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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘CUNY’

CUNY Claim of No Constitutional Violations at BC BDS Event Flawed

Friday, April 19th, 2013

There was much sturm und drang about “free speech rights” and “academic freedom” in the buildup to a February 7, one-sided anti-Israel event at Brooklyn College, co-sponsored by BC’s political science department, along with the student group, Students for Justice in Palestine.  The event, to promote the form of economic and political warfare against Israel known as BDS (Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel) went forward.

Suggestions that the constitutional rights of four Jewish pro-Israel Brooklyn College students were violated when they were ejected – at the hands of Brooklyn College public safety officers and at the sole direction of a 20-something non-objective outsider whom BC had vested with its authority – from the event were initially rejected and ridiculed.

That is because initial reports, including those made by BC officials, blamed the behavior of the students as the justification for their expulsion.

However, the existence of an audiotape surreptitiously made at the event, which flatly contradicted the public position of BC and some media outlets, was revealed on Feb. 12.  The next day the Chancellor of the City University of New York announced  that there would be an investigation into the Feb. 7 event, headed by Brooklyn College’s own Chancellor for Legal Affairs Frederick P. Schaffer, and two partners from the law firm Bryan Cave LLP.

A 36-page, double-spaced Report of the Investigation was released on Friday, April 12 and was posted online sometime over that weekend.

The four problem areas addressed in the Investigation are: I. The Reservation and Admissions Process (addressed in the Report in pages 3 – 15); II. The Handling of the Press (Report, pp. 16 – 20); III. The Removal of the Students (Report, pp. 20 – 35); and IV. The Q & A Session (Report, pp. 34-35).

Rejecting the claims of constitutional violations, the Investigators instead found that the event was plagued by extreme disorganization, unwarranted reliance on students as decision makers, and flawed – though extensive, and presumably expensive – preparations.

In other words, the Investigators concluded that the problems were caused by benign negligence rather than malignant intent.

But the evidence adduced, the information available, and the justification for action described in initial reports that were later revealed as not just flawed but false and obviously so, puts that conclusion in question.

Even more troubling is that despite the sophistication of the legal experts responsible for the Investigation, they seem to have issued a flawed legal conclusion on the most important issue at stake.

The standard for judging whether constitutional rights can be abrogated is not, as the Investigators claimed in their Report, based on sincerity.

The standard for judging the permissibility of restrictions on constitutional rights is whether or not, at the very least, there is a reasonable belief that, in this case, the Four were about to disrupt the BC BDS event. The Investigators stated clearly that there was no such reasonable belief at the time the Four were ejected.  Therefore, based on the evidence provided in the CUNY Report, it would appear that the constitutional rights of the four Jewish pro-Israel students were violated.

What follows are the details of the Investigation, focusing primarily on the ejection of four students during the event.

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The Investigators concluded no discrimination had taken place with respect to issues I. II and IV.

However, in addressing the third issue, that of removing the students, the Investigators concluded that while there “was no support for an inference of discrimination based on religion” (R.p. 33), they were not as confident that another form of discrimination had not taken place.

“A more plausible inference can be drawn that the removal of the four students was motivated by their political viewpoint,” the Investigators wrote. (R.p. 33) Making clear their understanding that political viewpoint discrimination was a relevant consideration, the Investigators noted that “Guzman [the decision maker] knew Goldberg [one of the Four] from a prior SJP event at which she had asked questions that challenged Palestinian positions.” (R.p. 33)

The constitutional prohibition on viewpoint discrimination means that the government (or government funded entities, such as Brooklyn College) cannot selectively silence viewpoints.  Brooklyn College, which is a state actor for purposes of this analysis, must make and enforce rules that are “viewpoint neutral.”

CUNY: No Jewish Faculty Designation

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

The City University of New York denied a report that it had created a special minority designation for Jewish faculty (see “Is CUNY Planning a Jewish Quota?”).

Rather, a university spokesman told JTA, the university simply had responded to requests by Jewish faculty members to be recruited for focus groups aimed at boosting the recruitment of minorities to serve on the CUNY faculty – part of the university’s new Demographic Action Plan.

The original report about the Demographic Action Plan appeared in the New York Post on Sunday and was picked up by JTA, among other news outlets. The Post quoted faculty members, Jews and non-Jews, objecting to the demographic designation of White/Jewish.

The article in the Post “mistakenly suggests that a new special category for Jewish faculty has been created,” university spokesman Michael Arena told JTA. “CUNY undertook a comprehensive review of its ongoing efforts to enhance its leadership role in recruiting and retaining a highly qualified and diverse faculty. Focus groups were organized with faculty volunteers serving as participants for a variety of diverse groups. The focus group of Jewish faculty came explicitly at the request of Jewish faculty. No one ever contemplated adding a religious faith to the data categories.”

The university’s new Demographic Action Plan was issued last month by CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein.

The Tony Award

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

I never really cared for Tony Kushner.


