• Efforts of students to promote open discussion about crimes of state of Israel earn ire of Jewish lobby.
• 500,000 students affected by retaliatory funding cut.
By Ronald L. Ray —
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is outraged—again. It claims a number of pro-Palestinian events and protests at colleges of the City University of New York (CUNY) were allegedly “anti-Semitic,” and that the university system should crush student and faculty rights to free speech and assembly for dissenting from Zionist views. Craven Republican Party state senators in the Empire State concurred and moved in March 2016 to slash $485 million from CUNY funding—equivalent to a third of the annual operating budget for senior colleges.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo previously announced the reduction in state funding as a “funding shift,” transferring more financial responsibility to New York City, which controls several seats on the board of trustees. After criticism, he claimed it was part of a joint effort to cut bloated administration.
The city has yet to agree to take up the funding difference, and several colleges could be closed as a result. The CUNY system has nearly a half-million students at 24 campuses in New York City.
But what really raised eyebrows was the reason Republican state senators backed the measure, opposed by some of the majority Democrats. The reduction in funding would “send a message,” said Senator Ken LaValle, obeying the demands of ZOA. Senator Cathy Young claimed that the multiple incidents of supposed CUNY student “anti-Semitism” were “intolerable and must stop.”
Several Democrat senators—including some Jews like Senator Liz Krueger—decried the censorship effort and defended rights to free speech and assembly.
The origins of the dispute go back at least to 2013, according to a blistering letter ZOA sent in February 2016 to CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken. The focus of complaints was on actions attributed to Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), an approved campus organization that promotes the human rights of Palestinians being subjected to genocide by Israeli Jews. Israel’s terrorism is supported by Zionists worldwide. Ironically, SJP’s faculty advisor, Sarah Schulman, is Jewish.
ZOA, however, is not known for its faithful adherence to the truth, so it is difficult to ascertain which of its allegations about four colleges—Hunter, Brooklyn, John Jay, and the College of Staten Island—have a foundation in fact.
It is claimed that, at what appears to be a relatively small number of SJP protests and events, Jewish students who showed up were subjected to angry insults or vulgar language. In one case, four Jews allegedly were asked to leave an SJP event, although not being disruptive. In other examples, one student supposedly had a sign “ripped” from his hands, while another “had paper thrown at her, and the Israeli flag she was wearing was pulled from her shoulders.”
While these incidents, if true, display a deplorable lack of civility by undisciplined individuals, ZOA would have us believe that SJP is formally responsible for anti-Jewish “harassment” in all of them—that, in fact, it is guilty by association for ostensibly creating a “climate” in which other, unrelated incidents, such as swastika graffiti, have occurred.
These claims display calculated disingenuousness, distracting from the likely possibility, if one reads the ZOA accounts carefully, that the Jewish students in several cases may have intended to provoke a response, creating an appearance of victimhood.
The real hostility of ZOA derives from the fact that SJP is perhaps the greatest single, non-violent force driving the expansion of the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) movement protesting the Israeli occupation of Palestine on college campuses nationwide. ZOA has been attempting for some time to trample free speech and association, as well as free enterprise, by demanding laws forbidding boycotts of Israeli goods and services that rely on the exploitation of oppressed Palestinians.
In fact, ZOA’s consistent modus operandi has been to demonize substantiated criticism of Israeli terrorism as “anti-Semitic lies,” while lying about Palestinians and others opposed to Zionism. It rarely provides certain proof of its allegations. In its letter to CUNY, it even misrepresented the university’s obligations under federal law to oppose “anti-Semitism.”
The truth is that the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has stated clearly that incidents like those at CUNY are protected First Amendment freedom of speech. In “addressing harassment allegations, OCR has recognized that the offensiveness of a particular expression, standing alone, is not a legally sufficient basis to establish a hostile environment under the statutes enforced by OCR.” Rather, the speech must “limit or deny a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from an educational program.” That standard was not met in the CUNY incidents.
But Republican N.Y. state senators nevertheless toadied to the Zionists, who comprise less than 2% of the U.S. population yet exercise a disproportionate control of the political process through intimidation and their wealth.
Senator Krueger deplored Republicans’ “shocking” budget resolution: “I’d never heard from my senate colleagues or my constituents that anyone thought CUNY was an anti-Semitic institution . . . And even if CUNY has a problem, how is cutting a third of their budget going to solve the problem?”
AFP readers should tell New York state senators and assemblymen to stop violating the First Amendment and to stand up to ZOA’s bullying and hate-filled anti-Palestinian prejudice.