Equality, which counts in its ranks some 500 members worldwide. NYU’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors also condemned the administration for rebuking the SCA vote, saying they “strongly support the right of individual departments and schools to determine their own affairs.”

In a statement on Thursday, President Hamilton said he found it “quite objectionable” that Thrasher chose to use his platform “to express his personal viewpoints on BDS and related matters, language he excluded from the version of the speech he had submitted before the ceremony.”

“We are sorry that the audience had to experience these inappropriate remarks,” Hamilton added. “A graduation should be a shared, inclusive event; the speaker’s words — one-sided and tendentious — indefensibly made some in the audience feel unwelcome and excluded.”

“Let me use this occasion to reaffirm the University’s position — NYU rejects academic boycotts of Israel, rejects calls to close its Tel Aviv campus, and denounces efforts to ostracize or exclude those in the University community based on their location in Israel, their Israeli origin, or their political feelings for Israel,” he continued.

This article has been updated to include a comment from President Andrew Hamilton.

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