Rep. Lee Zeldin Demands Firing Professor Accused of Antisemitism, Promoting Violence Against Israel

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 20: Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) speaks at a press conference on the current conflict between Israel and the Palestinians on May 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. The Republicans voiced their support for Israel and urged the Biden Administration to intervene. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who is campaigning to be governor of New York, called for the firing of Mohammad Abbasi, an adjunct professor at the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Professional Studies, following a recent “vile antisemitic” sermon delivered by him in which he accused Jews of irredeemable corruption and advocated for the destruction of the Jewish state.

Zeldin, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and co-chair of the House Republican Israel Caucus, as well as the presumptive Republican nominee to challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo for New York governor, demanded the professor’s dismissal in a press release issued Wednesday.

The sermon, which came to light in recent days, took place at New Jersey’s Islamic Center of Union City this month and included antisemitic remarks, in particular, that Jews are mentioned frequently in the Quran due to their widespread corruption.

“The Jewish population in the Arabian Peninsula was a handful of people, and yet you see so much of the Quran about the Israelites,” he said.

“So Allah said to the Israelites: ‘You will certainly cause corruption in the land. You are going to create mischief, tumult, corruption, in the earth,’” he continued, adding that such was not his personal view but “what God says.”

“[And this is] exactly what happened [regarding today’s Jewish population],” he clarified.

The sermon concluded with a call for Israel’s demise. 

“I want to give you the good news now…. With the help of Allah they [the Muslims] will erase this filth called Israel,” Abbasi stated.

In response, Zeldin declared in a Wednesday tweet, “This antisemitism is the vile filth that needs to be erased.”

“CUNY should fire Abbasi immediately. He shouldn’t be teaching in ANY US classroom!” he added.

In addition to those remarks, Zeldin put out a statement reiterating the need to dismiss Abbasi while calling for “thorough measures” to “purge” antisemitism from CUNY’s faculty. 

The statement reads in full:

At a time when antisemitic violence is on the rise throughout the United States, no one, especially someone charged with educating young adults, should be further fanning the flames of antisemitism like this and endorsing violence against Israel. 

As we saw last month, the CUNY faculty has an antisemitism problem, and this is just another example. Mohammad Abbasi and his hateful anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rhetoric have absolutely no place in any American classroom, and we cannot afford to have him brainwashing any students with his antisemitism. He must be fired immediately, and CUNY needs to take thorough measures to purge antisemitism from the ranks of its faculty.

According to Abbasi’s social media accounts, he currently serves as a CUNY faculty member, while in the past, he served on Rutgers University’s faculty.

Last month, Zeldin, with the help of a whistleblower, exposed the City University of New York Professional Staff Congress’s (PSC-CUNY) adoption of a resolution supporting the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. 

Zeldin also highlighted that, under a 2016 Executive Order, New York State is prohibited from conducting business with institutions or companies that promote BDS.

The matter comes as a surge in antisemitic acts and rhetoric, including many on campuses nationwide, has been seen over the last few months amid and following Israel’s conflict with Hamas, with disinformation spreading on social media seen as a major cause.

In May, following protests from the radical anti-Israel Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) group, the chancellor and provost of Rutgers University issued an apology for a previous condemnation of antisemitism, promising to be “more sensitive and balanced” in the future.

That same month, documentary filmmaker Ami Horowitz approached college students in Portland, Oregon, and managed to garner funds to support the Hamas terror organization despite openly presenting the group as determined to destroy Israel and kill Jews.

More than 70 Harvard faculty members decried the U.S. and Israel’s “criminalization” of the Palestinians’ “right to resist” and called on the Biden administration to end support for “Israel’s apartheid regime, condemn Israeli state aggression, and affirm our support for the Palestinian liberation struggle,” in a letter published in May.

During an appearance on Fox News Channel’s Hannity, conservative radio host and author Mark Levin blasted President Joe Biden for the proliferation of antisemitism that he alleged was coming from the left and elected Democrats.

Amid the spike in attacks, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. David Kustoff (R-TN) introduced a bill that aims to target antisemitic hate crimes.

Last Sunday, during Fox & Friends, Zeldin addressed the massive increase in antisemitic violence in New York City.

He also called on leaders, particularly the Democrats in Congress, to “do more to speak out against” antisemitism because it is being “empowered, elevated and embraced.”

He attributed the surge in antisemitism to “many reasons,” including New York’s cashless bail law and the defund the police movement.

“Now, you have criminals emboldened where the handcuffs are on law enforcement, instead of being on the criminals,” he said.

Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.

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