May 25, 2024
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Complaint Filed Against CUNY School Of Law Faculty Over Pro-BDS Vote

Claiming that a vote in support for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel by faculty at the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law “makes clear that Israeli students and faculty members are not welcome to work with, attend or work for” the school, a complaint has been filed with the city and state.

Students and Faculty for Equality at CUNY (S.A.F.E. CUNY) filed the complaint July 5 with the New York City Commission on Human Rights and the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR) asking they undertake an investigation into the law school’s “discriminatory boycott policy” that “blatantly violates” city and state law.

In its complaint, S.A.F.E. CUNY noted that the unanimous May 12 vote by the law faculty to adopt a BDS resolution as an institutional policy violates laws forbidding discrimination based on creed and nationality. CUNY is believed to be the only law school faculty in the country to endorse BDS.

New York also is one of 35 states that requires its pension fund to divest from any company that participates in BDS, a movement considered antisemitic by most Jewish organizations and the State Department and that has been overwhelmingly condemned by Congress. CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez had previously put out a statement after the law student association voted to endorse BDS, noting it ran contrary to state law and the university could not participate in or support BDS.

S.A.F.E. CUNY said that the law school’s faculty sets the institution’s policy and is involved in nearly all facets of the school’s operations, including grading, faculty hiring and admissions.

“Its discriminatory boycott not only targets Zionist Jews and Israeli CUNY students and faculty members but provided identifying personal information with links to names of suspected Israeli and Zionist Jews,” states the complaint. “The adopted resolution even went so far as to endorse boycott and elimination of Hillel, the most popular Israeli and Jewish cultural student club within CUNY, with a universally welcome presence on over 850 colleges campuses throughout the U.S.” The complaint provided the link the faculty included in its resolution to a Jewish CUNY student and a CUNY faculty member “for the apparent crime of having been born in Israel.”

Among other actions endorsed in the resolution are the elimination of Israeli student exchange programs and faculty fellowships with any connection to Israelis and targeting of all students and faculty members at CUNY having any connection with Israel or Israelis, thus institutionalizing an academic boycott of Israeli universities, scholars and scholars who engage in research and publication with Israeli institutions and scholars.

The resolution additionally endorsed a boycott of a host of major companies “claiming they are somehow complicit in ‘war crimes’ and other atrocities” for having done business with Israel or an Israeli person and “condemns and demands boycott” of the NYPD for working with Israelis as well as the Department of Homeland Security. Also, and “most bizarrely of all” it also includes condemnation of both legal research service providers used by CUNY law students and faculty for some unnamed connection to Israel.

City administrative code states boycotts or blacklists “based on a person’s race, color, creed, age, national origin, alienage or citizenship status, partnership status, gender, sexual orientation or disability “pose a menace to the city’s foundation and institutions” and are “a dangerously insidious form of prejudice.” It also bans boycotts and blacklists or refusals to buy or trade with any person because of their actual or perceived national origin and precludes “any person willfully to do any act or refrain from doing any act which enables any such person to take such action.” The state’s administrative code prohibits “any person to boycott or blacklist, or to refuse to buy from, sell to or trade with, or otherwise discriminate against any person” because of the creed or national origin “of such person, or of such person’s partners, members, stockholders, directors, officers, managers, superintendents, agents, employees, business associates, suppliers or customers, or…for any person willfully to do any act or refrain from doing any act which enables any such person to take such action.” The NYSDHR has interpreted creed to include and encompass both religious beliefs and non-religious beliefs guiding an individual’s actions.

In its complaint, S.A.F.E. CUNY pointed out Zionist Jews can fall into one or both of these categories since for religious Jews, Zionism “is a genuinely and deeply held religious belief that derives from the bible (sic). For other Jews, Zionism comes from a shared heritage and belief system that connects them to Israel. Both of these classes fall squarely within NYSDHR’s legal definition of creed.”

The law school has been embroiled in controversy for some months beyond the pro-BDS stance of its students and faculty. Palestinian activist Nerdeen Kiswani was the student speaker at its May 13 commencement and devoted her entire speech to deriding Zionists and criticizing Israel, often being interrupted by enthusiastic applause. In 2020 Kiswani was named the “Antisemite of the Year” by stopantisemitism.org and has posted on Instagram and taken down photos of herself with known terrorists. She is founder and director of Within Our Lifetime, a New York City anti-Israel activist group that was banned from Instagram for violence-inciting hate speech and where she has glorified the Intifada.

By Debra Rubin

 

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