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June 22, 2021 10:51 am
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‘This Is the Opposite of Academic Freedom,’ Say Dozens of CUNY Faculty in Letter Blasting Union Resolution on Israel

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

The B. Altman & Company Building housing the City University of New York Graduate Center in New York City. Photo: Beyond My Ken/Wikimedia.

At least 39 Jewish studies faculty at the City University of New York (CUNY) condemned a controversial faculty union resolution that charged Israel with “apartheid” and advanced the prospect of a boycott of Israeli institutions, according to a letter seen by The Algemeiner.

The faculty letter, sent Tuesday morning, was authored in response to a June 10th resolution passed 84 to 34 by the public university system’s Professional Staff Congress union (PSC-CUNY), which accused Israel of perpetrating the “massacre” of Palestinians and planned chapter-level discussions on supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

“This resolution was passed with no indication that the PSC was debating it, and with no invitation for broader discussion among PSC CUNY members,” said the letter, which was addressed to the union’s leadership and the executive council. “We only learned of it from the new PSC CUNY president after the resolution was passed. It is clear that this resolution does not adequately represent PSC CUNY membership.”

Signatories included Leah Garrett, Director of the Jewish Studies Center and Director of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Hunter College; Francesca Bregoli, Acting Director of the Center for Jewish Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center; and Roy Mittelman, Director of the Jewish Studies Program at the City College of New York.

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“As teachers and scholars of Jewish Studies, we consider the right to academic freedom — the ability to engage in intellectual debate, research, and exploration without fear of retaliation — to be fundamental to all of our endeavors,” the letter said.

In calling for chapter-level discussions on adopting the BDS movement, it said, the letter “appeals to freedom of speech only to silence it by advancing a movement that explicitly advocates for academic boycott of Israeli academics and those employed by Israeli institutions.”

“This is the opposite of academic freedom and the fundamental tenets of free speech,” it continued. “Peace and justice are born out of dialogue, discussion, conversation, and mutual understanding.”

It also condemned a national rise in hate crimes generally, as well as the recent spate of antisemitic incidents across the US — which it said “frequently correlate to anti-Israel rhetoric.”

“It is the responsibility of the PSC CUNY, which represents a diverse array of faculty, to ensure that all are valued. This resolution fails to do this,” the letter concluded.

Ilya Bratman — Executive Director of the Hillel at Baruch College, a CUNY institution— argued that the the PSC resolution was “emblematic of the hate” present in the university system.

“That’s the underlying truth, and if we’re not honest about that, we’re never going to achieve anything,” he told The Algemeiner on Monday.

“If the pandemic was not here and we were all on campus physically, I would personally say that we would have faced physical violence on many campuses across America and CUNY, where students would have been attacked … because of the tension and anger, and hostility, and harassment that students face, especially Jewish students on campuses.

On Friday, Jeffrey Lax, a Jewish professor at CUNY’s Kingsborough Community College, announced that he was resigning from the PSC union over the recently passed resolution.

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