College of Staten Island and Programs in Biochemistry and Chemistry at the CUNY Graduate Center
City University of New York was once a bastion for free and safe public higher education. Among its stakeholders, Jewish New Yorkers flocked to the lecture halls of City College, Brooklyn College, Hunter College, and Queens College and received excellent preparation for careers in law, education, engineering, business, the humanities and the sciences. I myself have been fortunate to be a faculty member at the College of Staten Island and the CUNY Graduate School for nearly 50 years. My wife received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Queens College. We and our fellow Jews belong at CUNY and demand that all communities and stakeholders in the University are welcomed and treated fairly. Today we feel less than welcome at CUNY.
Activist faculty, staff, and students have made it clear that any support for Israel is to be condemned and the supporters are to be marginalized and denounced. In a petition titled “CUNY Community Statement of Solidarity with the Palestinian People,” a cohort of faculty and students lashes out at Israel for defending itself. In the Statement of Solidarity is a call to “initiate campaigns of solidarity with Palestinian calls for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli apartheid, at CUNY and in our wider communities. (The goal of the BDS is to eliminate the Jewish character of Israel). The Statement “condemns the brutal bombing of Gaza, one of the world’s most densely populated areas, by Israeli forces” and the “forced removal of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah – part of the broader colonial project of dispossession and expulsion” … Condemns the “ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem,” and opposes the raiding of the al-Aqsa Mosque, and the de facto annexation of East Jerusalem, which is falsely described as illegally occupied territory. This vitriolic attack on Israel (the entire Statement can be found at www.jadaliyya.com/Details/42809) is replete with lies and inaccuracies and provides zero historic context for the present Israeli-Palestinian situation. By singling out Israel, the Jewish Homeland, and by failing to condemn human rights violations that are prevalent in Asia, South America, and most pertinently the Arab countries of the Middle East and Palestinian-controlled areas, the Statement of Solidarity is patently antisemitic.
As offensive as is the Statement of Solidarity, even more egregious to me and many CUNY faculty colleagues is a Resolution passed by the Delegate Assembly of the faculty/staff union that supports the BDS movement and argues for its adoption throughout CUNY. This Resolution, with the seemingly innocuous title “Resolution in Support of the Palestinian People,” was adopted by the Delegate Assembly without any thoughtful discussion. The resolution does not mention Hamas and ignores its role in precipitating the latest conflict, and in firing 4,500 rockets with the express purpose of killing Jewish Israeli civilians. The resolution in support of the Palestinian people is rife with factual errors such as “PSC-CUNY condemns the massacre of Palestinians by the Israeli state” (there was no massacre, only an armed conflict where Palestinians were used as human shields by Hamas), and “Whereas, Israel’s pattern and practice of dispossession and expansion of settlements, dating back to its establishment as a settler colonial state in 1948, has been found to be illegal under international law.” In fact, Israel was founded based on international law that established it as a homeland and place of refuge for Jewish refugees who resulted from pogroms and the Holocaust, and included hundreds of thousands of refugees expelled by Arab countries. It uses woke language but, in its vitriolic attack on Israel, and on Israel alone, it incites the antisemitism that is now spreading in the streets and on the campuses of America.
In response to these clear violations of civility by the anti-Israel camp and an increasing number of examples of the harassment and bullying of Jewish students at our colleges, CUNY faculty members are fighting back. A Statement entitled “CUNY Community Statement Encouraging Mutual Respect and Engagement Towards a Just Middle East Peace and a CUNY Free of Harassment was formulated by a group of faculty members, in consultation with students (cunystatement.com). It reads as follows:
“A great university must champion diversity and cultivate a tradition of civil discourse and engagement on complex issues and conflicts.
“Watching the latest needless suffering of Palestinians and Israelis, we suffer with them. A just and lasting peace can only emerge by building trust through mutual respect and by recognizing the aspirations of two peoples, both with legitimate claims for a sovereign homeland.
“We recognize the aspirations of the Palestinian people, and we support Israel’s right to exist in peace and to protect its citizens. Denying Israel the right to defend itself from thousands of rockets launched by Hamas is to deny its right to exist. The one-sided “CUNY Community Statement of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” seeks to shut down discussion by condemning Israel for defending itself.
“The inflammatory language of this statement creates a hostile environment at CUNY, particularly for Jewish students, many of whom have been threatened and harassed by activists who seek to delegitimize Israel. It is CUNY’s responsibility to ensure the security and safety for all students.
“We therefore reject calls for an academic or cultural boycott of Israel and urge the CUNY community to engage in informed, respectful, and civil conversation on conflicts at home, in the Middle East, and around the world. The university must make the safety of students a priority so that verbal threats do not lead to physical violence when students return to campus this fall.”
By Dr. Fred Naider,