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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Tony Kushner’

Brandeis Caves to Pressure, Withdraws Honor to Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

In a complete collapse of rectitude, Brandeis University’s president Fred Lawrence issued a statement on Tuesday evening, April 8, announcing the withdrawal of women’s and human rights champion Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a recipient of an honorary degree from the school at this year’s commencement.

For two days Muslim students and supporters raged against the decision to honor Ali because, they claimed, she is Islampohobic.

Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia. In 1992 she escaped an impending arranged marriage to a relative, running to the Netherlands, where she learned the language and established a life. She rose to become a member of the Dutch parliament, where she worked to further the integration of non-Western immigrants into Dutch society.

In 2004, Ali made a film with her friend, Theo Van Gogh. That film, “Submission,” is about the oppression of women in conservative Islamic cultures.

After “Submission” was aired on Dutch television, an Islamic extremist murdered Van Gogh who was enraged by the portrayal of Islam.  A letter pinned to his body contained a death threat to Ali. She eventually fled Holland and Ayaan Hirsi Ali now lives in the United States.

Ali evolved from being a devout Muslim to one who questioned her faith, to ultimately and resolutely rejecting it.

“I left the world of faith, of genital cutting and forced marriage for the world of reason and emancipation. After making this voyage I know that one of these two worlds is simply better than the other. Not for its gaudy gadgetry, but for its fundamental values.” That is a quote from Ali’s book, “Infidel.”

Ali has been extremely and indeed harshly critical of the Islamic world in which she suffered, both as a child in Africa, and also as a hunted creature, in Holland, from the angry immigrants who brought with them to Europe a profound inability to accept criticism of Islam.

And now, here in America, Ali is still being hounded by those who refuse to live by the standards of the West, of tolerance, of robust confrontations, but ones not knife-edged with intimidation.

The Facebook Page denouncing Ali and the decision to honor her at Brandeis’s 2014 Commencement decried her for her “hate speech.” The Muslim Students Association claimed that honoring her “is a direct violation of Brandeis University’s own moral code as well as the rights of all Brandeis students.”

Most chillingly, while the students acknowledged Ali had experienced “terrible things in her life,” their bottom line was “we will not tolerate an attack at our faith.”

And so they issued a fatwa: the invitation to Ali had to be rescinded. The school newspaper, The Justice (yes, the irony!) ran both a “news article” and an editorial denouncing the decision to give Ali an honorary degree.

Brandeis University president Fred Lawrence echoed the students (and a large number of faculty members, including the Women’s Studies professors) in his statement:

Following a discussion today between President Frederick Lawrence and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ms. Hirsi Ali’s name has been withdrawn as an honorary degree recipient at this year’s commencement. She is a compelling public figure and advocate for women’s rights, and we respect and appreciate her work to protect and defend the rights of women and girls throughout the world. That said, we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.  For all concerned, we regret that we were not aware of these statements earlier.

Commencement is about celebrating and honoring our extraordinary students and their accomplishments, and we are committed to providing an atmosphere that allows our community’s focus to be squarely on our students. In the spirit of free expression that has defined Brandeis University throughout its history, Ms. Hirsi Ali is welcome to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues.

In other words, Ali’s decades of devotion to helping women enslaved by misogynistic practitioners of the Muslim faith – who dominate the governments of Muslim countries – was neutered by the pronunciamento by students that they “would not tolerate an attack on [their] faith.” And in still other words, on American campuses criticism of religion – which has been a fixture of campus life – is no longer permitted. What words, what thoughts will be deemed unacceptable next?

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.

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

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