In September of 2020, a video circulated online of a CUNY student threatening to set another individual’s IDF sweatshirt on fire – while he was wearing it. The CUNY student making the threat, while moving the flame from a lighter close to the sweatshirt, was Nerdeen Kiswani. For this reason and others, one Jewish group named her its 2020 “Antisemite of the Year.”
"I hate your shirt, Ima setting it on fire. I'm serious" she can be heard saying.
We demand this is immediately looked into and the Ms. Kiswani face disciplinary actions! pic.twitter.com/TL1J4JrI63
— StopAntisemitism (@StopAntisemites) September 22, 2020
Then in March of this year, Kiswani led protesters in chants calling to “Globalize the Intifada,” in front of the New York office of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces. Despite her incitement to kill Jews wherever they may be found, Kiswani was chosen by her peers to speak at CUNY Law school’s commencement address two months later. She used this opportunity to promote the antisemitic BDS movement.
Yet, somehow, the Wall Street Journal’s Douglas Belkin decided that Kiswani was an appropriate spokesperson about college antisemitism. (“Antisemitism Is Rising at Colleges, and Jewish Students Are Facing Growing Hostility,” December 14, 2022.)
Nerdeen Kiswani, who graduated from the City University of New York Law School this year and has been advocating for Palestinians since she was an undergraduate at several CUNY schools, said antisemitism is harmful not only to Jews but to the Palestinian cause because it detracts from grievances about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
“There’s nothing that undermines the Palestinians’ struggle more than antisemitism,” she said.
In many respects, Belkin’s article was extremely informative. Casting Kiswani as an opponent of antisemitism, however, is simply perverse. There’s no indication that Belkin asked her about any of her alleged actions – including threatening to set another person on fire. Nor are any of those actions mentioned in his article.
Moreover, the article appears to adopt the position of Palestine Legal on antisemitism. Belkin writes,
Anti-Zionism is a political position distinct from antisemitism, which is a prejudice, said Dylan Saba, an attorney with New York-based Palestine Legal, which works to support the civil and constitutional rights of people in the U.S. who advocate for Palestinians. The two are conflated by supporters of Israel to discredit critics, he said.
Condemning Israel may make some Jewish students feel uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean it is antisemitic, he said. “All we are asking for is equal rights,” he said.
Belkin does attribute the claim to Dylan Saba, and he does provide the US State Department definition as well. But the manner in which the passage is written – with the definition first and the attribution afterwards – sounds as if the Journal is endorsing this “expert” definition.
And of course, Saba’s claim that, “all we are asking for is equal rights,” is disingenuous. Belkin fails to point out that Palestinians have rejected one opportunity for independence after another.
Of course, it’s unimaginable that in, for example, an article about racism, any reporter would seek the opinion of the John Birch Society. Antisemitism is the only form of bigotry that requires reporting of both sides.
Last week’s article comes on the heels of another Wall Street Journal article that downplayed Palestinian rejectionism, and that included a headline that inverted cause and effect, making it sound like the collapse of the Israeli left is the reason for the collapse of the possibility of the two-state solution, rather than the reverse. (“As Israel’s Left Suffers Defeat, So Does Two-State Solution,” December 6, by Dov Lieber.) Is this going to become a pattern at the Journal?