Israel Labeled 'Apartheid State' at New York University Graduation Ceremony

NYU alumnus commends classmates for supporting BDS movement, as 'this is what we are called to do'

NYU buildings in New York.
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NEW YORK — A host at a New York University graduation ceremony praised the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement during his speech this week, calling Israel "an apartheid state."

Steven William Thrasher, a NYU alumnus, spoke at the commencement of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, stating he is “so proud of NYU’s chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and of Jewish Voice for Peace ... for supporting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement against the apartheid state in Israel because this is what we are called to do.

“This is our NYU legacy: That we are connected in radical love, and we have a duty and a privilege in this position to protect not the most popular amongst us, but the most vulnerable amongst us on every campus where we serve in every community where we live, in every place that we work, this is our duty,” Thrasher continued.

The Department of Social and Cultural Analysis earlier this month voted to boycott the NYU satellite campus in Tel Aviv over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and its policies toward Palestinian universities.

The NYU student government has considered resolutions to boycott and divest from Israel and, last month, the Students for Justice in Palestine received a President’s Service Award during a ceremony that the president himself skipped.

"I found it quite objectionable that the student speaker chose to make use of the Graduate School of Arts and Science doctoral graduation to express his personal viewpoints on BDS and related matters,” NYU President Andrew Hamilton said in a statement, adding that Thrasher had excluded the comments 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 said. “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,” he concluded.

JTA contributed to this report