CUNY introduced a new online discrimination portal, which it claimed combats antisemitism. According to a campus watchdog, the system actually enables Jew-hatred.
By United with Israel Staff
The City University of New York (CUNY) has permitted multiple scandals related to anti-Israel and anti-Jewish activity to persist over the course of the past several years, including selecting a leader from a movement (BDS) that seeks the Jewish state’s destruction to give the 2022 commencement speech.
In the fall of 2022, CUNY appointed an investigator to examine harassment against a group of Jewish professors, which should have been an opportunity for the institution to rebuild trust.
Instead, CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez appointed Saly Abd Alla, the university’s chief diversity officer, to investigate the accusations of antisemitism. Alla previously worked for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which was designated by the U.S. Justice Department as an unindicted co-conspirator in funding millions of dollars to the Hamas terror group. CAIR also made the Simon Wiesenthal’s “Global Anti-Semitism 2021 Top Ten List” (number eight on a list that included Iran and Hamas).
Alla was specifically tasked with probing accusations leveled by Professor Jeffrey Lax, who is dean of the business department at the Kingsborough campus. Lax filed a complaint over a 2020 incident in which the Progressive Faculty Caucus deliberately scheduled a meeting during the Sabbath to exclude the participation of Jewish members.
Lax and several other Jewish professors also filed a lawsuit to sever ties with the Professional Staff Congress, CUNY’s faculty union. The union, Lax says, is anti-Zionist and does not represent the interests of its Jewish members.
In 2022 alone, CUNY permitted the following to occur:
• The keynote speaker at the Law School’s graduation was a Palestinian activist who says Israel “has no right to exist” and “must be annihilated.”
• CUNY Law School faculty endorsed a student measure calling for a boycott of Israel, leading the New York City Council to cut $50,000 in funds.
• The search committee for a diversity officer at CUNY’s Kingsborough Community College included a BDS supporter, but no Jews.
• A group of students and staff made a high-profile vow to create programs to help Jews at CUNY’s 25 campuses “unlearn Zionism.”
• When the New York City Council held a hearing in June 2022 on antisemitism in the CUNY system, Jewish students described harassment and discrimination in seven hours of testimony.
Furthermore, a 2021 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report “determined that [Lax] and other observant and Zionist Jews were discriminated against, banned from faculty groups, harassed and retaliated against on our campus at Kingsborough Community College because of our religion,” reported the Jerusalem Post.
In 2023, the public university claimed it was introducing a new online reporting tool for antisemitism, which was immediately slammed for adopting an “all lives matter” approach to Jew-hatred.
Specifically, Professor Lax, who now works with watchdog group called Students and Faculty for Equality at CUNY (SAFE CUNY), maintains that CUNY’s new online discrimination portal “does not combat antisemitism, it enables it.”
“CUNY’s new discrimination portal page has been falsely touted as a historic move to combat antisemitism,” explained Lax in an email last week. “In reality, the portal does nothing to specifically combat antisemitism. All it does is create a mechanical process to collect ALL discrimination complaint for ALL protected classes (in the same way it had previously done manually). That’s perfectly fine, but it is dishonest to tout that as somehow combating the well-documented and widespread antisemitism problem at CUNY.”
Lax continues, “Much worse than this, however, is that the Portal page makes what we believe is a distinct effort to systemically enable antisemitism. After linking to the IHRA definition as an outside resource to be used as a reference in guiding antisemitism investigations at CUNY, the portal then includes a link to the Jerusalem Declaration of Antisemitism (the ‘JDA’) that is endorsed by CAIR. The JDA, among other things, defends ‘opposing Zionism as a form of nationalism’ and declares boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel as ‘not, in and of themselves, antisemitic.’”
As Lax noted, “JDA’s nefarious ‘definition of antisemitism’ has been almost universally rejected. It has been adopted by 0 entities. In contrast, the IHRA definition of antisemitism is widely accepted and has now been adopted by over 1,100 entities. The JDA seeks to re-interpret and define IHRA by people and organizations with an insidious and antisemitic agenda. By including the JDA on its discrimination portal page, CUNY has legitimized that agenda.”
Lax is hardly the only one taking CUNY to task.
According to Avi D. Gordon, executive director of Alums for Campus Fairness (ACF), CUNY is taking an “all lives matter” approach to its antisemitism problem.
“These platitudes aren’t enough,” he told JNS, referring to the portal as “wildly unimpressive.”
“That portal is very subpar, and unacceptable, and it’s something that we plan on sharing with the administration and talking with city council members about,” he said.
In the past, New York City councilwoman Inna Vernikov has demanded CUNY address it’s antisemitism problem.
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