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CUNY Law BDS Resolution Takes Aim at Israel University Ties, Hillel and Pro-Israel Groups

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CUNY School of Law in New York City. Photo: Evulaj90 / Wikimedia Commons

In a Thursday resolution, the City University of New York Law School student government charged the school with “complicity” in war crimes allegedly perpetrated by Israel, citing academic cooperation with Israeli institutions and the activity of the campus Hillel Jewish group and other student organizations.

The resolution called for the school to “cut all ties with organizations that repress Palestinian organizing,” and criticized a number of student groups for supporting Israel.

“Whereas, a number of student organizations across CUNY receive money from the State of Israel, or from organizations lobbying on behalf of the State of Israel, and whose mission includes support for the State of Israel, and whose practices include surveillance, intimidation, harassment of Palestine solidarity activists on campuses,” the resolution said. “These organizations include Hillel, CAMERA, StandWithUs, Bulldogs for Israel, Israel Independence Day Committee, United 4 Israel, Israel Student Association, Students Supporting Israel at City College of New York.”

The measure also castigated the university system for its “academic collaborations with complicit Israeli academic institutions,” noting that a number of CUNY and CUNY Law faculty have taught at Israeli universities.

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The university’s participation in student exchange programs with Israeli institutions like Haifa University, Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University were all “a form of propaganda, and normalize settler colonial and apartheid rule,” it claimed.

Sponsored by the CUNY Law Students for Justice in Palestine and CUNY Law Jewish Law Student Association, the resolution was endorsed by over 20 other student organizations, including the National Lawyers Guild chapter and the CUNY Law Review.

“We’d like to thank JLSA, SJP, and their allies for all their work in solidarity with Palestinians in Palestine and across the diaspora,” the CUNY Law Student Government tweeted Thursday evening.

The AMCHA Initiative, a non-profit that monitors antisemitism at US universities, shared a copy of the resolution on social media Friday, and argued that it “subverts” educational opportunities and the “academic freedom of students [and] faculty.”

Scott Richman, NY/NJ Regional Director for the Anti-Defamation League, said the group was “alarmed and concerned” by the measure.

“Combined with the call to end all CUNY Israeli exchange programs, this BDS resolution has the effect of ostracizing and alienating a large majority of Jewish students on campus,” Richman said Friday. “It does nothing to help foster Israeli-Palestinian peace and a two-state solution. We hope that the CUNY administration will take swift action in condemning this resolution.”

Roz Rothstein — CEO of StandWithUs, a pro-Israel advocacy group cited by the resolution — commented, “Attacking Jewish organizations and trying to shut down study abroad programs makes clear that this has nothing to do with human rights or justice.”

“This campaign is about isolating the Jewish community on campus, undermining academic freedom, and preventing students from traveling to Israel to broaden their education and make up their own minds,” she said.”

The public university system has been riled by a separate resolution passed this summer by the CUNY faculty union, which labelled Israel an “apartheid” and “settler colonial” state, leading to over 250 faculty to resign from the body.

Separately, the law school’s dean spoke out this summer to defend the speech rights of a student and pro-Palestinian activist who had drawn criticism over a video appearing to show threats against a man wearing an Israel Defense Forces sweatshirt.

“‘Criticism of Israel is protected speech’ and should not be tarred as antisemitic,” Interim Dean Eduardo R.C. Capulong said in May, concluding the school had found no cause to discipline the student. “CUNY Law is a diverse community with differing political beliefs. But we are united in opposing all forms of racism, including anti-Palestinianism, antisemitism, and Islamophobia; we condemn anti-Palestinian, antisemitic, Islamophobic, and other racist violence; we recognize and respect one another’s right to be a part of our community.”

Editor’s note: this article has been updated with comments from the ADL and StandWithUs

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