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October 1, 2021 5:08 pm

Group Advocating ‘Inclusion’ at CUNY Continues Pressure Over Faculty Union Resolution Condemning 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 Credit: Beyond My Ken/Wikimedia

A controversial resolution condemning Israel passed this summer by the City University of New York’s teacher’s union sparked a new faculty group, opposing what they call “a climate of hostility” toward the Jewish state on campus.

The June 10 resolution by the Professional Staff Congress CUNY union (PSC) had labelled Israel an “apartheid” and “settler colonial” state responsible for the “massacre” of Palestinians during its conflict with Hamas in May, and advanced chapter-level discussions on supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Calling itself CUNY Alliance for Inclusion (CAFI), and operating since August, the group has in drawn the support of several hundred faculty, students and alumni, including staff who had signed a letter denouncing the June resolution as an inappropriate foray into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Ilya Bratman, Executive Director of Hillel at CUNY’s Baruch College, told The Algemeiner last Thursday that nearly half of CAFI faculty members have already resigned from the PSC. But, he said, “this is not an anti-labor movement. We are the opposite. We are folks upset with the union because of this specific resolution.”

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“Most would return to the union and would be excited to work with it to make wonderful conditions for faculty in our great university,” he said. “We just need to right now address the voices that are creating a hostile environment for Jews.”

Leaving the union is not a condition for membership, though the group’s website has publicly posted several resignation letters from members of the public university’s faculty. On August 6, CAFI wrote to PSC President James Davis asking for a “repudiation” of the controversial measure and that he address the “culture of antisemitism pervading the PSC Delegate Assembly.”

“We oppose the woeful distortion of so-called ‘human rights’ advocacy within the PSC that targets Israel for undeserved vilification while turning a blind eye to the actual abuse, torture, and killings of countless innocent victims by autocratic and terrorist regimes in the Middle East and around the world,” wrote the group, which included Hillel’s Bratman and faculty representing John Jay College, Queens College, Hunter College and others.

“We don’t want to fight anybody,” Bratman told The Algemeiner. “We want to embrace, have dialogue, and resolve things. One of the ways is obviously to educate, but another way is to dispel and break the patterns of dishonesty and sloganism, and of those of people, who unfortunately, are inclined to hurt Israel and the Jewish people.”

He cautioned that if the current climate continued at CUNY — the largest urban university system in the country — Jewish community members might leave the school entirely.

“We have no place for that at the greatest urban educational institution in American history, which embraces so much inclusion and diversity and equity, and we need to be forward and forefront in combatting those types of feelings,” he said.

Editor’s note: this article has been updated to correct the number of signatories to a CAFI statement and of the group’s members

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