Edited by: Fern Sidman
Yet another controversy is brewing within the City University of New York (CUNY) system, as a union representing 23,000 faculty members is accused of sending emails promoting anti-Israel rallies using blatantly anti-Semitic language, as was reported by the New York Post. The emails in question allegedly blamed all violence in Israel on a “Zionist genocidal campaign” against Arabs in Gaza and encouraged participation in rallies.
It also reportedly encouraged people “to channel your grief and rage over the nearly 1,000 Palestinians martyred, including nearly 300 children, into upcoming rallies across CUNY campuses and New York City,” according to the Post.
The poster then states, “Now, more than ever we must stand together against Zionist atrocities and with the Palestinian liberation movement reaffirming the right to resist and the right to return.”
The Post was shown these two e-mails that were sent to the Professional Staff Congress-CUNY union promoting these events by veteran law professor Jeffrey Lax, who runs SAFE Campus — which advocates for Zionist Jews in the CUNY system.
Lax told The Post it is a “99% certainty the union itself did that,” explaining that the union president “had to approve this email address.”
Lax has also been in the forefront of exposing a deeply ingrained anti-Semitism within the CUNY network of colleges and universities throughout the years.
The union, known as the Professional Staff Congress-CUNY, is accused of promoting these events, but they have denied the charges, stating they are “entirely inaccurate,” as was reported by the Post.
The union previously released a statement on October 12th saying: “We strongly condemn the kidnapping and murder of Israeli civilians by Hamas. Many of our members have families directly connected to this conflict, and the loss of civilian lives in Israel and Gaza is heartbreaking and horrifying,“ the Post reported.
“As a union of educators, we value communication, free speech and mutual understanding as a means to resolve conflict,” the statement continues. “We respect the human rights of Palestinians and Israelis, and hope that space can be created for political and humanitarian solutions.”
The controversy has raised concerns about the use of inflammatory language in the context of the Israel-Hamas conflict and its impact on the academic community.
In addition to the union’s involvement, on Wednesday, an unidentified adjunct professor at CUNY accused Israel of conducting “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” against Palestinians during a rally at the Graduate Center in Manhattan, the Post reported. This professor also accused the U.S. government of supporting Israel for “capitalist” reasons at a gathering of more than 100 students and called out elected officials who she said failed to support pro-Palestinian movements, as was noted in the Post report.
These comments were met with chants that have been criticized as anti-Semitic, as they called for the eradication of Israel from the Mediterranean coast to the Jordan River.
Furthermore, more than 125 faculty and staff at CUNY signed a statement objecting to CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez’s efforts to distance the university from student groups expressing support for Israel. The Post reported that the chancellor had previously condemned Hamas’ acts of terrorism and expressed concern about demonstrations that glorified violence.
“We respect their right to free speech, but condemn their support of these crimes against humanity,” Rodríguez said of the student activism, according to the Post report.
But the coalition of students and staff described Rodríguez’s letter as “baseless and prejudicial,” saying it “reproduces the racist, Islamophobic rhetoric that has accompanied the drumbeat for war.”
The Post report also said that they claimed Hamas’ attack on Israel was a “military operation” and said there is “no equivalence” between Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel and the country’s retaliatory strikes.
“In rejecting all criticism of Israel, CUNY administrators are not only at odds with Palestine solidarity activists,” the group wrote. “They are also against the consensus opinion of regional and international human rights organizations.
“This is in no way to condone the death toll of the last 10 days — there is no justification for the targeting of civilians in any context,” they added.
These events highlight the complexity of discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on college campuses, as it involves both the freedom of speech and potential issues related to hate speech and the broader debate about the conflict itself.