NYU student awaits fate of job following anti-Israel statement on garbage

NYU student awaits fate of job following anti-Israel statement on garbage
NYU student Naye Idriss, who wrote anti-Israel statements on a mailbag that had been separated for recycling, was accused of anti-Semitism and vandalism. She is expected to learn about the fate of her university library job in the coming days.
3 min read
Washington, D.C.
14 February, 2023
A response is expected in the coming days on Naye Idriss's employment status at NYU's Bobst Library. [Getty]

A student at New York University is expected to find out the fate of her job in the coming days following a protracted ordeal after she wrote a statement critical of Israel on a mailbag meant for recycling.

Naye Idriss, a Lebanese American master's student at NYU's Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, was working at the library over the summer when she saw a postal bag from Israel in a recycling area. She wrote "F***" in front of Israel and also wrote "Free Palestine". 

Months later, it was brought to her attention that someone had taken a picture of it and reported to campus safety what she had done, leading her to face allegations of anti-Semitism and vandalism, and then what appeared to be the loss of her job at the library.

Since then, the accusation of anti-Semitism has been dropped, but that of vandalism remains, despite the item in question being slated for recycling. And Idriss's employment remains unclear, though it looks like there's a good chance her job will be secured, thanks to the support of her union.

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"You can't vandalise garbage," Dylan Saba, a staff attorney with Palestine Legal, which has been representing Idriss, told The New Arab. "Also, it's ridiculous to take the example of political expression with a message against Israel and say it has anything to do with religion."

As puzzling as this case might sound - that someone who had written on a piece of garbage would face retaliation - it is far from an isolated case of such accusations at a US university. 

Across the country, there are many cases of accusations of anti-Semitism against students and professors, often tied to Palestinian activism on campuses, which Saba notes is where Palestinian organising tends to take place. This is taking place amid a real and significant rise in anti-Semitism in the US and other parts of the world, though mainly from members of the political far right.

Given the lack of legal grounds in the accusations against Idriss, her case has seen high-profile support.

Last week, the Middle East Studies Association issued a letter to NYU president Andrew Hamilton, urging him to "publicly reiterate your firm commitment to protecting the right of NYU's students, faculty and staff to academic freedom and the free expression of their political opinions, and to respecting the contractual and legal rights of the university’s graduate student and other workers."

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The letter from MESA also brought up what they described as "unclear language taken from the flawed IHRA [International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance] definition of anti-Semitism." 

The relatively thin case against Idriss has also gotten the attention of pro-Israel blogger David Lange, who described the accusations against her, saying, "I believe this is an own goal for us."