This is a good victory over the Zionist right and one Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld who is a naked racist on CUNY's board. Let's hope CUNY gets rid of the KKK element that it is incubating.
Now there would have been a very good argument for barring Ed Koch, a former New York Mayor, anti-Arab racist and someone who counts as a friend John Hagee President of the Southern Baptists and a man who has described Hitler as god's messenger.
I was in the middle of writing this article about another example of Zionist McCarthyism in the USA when I came across a Haaretz article
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright’s Israel views presumably behind rare move.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011, Doug Chandler
In what is believed to be a rare move, the City University of New York has turned down a request by one of its colleges to honor Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner at its commencement ceremony this spring, The Jewish Week has learned.
The action was taken presumably because of the author's critical comments concerning the State of Israel.
The move took place at a meeting of CUNY's board of trustees Monday night after one of its members, Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, raised objections to plans to honor Kushner by John Jay College, one of the system's schools.
The outcome may have been the first time in CUNY's history that its board of trustees vetoed an honorary-degree candidate proposed by one of its schools, according to a source with knowledge of the university.
Each college within CUNY chooses its own honorary-degree candidates and sends those names to the CUNY board, which then normally approves the entire list of candidates, from all the system's schools, as a package.
This year, that list included former Mayor Edward Koch and Bernard Spitzer, the father of former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, both of whom will receive Doctor of Humane Letters degrees from the City College of New York; Joel Klein, the city's former schools chancellor, who will receive the same honorary degree from CUNY; and Judith S. Kaye, the state's former chief judge and John Jay College's other honorary-degree candidate.
But Wiesenfeld, a board member of several Jewish organizations and an activist in conservative circles, spoke out against plans to honor Kushner, who, like others receiving honorary degrees, may have spoken at the graduation ceremony.
Wiesenfeld cited what he believed were some of Kushner's anti-Israel statements, all of which he said he found on the website of Norman Finkelstein, another figure known for his vehemently anti-Israel views.
When people identify themselves with "these types of viewpoints," Wiesenfeld told his fellow trustees, "it's up to all of us to look at fairness and consider these things," especially when Israel sits in such a hostile neighborhood. "There's a lot of disingenuousness and non-intellectual activity directed against the State of Israel on campuses across the country," he said, adding that CUNY has had its share of such activity, although it's far better than most universities.
Following Wiesenfeld's comments, a majority of CUNY board members voted to remove Kushner's name from the list of this year's honorees, and then voted unanimously to table, or put off, the honor to the playwright, according to CUNY spokesman Michael Arena. The move, though, effectively kills the honor, because the next scheduled board meeting is at the end of June, after John Jay's June 3 commencement ceremony.
Kushner, who won the Pulitzer for his epic play about AIDS, "Angels in America," has written that Israel was "founded in a program that, if you really want to be blunt about it, was ethnic cleansing." He has also said that "it would have been better" had the State of Israel never been created and that Israel is involved in the "deliberate destruction" of Palestinian culture and identity."
He has also been active with organizations, including Jewish Voice for Peace, that have endorsed the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions campaign against Israel.
Kushner told The Jewish Week Wednesday, "There's never been a moment in my entire life when I haven't expressed complete and full support of the State of Israel."
In a 2007 interview with The Jewish Independent, a Canadian newspaper serving British Columbia, he is quoted as saying, "I want the State of Israel to continue to exist. I have always said that. I've never said anything else. My positions have been lied about and misrepresented in so many ways. People claim that I'm for a one-state solution, which is not true." In the same interview he said, "In terms of the Palestinian situation, as I've always said, I'm in favor of a two-state solution."
Kushner also attacked Wiesenfeld as a right-wing extremist.
Brandeis University granted Kushner an honorary degree in 2006, over opposition from the Jewish right.
Contacted by The Jewish Week Tuesday night, Wiesenfeld said the board's action demonstrates that those who don't necessarily "go with the flow" can make a difference. "Boycotters can also be boycotted."
Earlier this year, Wiesenfeld and Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind tried to force Brooklyn College to fire an adjunct professor they believed held strongly anti-Israel views. The university initially fired the professor, Kristopher Peterson-Overton, but soon rehired him, saying it believed the criticism by Wiesenfeld and Hikind was politically motivated.
CUNY trustees dishonor academic freedom in Tony Kushner snub
Fresh off a failed attempt to fire a Brooklyn college professor for not properly toeing the line on Israel, CUNY Board of Trustees member Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld chose a much higher-profile target: Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner. Wiesenfeld, who is a repeat abuser of his power as a CUNY Trustee, succeeded in getting CUNY to table Kushner’s honorary degree for what is believed to be the first time ever. Kushner’s crimes? Criticizing Israel, and serving on the Advisory Board of Jewish Voice for Peace.
Here’s Kushner’s searing rebuke:
Letter to CUNY Trustees 05-04-11
[Ed. note: Jewish Voice for Peace engages in campaigns that promote boycott and divestment from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation, not Israel as a whole.)
Wiesenfield cited the “disingenuousness and non-intellectual activity” on US campuses as a reason for barring Kushner, though barring a figure of Kushner’s brilliance seems like a funny way to combat that problem. Unless of course your real goal is ideological control.
Here’s a comparison of the views of Tony Kushner with those of former New York City mayor Ed Koch, who unlike Kushner, received unanimous support for getting an honorary degree from CUNY this year :
- Tony Kushner wrote a play called Homebody/Kabul which details the “cruel and beautiful history of Afganistan.”
- Ed Koch declared “Afghanistan, it’s a not a country” and called for its bombing by drones.
- Kushner wrote the script for the movie “Munich” which tried to depict the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “something tragic and human, recognizable.” He also called for an open debate on Israel even among families saying “arguing is good for the digestion.”
- * Koch wrote that Obama was “throwing Israel under the bus” for his since-abandoned attempt to stop the construction of new Israeli settlements and tried to silence debate by comparing Obama to the Allies who negotiated with Hitler: “There is a foul whiff of Munich and appeasement in the air.”
- Kushner warns about the dangers of religious fundamentalism in plays like “Angels in America.”
- Koch talks about being proud that he “aroused the Christian, pro-Israel community.” which includes many fundamentalists like John Hagee, who Koch has defended.
Who would you rather honor?
Following backlash, executive committee of CUNY board will nix earlier decision and grant honorary degree to playwright Tony Kushner, the New York Times reports.By Haaretz Service 7th May 2011
On Friday, the board of trustees of the City University of New York moved to reverse its earlier decision to not grant an honorary degree to playwright Tony Kushner over his views on Israel, the New York Times reported.
The New York Time report quoted CUNY board chairman Benno C. Schmidt Jr. as saying that he believed that the board had "made a mistake of principle, and not merely of policy" in the decision to withhold the degree.
According to the report, a meeting of the board's executive committee, which has the power to change board decisions, has been scheduled for Monday.
“Freedom of thought and expression is the bedrock of any university worthy of the name,” Schmidt was quoted as saying. “But it is not right for the board to consider politics in connection with the award of honorary degrees except in extreme cases not presented by the facts here.”
Kushner, a Pulitzer Prize winner, has condemned Israel's policies against Palestinians, accusing Israel of engaging in ethnic cleansing. The playwright was also quoted saying that it would be better if Israel did not exist.
The New York Times report said that the CUNY board had faced a wave of backlash following the decision to withhold the degree from Kushner.
Left-wing Israel advocacy group J Street had condemned the board of trustees' decision in a statement, saying it was an infringement upon Kushner's right to free speech, calling it a "political witch-hunt".