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Jewish group calls for investigation into NYC public college over BDS support

Advocacy organization says CUNY Law’s endorsement of anti-Israel boycott movement is discriminatory, urges probe by city and state authorities

Luke Tress is an editor and a reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: Anti-Israel BDS activists in New York City, May 15, 2021. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)
Illustrative: Anti-Israel BDS activists in New York City, May 15, 2021. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

NEW YORK — A Jewish advocacy group on Tuesday filed formal requests for investigations into a public law school over its faculty’s support for the anti-Israel boycott movement, saying it discriminates against Israelis and Zionist Jews.

Students and Faculty for Equality at CUNY (SAFE CUNY), representing Zionist and Israeli students and faculty, filed complaints with the New York City Commission on Human Rights and New York State Division of Human Rights.

The complaints called for city and state investigations into the law school’s boycott endorsements.

They allege that the CUNY Law faculty decision to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) “blatantly discriminates” against Israelis, in violation of laws barring boycotts or blacklists based on national origin and other characteristics.

CUNY Law’s faculty in May voted to support a student government resolution in support of BDS.

The complaints say the resolution targeted Israeli students and faculty, and that anti-Israel activists have released identifying personal information about individuals.

The BDS resolution called for eliminating the mainstream Jewish group Hillel, and other groups, saying they carry out “intimidation” and “harassment” of Palestinian activists, the complaints note.

The student resolution demanded CUNY cut ties with Israel, divest from the Jewish state and accused the school of being “directly complicit in ongoing apartheid, genocide, and war crimes perpetrated by the Jewish state.”

It also demanded an end to educational exchange programs with Israel and severing all connections with Israelis and Israel-linked companies.

Antisemitism has been a growing concern on CUNY campuses in recent years as anti-Israel activities became more prominent and anti-Jewish crime surged in New York City. Jewish groups have accused the administration of turning a blind eye to rampant anti-Jewish activity on campuses.

The CUNY system has 26 colleges with around 260,000 students and 40,000 faculty and has long been part of the city’s social fabric.

Last week, CUNY’s chancellor canceled his appearance at a city council hearing on antisemitism on his campuses for the second time.

New York City Council Member Inna Vernikov, center, and activists against antisemitism at New York City Hall on June 30, 2022. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

His no-show infuriated the Jewish New York City Council Members who called the hearing, who said it was further evidence CUNY was not taking antisemitism seriously. No CUNY representatives attended in person.

At the daylong hearing, dozens of students and faculty described an atmosphere of harassment and intimidation against Jews from both CUNY faculty and students, particularly against Jewish students who were supportive of Israel.

In other recent developments, in May, a prominent pro-Palestinian activist gave a commencement speech at CUNY Law’s graduation ceremony that was largely directed against Israel. At regular protests, the activist has called for the destruction of Israel, a “global intifada” and targeting Jews. Some of the protests have involved violence against Jews.

In February, the US Department of Education opened an investigation into allegations of widespread harassment of Jewish students at Brooklyn College, which is part of CUNY.

The CUNY faculty union has also passed anti-Israel resolutions.

Supporters of the boycott Israel movement say that in urging businesses, artists, and universities to sever ties with Israel, they are using nonviolent means to oppose unjust policies toward Palestinians. Israel says the movement masks its motives to delegitimize and destroy the Jewish state, and Jewish groups say its anti-Zionism is a cover for antisemitism.

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