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CUNY School of Law’s Support for BDS Movement Spurs Anti-Jewish Bias; State Probe Launched

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Edited by: Fern Sidman

The network of institutions of higher learning in the CUNY system in New York City has dominated the headlines in the last several years, but not for something laudable. CUNY has been plagued with credible charges of virulent anti-Semitism being promulgated by both faculty and students.

It has now been reported by the New York Post that the state Division of Human Rights has opened a bombshell probe into whether CUNY’s School of Law discriminated against Jews when its faculty council passed a resolution last year supporting the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel.

The Post reported that the “active investigation” was confirmed in a Feb. 16 letter from the agency to Jeffrey Lax, a Kingsborough Community College professor who is co-founder of Students and Faculty for Equality at CUNY (S.A.F.E. CUNY).

“You will be contacted by the Human Rights specialist assigned to your case when the active investigation of your complaint begins,” wrote DHR regional director Joyce Yearwood-Drury to Lax, the chairman of Kingsborough CC’s business department, according to the report.

Earlier this week, JNS.org reported that Lax and another business professor at Kingsborough, Michael Goldstein, have said that the community college in which they are employed is targeting them with retaliatory investigations for their complaints about anti-Semitism on campus. They further allege that the college and its outside counsel acted in bad faith, failing to provide either with a copy of the complaint.

Goldstein told JNS that the investigation is “definitely retaliatory. There’s no doubt about it.”

“They’re doing this because we’ve made accusations against them,” he added. “This has been going on for years. This is their way of getting back at us.”

JNS has viewed documents confirming that active CUNY investigations are underway against Goldstein and Jeffrey Lax for “discrimination” and “harassment.”

Kingsborough has been under fire for years for failing to take action against rampant anti-Semitism throughout its system, including within faculty, union and administrative ranks, JNS reported.

In 2021, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency, found evidence of discrimination against Jewish CUNY faculty, following an investigation launched by one of Lax’s complaints. Both Lax and Goldstein are members of S.A.F.E. CUNY, which supports Zionist and observant Jewish members of the university community.

Meanwhile, the Post reported that the state probe that focuses on the CUNY School of Law has been a long time coming.

S.A.F.E CUNY sent a letter to the human rights agency on July 5 of last year, alleging that the CUNY Law School Faculty Council’s BDS resolution, approved that May, constituted a “discriminatory boycott” against Jewish students and faculty — as well as of Israelis — under the state’s human rights law, the Post reported.

The resolution decried what it called the “unceasing military occupation and colonization of Palestine by the Israeli state” as “both settler colonialism and structural racism, supported politically, financially, and militarily by the US,” as was reported by the Post.

The resolution also demanded that CUNY sever ties with Israel and accused the school of being “directly complicit in the ongoing apartheid, genocide, and war crimes perpetrated by the State of Israel against the Palestinian people through its investments in and contracts with companies profiting off of Israeli war crimes.”

The Post reported that the faculty also called for the school to terminate student exchange programs with Israel and to sign on to the BDS movement.

“We are pleased to learn that NYSDHR will be conducting an investigation into CUNY for implementing BDS policy at its law school, in blatant violation of New York State’s Discriminatory Boycott Law,” Lax and S.A.F.E. CUNY told The Post.

“A significant part of the BDS movement operates as a coordinated and sophisticated effort to directly harm not only Israel, but also the economic interests of persons conducting business in and with Israel, or with people deemed too closely affiliated with the country.

“There is clear evidence that the discrimination in the BDS movement disparately impacts Jewish people, and/or people that the movement feels are too closely affiliated with Israel. We believe that the new BDS policies implemented at CUNY Law School discriminate on the basis of real or perceived creed, ethnicity, and nationality. It is our hope that the NYSDHR will recognize and expose the policy for what it is: discrimination against protected classes of Jewish people.”

The original complaint claimed CUNY and Law School administrators can’t wash their hands of responsibility for Jewish bias, since the faculty council is very involved in governing the law school, the Post reported.

“The faculty of CUNY School of Law sets policy for the institution and is involved in nearly all facets of the school’s operation: grading, admissions, faculty hiring, and more,” the complaint read, as was reported by the Post. “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.

“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 US. It further endorsed the elimination of Israeli student exchange programs and faculty fellowships with any connection to Israel or Israelis, a popular program among Israeli and Zionist Jews.”

The Israel-Palestinian dispute has raged in recent years among faculty and students at a number of CUNY campuses, leading to a rash of complaints of anti-Semitism and bullying that even prompted a hearing by the City Council.

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