The anti-Semitic rot at the City University of New York is institutional
(September 20, 2022 / CAMERA) The City University of New York (CUNY) has a serious problem with anti-Semitism. It’s not a secret. Reports of anti-Semitic incidents have been circulating for years. What is particularly troubling, however, is the role that has been played by CUNY faculty and especially the administration.
This has been illustrated more recently by the revelation that CUNY’s diversity officer, Saly Abd Alla, was assigned to investigate a complaint filed for anti-Semitism despite the fact that she was previously “director of civil rights” at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization known for its antisemitic positions and antisemitic staff.
This is far from the only instance in which CUNY administrators and faculty have displayed either their own bigotry or a clear lack of concern for anti-Semitism. A complaint filing by the Brandeis Center to the US Department of Education detailed how professors and administrators of a program at Brooklyn College at CUNY harassed and bullied Jewish students.
This included a professor who told Jewish immigrants they were “oppressors” and that Jewish students should control their “whiteness”. Others told Jewish students to shut up and keep their heads down in the face of anti-Jewish harassment.
How Telling Jews to Hide Lives Up to CUNY’s Diversity and Inclusion statement and its commitment to ensuring “genuine participatory ownership” remains a mystery.
Another one complaintfiled by the American Center for Law & Justice, detailed numerous other cases of professors and administrators behaving badly on anti-Semitism.
What is particularly remarkable is that they not only ignored Jewish concerns, but often added insult to injury. When a university official expelled Jewish students from an event for simply holding a Zionism fact sheet, Brooklyn College refused to admit wrongdoing for more than a year, then made baseless claims that the students had been “disruptive”.
Another incident involving swastikas in a bathroom on the John Jay College campus saw the administration leap into denial and claim it was ‘untrue and nothing more than an unsubstantiated rumour’ before being forced to later admit that she had found the swastikas and even possessed pictures of them.
The situation got so bad that the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) became involved. While the OCR investigation is ongoing, the EEOC has determined that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Jewish professors have been victims of discrimination and retaliation, and that CUNY and its Professional Staff Congress created a “hostile work environment” for observant Jews and Zionists.
Far from taking these concerns seriously, CUNY officials rubbed them in the face of the Jewish community. The appointment of Abd Alla as a diversity officer to investigate such complaints, despite his past association with CAIR, is just one example.
At Kingsborough Community College (KCC), an advocate for the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement was recently appointed to its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion research committee, which did not include a single Jewish member . This came despite repeated requests made to KCC Chair Claudia Schrader by the KCC professor who was the subject of the EEOC’s determination of steps taken to ensure the committee’s decisions would protect Jews. observers and Zionists.
In a complaint filed by the Brandeis Center on Anti-Semitism at the University of Vermont, which the OCR has just opened an investigation into, attorneys Alyza Lewin and Denise Katz-Prober eloquently explained why the harassment of Jews for their Zionism is illegally discriminatory: “Zionism is as integral to Judaism as observing the Jewish Sabbath or maintaining a kosher diet. Of course, not all Jews observe the Sabbath or observe kosher, but those who do clearly express important elements of their Jewish identity.
“Similarly, not all Jews are Zionists,” they said. “But for many Jews, including many Jewish UVM students, identifying with and expressing support for the Jewish homeland is also a heartfelt and deeply felt expression of their Jewish ethnic identity.”
“To harass, marginalize, demonize and exclude these Jewish students on the basis of the Zionist component of their Jewish identity is just as illegal and discriminatory as attacking a Jewish student for observing the Sabbath or being kosher,” they said. concluded.
At CUNY, anti-Semitism is global. In addition to rampant “anti-Zionism”, as blame the “Zionist administration” for tuition fees, groups of teachers have also engaged in discriminatory actions like intentionally hold meetings on the Jewish Sabbath in order to exclude observant Jews.
The fact that CUNY’s “diversity officer” comes from an organization that calls itself “anti-Zionist” (and tells supporters to “watch out” for synagogues because “polite Zionists” are “not your friends ”) demonstrates that the anti-Semitic rot is not just deep-seated, but institutional.
It also highlights the troubling reality that, at least in this case, academia is not an ally in the fight against anti-Semitism. Rather, the CUNY system itself seems to be the problem.
David M. Litman is a media and education research analyst at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA).
This article was originally published by CAMERA.