To bestow an honorary award to a notorious Israel critic, especially by academia, is nothing new. Honorary awards and Nobel Peace Prizes seem to be increasingly synonymous with, at best, meaningless efforts, and, at worst, anti-Semitism as a prerequisite for the recipient. When I read that CUNY Chairman Benno Schmidt, Jr. decided to overturn the CUNY trustees’ decision to table the honorary award decision and honor Kushner, I wondered what took so long. The usual critters jumped on the bandwagon with Amy Goodman from the liberal global news program “Democracy Now!” pouncing on the news for days – as if Goodman hasn’t seen a piece of pro-Palestinian news in years. She must have been thrown off by Israel’s Yom Ha’atzmaut celebratory atmosphere – while the Syrian military was butchering its people. Even Yeshiva University’s Dr. Ellen Schrecker was so appalled that she threatened to return her CUNY honorary award if Kushner was not granted his.


Most disturbing, however, was that Israel defender Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, who voiced his concerns to the CUNY board in light of Kushner’s ignorance of Israel’s stellar human rights record, was being asked to resign by Ed Koch and CUNY board members. If it takes a Jew to uproot a Jew, there is no lack of them in the academic world.


Wiesenfeld should be granted the very same rights that the Kushner clan had been decrying: free speech. Initially, Wiesenfeld thought the board would just shelve his objection for the record and move on. But he found out that the Board of Trustees agreed with him and held the CUNY honoree to a higher standard of moral responsibility. The board acquiesced to Wiesenfeld’s logic, and rightfully voted to rescind the honor to Kushner because of his irresponsible anti-Semitic statements made as a public figure. Then the “academic discretionary free speech without responsibility” card was drawn, and the left cried foul. The board cowered to the blood libel, and the trustees profusely apologized for their callousness and restored the honor to Kushner, the infamous critic of Israel’s “apartheid” policies vis-à-vis Hamas and terrorism.


Wiesenfeld is fending for himself, while the vile, self-proclaimed freedom-fighting academics ironically seek to quash anything they don’t stand for. To Wiesenfeld’s credit, we now know who Kushner and Koch really are.


Please show your support for Jeffrey Wiesenfeld’s principled position by e-mailing the following CUNY board members: charlie.shorter@davisbrodyaedas.com; croman@cityhall.nyc.gov; dimartino@att.net; drhmorales@msn.com; ffostertolbert@gmail.com; joe@lhota.net; judah.gribetz@bingham.com; kathleen.pesile@mail.cuny.edu; kaympesile@aol.com; peter.pantaleo@dlapiper.com; philip@philipberryassociates.com; provost.cory@gmail.com; sam.sutton@aeny.com; Sandi.Cooper@csi.cuny.edu; vlancaster@mrbeal.com; wellingtonchen@yahoo.com; wellingtonzchen@gmail.com; and wiesenfeldjs@bernstein.com. NOTE: Also, please e-mail Secretary of the Board of Trustees Jay Hershenson at Jay.Hershenson@mail.cuny.edu.

Kushner No Mere ‘Critic’ Of Israel

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011
   From the reaction of many on the liberal/left to the controversy over CUNY’s granting an honorary degree to playwright Tony Kushner, one sees yet again just how unremarkable and acceptable the most virulent views of Israel have become, even – perhaps especially – among Jews.
One can debate till the cows come home the merits or demerits of the decision to honor Kushner. The real issue is how pundits like Roger Cohen of The New York Times and Sarah Wildman of the (London) Guardian and Peter Beinart of The Daily Beast can insist on characterizing Kushner as merely critical of this or that Israeli policy when, in fact, his long paper trail paints an unmistakable portrait of a man wracked with guilt over the very creation of Israel and bitterly opposed to any and every defensive or retaliatory measure undertaken by the Israeli governement, no matter the provocation.
Contrary to what his liberal defenders in the media would have you think, Kushner’s mindset when it comes to Israel is not that of a Jew who has a preference for the Labor or Kadima approach as opposed to that of Likud (or vice versa).
No, Kushner’s is a mindset that compelled him to sign his name to a newspaper advertisement released by the Not In Our Name Project in 2002 that viciously attacked both the U.S. and Israel. Sample: “In our name, the Bush administration, with near unanimity from Congress, not only attacked Afghanistan but arrogated to itself and its allies the right to rain down military force anywhere and any time. The brutal repercussions have been felt from the Philippines to Palestine, where Israeli tanks and bulldozers have left a terrible trail of death and destruction.”
It is a mindset that inspired him to sit on the advisory board of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), an outfit that boasts of its support for divestment measures against Israel while swallowing whole hog the Palestinian “narrative” with its mission statement that “Israel must stop land seizures; destruction of homes, infrastructure, orchards and farms; arbitrary arrests and imprisonment; torture; assassinations; expulsions; curfews; travel restrictions; abuse at checkpoints; raids; collective punishment; and other violations of human rights.”
It is a mindset that led him to co-edit, along Alisa Solomon, a nauseating volume, published in 2003, called Wrestling With Zion:Progressives Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. In that book, Kushner and Solomon advanced the notion that Operation Defensive Shield – Israel’s 2002 military operation in the Palestinian territories, launched only after scores of Israelis had been killed in numerous suicide bombings and roadside shootings – was the manifestation of “Ariel Sharon’s mad, bloody dream of Greater Israel, which he and his comrades of the radical Israeli right have pursued for decades.”
   Kushner was particularly outspoken on the subject of Operation Defensive Shield, telling an interviewer in 2002, “I deplore the brutal and illegal tactics of the Israeli Defence Forces in the occupied territories. I deplore the occupation, the forced evacuations, the settlements, the refugee camps, the whole shameful history of the dreadful suffering of the Palestinian people; Jews, of all people, with our history of suffering, should refuse to treat our fellow human beings like that.”
In another interview that year he said “The existence of the state of Israel, because of the terrible way that the Palestinian people have been treated, is now in great peril and the world is in peril as a consequence of it.”
Many of Kushner’s other remarks about Israel have been floating around the Internet for years and garnered renewed scrutiny as the CUNY controversy played itself out; remarks such as “I think the founding of the state of Israel was for the Jewish people a historical, moral, political calamity . I wish modern Israel hadn’t been born”; “I can unambivalently say that I think that it’s a terrible historical problem that modern Israel came into existence”; “[Israel was] founded in a program that, if you really want to be blunt about it, was ethnic cleansing “

If Kushner is simply a well-meaning, unjustly attacked critic of Israel, the same desription may as well be applied to spokesmen for Hamas or Hizbullah, because there’s precious little daylight between his statements and theirs.

 

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com.

Is Islam Itself The Problem?

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Supporters of the planned mosque and Islamic center near Manhattan’s Ground Zero have focused on the issue of religious freedom. But as thousands of mosques have already been built throughout America, this is false – a straw man if ever there was one.

The location of the proposed center is a sensitive matter because of the 9/11 attack by Muslim terrorists. While no one is accusing all Muslims of being guilty for that crime, the project become a rallying cry of pain, a howl of grief every Muslim should hear. It is also an alarm.

Opposition to this project echoes 3,000 silent screams. That outrage needs to focus not only on the memory of lost loved ones, but on why so many Muslims are terrorists or support terrorism. Americans (and others) need to ask some hard questions and it is not “Islamophobic” to raise them.

Is Islam a “religion of peace,” as President Obama and others say? Yes, but it is also a religion of war.

According to experts, suicide bombing (“martyrdom”) and Jihad (“holy war”) are not radical ideas in Islam; they are intrinsic parts of the belief system.

Conventional wisdom says there are radical Muslims and moderate Muslims and that we must distinguish between the two groups and encourage those who don’t want to destroy non-Muslims and their cultures.

No doubt most Muslims don’t want to fly airplanes into buildings or blow up supermarkets and buses. But what do Islamic leaders say, and who is the authority? The problem seems to be that Islam contains both radical and moderate traditions, and both are authentic. Both fanatic jihadists and soft-spoken moderates consider themselves good Muslims, and Muslim religious leaders are at odds.

The leader of the proposed mosque/Islamic center in downtown Manhattan claims he is tolerant, and has suggested that the project may even include space for other religions, as if Christians and Jews would want to pray there. But this seems to be just another PR trick, since it violates strict separation mandated in the Koran and also denies Muslim superiority. It is impossible, therefore, to know what kind of Islam will be taught there, or for how long.

Controversy over the building must move to a critical examination of Islam’s theology, beliefs and practices.

Why are Islamic leaders silent about the suppression of women, about the condoning of slavery, about the murder of homosexuals, and about suicide bombings throughout the world? Where were they when violent Muslim riots engulfed Europe because of a cartoon?

Perhaps a few brave Muslims protested such barbarity, but whom do they represent and what is their authority? The fundamental problem in Islam is its duality; it holds contradictory positions, both of which are valid. Against Jews and Israel, however, there are few, if any differences.

Muslim leaders refuse to condemn the murder of Jews by Muslims – anywhere. Four Israelis (and one unborn child) were slaughtered on the road in Israel two weeks ago and no Muslim leader – not even moderates – protested. Even the secular PA did not condemn the attack as murder. It was against “Palestinian interests,” said PA spokesmen – i.e., only the timing was wrong.

Islam preaches war against “infidels” and violence against those who don’t follow the rules of Islam. That’s not very peaceful. And Muslim leaders around the world encourage anti-Americanism – as well as hostility to Christians and Jews. Not so tolerant.

Despite extensive business dealings between Muslims and non-Muslims, many Muslim religious leaders foment a culture of hatred and violence. The problem is that they quote scripture and verse. And they are supported by a legal system.

Islamic law mandates violent jihad as a religious obligation and extreme punishments for those who insult Islam or violate its precepts. Moreover, since there is no central authority in Islam and there are conflicting factions, it is difficult to determine who makes these laws and how they should be applied.

Where does Islam stand on terrorism, for example? Well, it depends on your definition – if you have one. As they say: “One man’s terrorist ”

Americans need to know what Islam is. The failure to answer these fundamental questions lies behind the distrust of Muslims and opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque as well as other Muslim centers around the country.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/is-islam-itself-the-problem/2010/09/21/

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