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 :

As for Wiesenfeld, he knows something about shady proceedings, being appointed by then-governor George Pataki in a last minute session after concerns were raised about his calling blacks “savages” and Jews “thieves.” He also led the Stop the Madrassa coalition to block Debbie Almontaser from opening an Arabic language and culture school in  New York City. Kushner and Almontaser, both are winners of the “Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Risk Taker Awards” from Jews For Racial and Economic Justice. Koch also defended Glenn Beck from charges of anti-semitism..
Who would you rather honor?

-Jesse Bacon

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