June 18, 2019

NYU President ‘Shocked’ At Grad Speaker’s Anti-Semitic Tweets

Photo from Flickr/Lars Kiesow.

New York University (NYU) President Andrew Hamilton told the Journal that he was “shocked at NYU Doctoral Graduate and soon-to-be Northwestern University Professor Steven Thrasher’s recently unearthed anti-Semitic tweets and that Thrasher shouldn’t have spoken at the May 20 Graduate School of Art and Sciences (GSAS) convocation ceremony.

Thrasher endorsed the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement and called Israel “an apartheid state” during his speech at the ceremony. Aussie Dave of the Israellycool blog unearthed a series of anti-Semitic tweets from Thrasher, including a May 2018 tweet that states, “As the Nazis did on Jews, Africans & the disabled… as the enslavers did to Africans… and as U.S. police departments have on Black urban neighborhoods, US backed Israel is testing the limits of what it can get away with in controlling humans in Gaza. Will the world care?”

Aussie Dave also highlighted a Thrasher tweet from September 2016 that stating that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is not a happy camper. Is ‘camper’ ever a good word to use for Israeli Jews?” as well as a June 2018 tweet that reads, “Peak white cultural New York liberalism is when a musical from Israel wins a Tony [award] & no one mentions the genocide of Israel-occupied Palestine & a play nominally about AIDS wins & no one mentions the ongoing genocide of HIV/AIDS.”

Additional Thrasher tweets include him accusing Israel in May 2018 of testing “weapons of war on colonial subjects” and asking in August 2015, “What is this obsession with Iran and ISIS (who non [sic] one) but scant mention of white supremacy & police killing endless Americans?”

NYU President Andrew Hamilton said in a statement to the Journal, “We were shocked when we were made aware of these undoubtedly vile and anti-Semitic tweets. Steven Thrasher should never have been a speaker for the doctoral convocation.”

GSAS Dean Phillip Harper told the Journal in an email that he hadn’t seen the aforementioned tweets until the Journal brought them to his attention. He called the tweets “breathtakingly wrongheaded. Had we known of these posts earlier, Steven Thrasher would not have been a speaker at our Convocation ceremony.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper said in a statement to the Journal, “How convenient for Dr. Thrasher to tie his vicious anti-Semitism into a neat package by connecting the non-existent dots of so-called intersectionality. This NYU graduate glibly libels our people by comparing Jews to genocidal Nazis and immoral slave traders. In Gaza, instead of denouncing terrorist Hamas for using Palestinian civilians as human shields and cannon fodder at Israel’s international border, Thrasher attacks [the] Jewish [state] for defending herself from violent assaults. In a final flight of fancy, he compares Israel to US police departments operating in Black neighborhoods. Next stop for Thrasher’s fact-free alternative reality: Northwestern University.”

Adela Cojab, who graduated from NYU earlier in the week and spearheaded a legal complaint against the university for giving SJP an award in April, told the Journal in a Facebook message, “SJP shouldn’t have gotten a President’s Service Award after promoting physical aggression and continuous harassment against their peers, and Thrasher should not have been chosen for the GSAS convocation, given his misuse of a public platform and his now-news-worthy twitter history. The administration cannot continue to [issue] reflective statements after public outrage. Gross oversight is not remedied by counterfactual concession.”

Judea Pearl, chancellor professor of computer sciences at UCLA, National Academy of Sciences member, Daniel Pearl Foundation president and NYU alumnus renounced his 2013 Distinguished Alumnus Award in April, said in a statement to the Journal, “Psychologists have written volumes on mental, social and environmental pressures that may drive seemingly educated folks toward racist ideologies such as Nazism, KKK [Ku Klux Klan] or ISIS. Thrasher demonstrates that, when soil conditions are right, poisonous weeds can grow in our best universities, on our own very watch. I dread the thought that a racist deformity of such toxicity will be given a podium and clone students at Northwestern University. The public trusts us, educators, with the soil conditions; are we worthy of the trust?”

StandWithUs CEO and co-founder Roz Rothstein similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “NYU should have fully vetted this speaker, who has a clear record of spreading hate on social media. We urge them to change their procedures to ensure such extremism is not rewarded again in the future.”

Thrasher and Northwestern University did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment.