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May 31, 2016 / 23 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘CUNY’

Radical Community Groups Condemn NYC Pols’ Trip to Israel

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

A coalition of radical left “community groups” held a protest and press conference outside New York’s City Hall on Monday, Jan. 13. The groups were denouncing a scheduled February trip to Israel by 15 members of New York’s City Council. They want the trip cancelled.

Several dozen people showed up to hear speakers denounce Israel for its “counter-terrorism operations that seek to suppress and control Palestinians,” and for its contribution “to the militarization of police in NYC and around the country.”

The trip is being sponsored by New York’ City’s Jewish Community Relations Council and the United Jewish Appeal.

The protesters included many of the standard groups whose lifeblood is demonizing Israel. They included CODEPINK, Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace and Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.

The speakers hammered away at a favorite theme they have been playing over the past few months, linking “disregard for justice,” and racism allegedly found both in American police forces and in Israeli security institutions. Of course the standard canard of Gaza as an “open air prison” and the security barrier as a tool of apartheid were repeatedly raised.

One speaker who calls herself a “human and animal rights social justice attorney,” Bina Ahmad, works at the Staten Island Legal Aid Office which played a role in the legal challenge over Eric Garner’s death at the hands of a New York City police officer.

Ahmad demanded to know whether the politicians were going to tour the separation barrier or the devastation in Gaza. She reportedly analogized Israel’s “occupation of Palestine” to the New York Police Department’s “presence in communities of color.”

“Do not neglect your official responsibilities to our diverse city by touring an apartheid state,” the coalition members had written in a letter to the council members scheduled to be on the trip.

The critics also blasted the sponsor, NYC’s JCRC, which “has helped undermine the basic civil rights and liberties of our city’s Muslim residents.”

City Council members who will be part of the delegation to Israel include Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Mark Treyger, Brad Lander, Antonio Reynoso, David Greenfield, Rafael Espinal, Darlene Mealy, Mark Levine, Helen Rosenthal, Corey Johnson, Ritchie Torres, Andrew Cohen, Donovan Richards, Eric Ulrich, and James Van Bramer.

Egregious misrepresentations of reality were stated as fact by various speakers, including public aid attorneys and academics.

Conor Tomas Reed is an educator and graduate student at the City University of New York. He blathered on about Israel’s “segregated workforce” and “wage discrimination along ethnoreligious lines,” and insisted that those participating in the city council junket were taking an “anti-labor” stand.

David Galarza, a Puerto Rican activist chanted “Puerto Rico, Palestine, Occupation is a crime!” He also compared the 1963 firebombing of a black church in Birmingham, Alabama in which four little black girls died, with the death of four brothers on a Gaza Beach during this past summer’s Operation Protective Edge.

Photographs of the two bombing incidents were held up as Galarza called out the eight names of the dead children. Problem is, it is still not known how exactly the four Bakr boys died on that Gaza Beach this summer, and what they were doing there, near a munitions cache, during a war.

Here is a portion of the letter sent to the council members in protest of the trip to Israel:

As New Yorkers, we recognize that the struggle for social and racial justice in our own city is deeply connected to that of the Palestinian people. Israel’s callous disregard for international human rights norms and the impunity enjoyed by Israeli police and occupation forces cannot be viewed apart from the near-total lack of accountability mirrored by the NYPD and other police forces as they target communities of color in the United States.

In recent weeks, many of us joined demonstrations to protest the killings of countless Black people by police forces across the country. Members of City Council also protested these killings. However, these gestures are wholly incompatible with participating in a private tour funded by special interests hoping to legitimize Israel’s laws discriminating against its Palestinians citizens and the violence it inflicts upon Palestinians under military occupation. To demonstrate in support of racial justice while participating in a tour of apartheid is a fundamental contradiction.

International law requires Israel to protect the civilian population in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, yet it has repeatedly failed to do so. The world has witnessed Israel’s increasingly horrendous war crimes, from the fatal shootings of protesters in the West Bank5 to the horrific slaughter in Gaza. Strengthening cultural, business, and educational ties to a state engaged in these ongoing transgressions is not a proper goal for our city.

At a time of public outrage over police brutality, participation in a delegation ignoring Israeli policies that inspired and reinforced unjust tactics of the NYPD can only aggravate New Yorkers’ concerns. Any trip in support of Israel conflicts with a concern over domestic police abuses.

And here is a sample of the signatories to the letter:

Jewish Voice for Peace – New York; Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel; CUNY for Palestine; Students for Justice in Palestine Chapters: Hunter, Pace, NYU, Columbia, CUNY School of Law; Women in Black Union Square; Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism; Librarians and Archivists with Palestine; Center for Constitutional Rights; International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network – New York; New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA); Al-Awda NY; The Palestine Right to Return Coalition New York City; Labor Against the War; Malcolm X Grassroots Movement; US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation; Trinity Lutheran Church (Brooklyn); American Muslims for Palestine; National Lawyers Guild, NYC Chapter; West-Park Presbyterian Church; Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER); Coalition International Socialist Organization (ISO); Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV)/Organizing Asian Communities; Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC); Park Slope Food Coop Members for BDS; Irish Queers

The nine day trip is scheduled to start on Feb. 15.

 

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

CUNY BDS Vote Shelved After Heated Debate – #BDSFail

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

(JNS.org) A last minute resolution to divest from Israel by a student group at the City University of New York (CUNY) was shelved on Friday night following a strong showing by pro-Israel supporters despite the start of the Jewish Sabbath.

The Doctoral Students’ Council (DSC) of CUNY, which represents over 4,700 members of the graduate school from across the CUNY system, first announced the last minute divestment vote earlier in the week to take place on Friday, September 12th at 6 p.m.

Many pro-Israel students raised concerns over the vote’s start time, coming just before the Jewish Sabbath, as well as the fact that no materials where handed out ahead of time to help students prepare. According to Dominique Nisperos, the DSC’s co-chair for communications, that was done out of “environmental concerns,” the Washington Free Beacon reported.

After a lengthy heated debate on Friday evening, that included additional time for both sides to present the arguments, a motion was eventually passed to table the resolution for a future date.

Despite the vote’s difficult timing for observant Jews, a number of pro-Israel groups also turned out to support CUNY students and faculty who opposed the resolution.

“It is a routine tactic of the BDS movement to hold votes on or around Jewish holidays in order to shut out pro-Israel voices,” Jacob Baime, Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition – who attended the Friday evening vote – told JNS.org. “When the facts are known, BDS fails.”

The proposed resolution, which is titled “The Endorsement of Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions”, called on the CUNY system to endorse a “boycott of Israeli academic institutions and the divestment from Israeli companies” as well as ending academic partnerships with Israeli institutions such as the one between Baruch College and Israel’s College of Management and Academic Studies.

The resolution also expresses support for “Palestinian students and academics in their struggle against the Zionist policies of the Israeli state and its restrictions.”

Baime added that he is proud of the CUNY students and faculty for their strong showing despite having little time to prepare.

“I am proud of the CUNY students and faculty who defeated this anti-peace resolution,” he said. “The campus community can make a meaningful contribution to peace, and BDS does not do that. It is divisive and tears the campus apart.”

JNS News Service

Anti-Israel Group at CUNY Plots Secret Sabbath BDS Campaign

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Anti-Israel activists at the City University of New York have plotted to hold a vote this Friday night – when observant Jews cannot attend, due to Sabbath observance – on a student government divestment resolution to boycott Israel.

If passed, the resolution would activate a boycott of Israeli universities and companies.

The CUNY Doctoral Students’ Council (DSC) was accused by pro-Israel student activists and others of deliberately scheduling the vote for a day and time that maximized the chances opponents would not be available to protest the measure.

News of the upcoming divestment resolution vote was quietly circulated among supporters only, according to sources aware of the situation, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

An internal DSC email was leaked which informed its members that no hard copies of materials about the resolution would be handed out at the meeting, “in the interest of being environmentally friendly.”

“It is a routine tactic of [the pro-BDS group Students for Justice in Palestine, which is behind the resolution] to hold votes on or near Jewish holidays so that Jewish voices can’t be heard,” said Jacob Baime, executive director of the Israel on Campus Coalition. “When people learn the facts BDS loses. Essentially SJP is afraid of the facts and doesn’t want to engage in debate which is why they planned this vote in secret on a Jewish holiday,” Baime said. “Even if this passes, CUNY will maintain its robust partnerships with Israeli institutions. Passing this resolution would have one effect: Dividing the campus.”

Asked to address the timing of the vote, CUNY director of media relations, Tanya Domi, told the Washington Free Beacon, “the Doctoral Student Council routinely meets and votes on Friday afternoons commencing at 6 pm.”

This is not the first time that DSC has attempted to wage an economic and cultural war against Israel. The group tried to pass a similar resolution in May as part of the worldwide Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Hana Levi Julian

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.

*************

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.”

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

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.

JTA

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.

Yossi Cukier

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.

Jason Maoz

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/kushner-no-mere-critic-of-israel/2011/05/18/

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