NYU Suspends Palestinian Professor and Activist Amin Husain

As of last Thursday, January 25, Palestinian activist and adjunct professor Amin Husain has been suspended from New York University’s (NYU) faculty allegedly over statements related to Israel’s war on Gaza. A co-founder of Decolonize This Place (DTP), Husain has long advocated for Palestinian liberation individually and as part of the art-oriented activism collective.

A statement from the New York-based First Amendment defense association Parachute Project on behalf of Husain outlines that the university’s Human Resources department held two meetings with the professor on January 19 and January 22, during which he was questioned about his “speech-related activities and his affiliation with DTP.” HR allegedly brought up the collective’s social media posts regarding Gaza and implied that complaints had been made against Husain, but did not provide further context. Parachute Project noted that on January 23, Husain received letters from NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development and College of Arts and Sciences notifying him of suspension pursuant to an investigation of complaints.

NYU spokesperson John Beckman issued a since-removed online statement on January 25 indicating that the professor had been effectively suspended from teaching while the university investigates complaints. “All members of our community must adhere to the University’s discrimination and anti-harassment policies,” Beckman wrote.

That same day, an edited video shared to and reproduced by Bari Weiss’s the Free Press showed Husain, clad in a keffiyeh, saying that New York City is “a Zionist city,” encouraging student attendees to do their own independent research into Hamas’s 2017 charter among other statements. Husain also acknowledged a petition advocating for his removal from NYU’s faculty that has been in circulation since mid-October and garnered over 6,400 signatures, joking that he’s “been awarded the honor of ‘antisemitic’ multiple times” — a sarcastic reference to the Zionist assertion that it is inherently antisemitic for anyone to question or criticize of Israel’s existence, military response in Gaza, and foreign policy.

“The administrative actions appear to be a clear violation of academic freedom,” Parachute Project’s statement continued. “Even extra-mural speech is fully protected from retaliation by an employer according to the American Association of University Professors’ (AAUP) principles of academic freedom that NYU is bound by.”

Earlier this month, adjunct professor, activist, and artist Shellyne Rodriguez reported on social media that she had been terminated from Cooper Union for conveying her anti-Zionist beliefs online. Cooper Union declined to comment on “personnel matters.”

Both Rodriguez and Husain have participated in protests at various museums led by DTP, including a nine-week demonstration against the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2019 demanding that the institution cut ties with former vice-chairman Warren Kanders, whose weapons manufacturing companies have been attributed to police and military violence across the United States and internationally. DTP was born from the namesake action organized by Decolonial Cultural Front in 2016 in protest of the Brooklyn Museum’s group exhibition This Place pertaining to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Protesters drew attention to various exhibition funders’ ties and financial contributions to the Israeli military while accusing the museum of “artwashing” the issue under the guise of objectivity.

This is not the first time Husain has been singled out by the media for his activism. In 2020, he was characterized as the ringleader of DTP and subjected to an intense, right-wing media campaign to discredit and demonize him for his role in protesting the violent over-policing of the MTA subway system to crack down on fare evasion. Husain faced hate speech and threats of death and violence, and was routinely accused of terrorism.

“A new form of McCarthyism, in which accusations of anti-Semitism take the place of charges of pro-Communism, has been creeping to the fore for many years, but greatly accelerated after October 7,” stated Shay Negron, a co-founding attorney of Parachute Project. “Among the faculty and students we are representing at a variety of universities, we are seeing accusations of anti-Semitism based on uses of the phrases and terms ‘settler colonialism’, ‘genocide’ and ‘Zionist.’”

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