The world is truly a crazy place – a university wants to bestow an honorary degree to an individual with political viewpoints well beyond the pale of decency or respectability. The fact that Tony Kushner happens to be a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright doesn’t mean that his offensive, racist and radical political viewpoints can be ignored – in fact, he uses his bully pulpit as a playwright to push his political agenda, witness his public statements on various topics.
Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, someone who I have known for a number of years, as a friend and business colleague, is the subject of considerable media attention this week, as a trustee for CUNY (the City University of New York), where he voted against bestowing the said honorary degree to Tony Kushner – he cited a litany of Anti-Semitic and Anti-Israel statements in urging CUNY not to go ahead. Lets remember an honorary degree is exactly that – one which honors people for success, not one which is earned. A University, a place of higher learning seeks to be a model of decency, not endorsing a position which calls into question the legitimacy of a UN member state and falsely accusing its founders of ethnic cleansing.
One wonders if CUNY would dream of honoring someone who says the Confederates and slavery should never have been defeated, or America is committing ethnic cleansing in Iraq today. Mr. Wiesenfeld should be commended for speaking truth to power, and holding the University to standards of decency, and respect.
Among the statements attributed to Kushner:
- “[Israel was] founded in a program that, if you really want to be blunt about it, was ethnic cleansing..” — Yale Israel Review
- “..I have a problem with the idea of a Jewish state. It would have been better if it never happened.” — The New York Sun
- Ha’aretz reporter: But you are saying that the very creation of Israel as a Jewish state was not a good idea. Kushner: I think it was a mistake.
Wiesenfeld should be commended and honored for speaking up and taking a courageous stance.
I would recommend that all readers make an effort to send a letter to CUNY in support of Wiesenfeld – Chairman Benno Schmidt of CUNY can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
On a related matter, I read an Interesting Piece by Shmuel Sackett which spoke of Osama Bin Laden’s big mistake – He didn’t kill just Jews. According to Sackett, “one thing made Osama bin Laden public enemy number one. One thing made him a target for America’s hit squad. One thing – and only one thing – made his assassination justified and praised by world leaders. He didn’t just kill Jews. Had he limited his terrorism to Jews only, he would not have been targeted. The same world leaders who today take great pride in his death would have celebrated his life……He would have been invited to the United Nations. He would have had a worldwide speaking tour. He would have won the Nobel peace prize.”