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July 22, 2022 5:18 pm

Civil Rights Complaint Alleges ‘Pattern of Antisemitism’ at CUNY


avatar by Dion J. Pierre

The City University of New. Photo: York//Flickr//Bonnie Natko

The City University of New York (CUNY) is the subject of a new Title VI complaint with the US Department of Education alleging that it has intentionally ignored “a sustained pattern of antisemitism.”

Filed on Tuesday by the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), it follows accusations of antisemitism at CUNY campuses aired during a New York City Council hearing on the issue last month, held after the CUNY School of Law faculty endorsed a boycott of Israel.

“Some of the harassment on CUNY campuses has become so commonplace as to almost be normalized,” the ACLJ’s complaint alleged. “Attacking, denigrating, and threatening ‘Zionists’ has become the norm, with the crystal-clear understanding that ‘Zionist’ is now merely an epithet for ‘Jew’ the same way ‘banker,’ ‘cabal,’ ‘globalist,’ ‘cosmopolitan,’ ‘Christ killer,’ and numerous other such dog-whistles have been used over the centuries to target, demonize, and incite against Jews.”

The complaint recounted a number of alleged incidents at CUNY going as far back as 2013, including Jewish faculty and students having their property vandalized, receiving threats and verbal abuse, and being held responsible for actions of the Israeli government.

The brief also discussed a 2021 resolution passed by the public university system’s faculty union accusing Israel of practicing apartheid, a measure that prompted the resignations of a number of Jewish members, as well as the more recent boycott effort endorsed at the law school.

“The academic boycott guidelines’ call to fight against ‘the normalization of Israel in the global academy,'” the complaint read. “Courses taught by faculty adhering to this anti-normalization principle not only pervert a school’s academic mission by substituting anti-Israel indoctrination for education, but also foment hatred towards Israel and its supporters, which easily and demonstrably translates into acts of aggression towards Jewish and pro-Israel students on campus.”

Several episodes described in the ACLJ brief were raised at the City Council hearing in June, where lawmakers lamented the absence of CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodríguez and called the problem of antisemitism at CUNY “pervasive.”

Council Member Inna Vernikov, a Brooklyn Republican who co-led the hearing, met with Matos Rodríguez last week, the New York Jewish Week reported, and said the chancellor revealed plans to establish new Israel exchange programs and develop antisemitism trainings.

In the brief filed Tuesday, ACLJ called on the Department of Education to investigate CUNY for violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in federally-funded programs.

“Without prompt and appropriate action Jewish students will continue to be victimized by CUNY’s implied consent for antisemitic discrimination and racism; will be unable to participate at additional campus functions; and will continue to be harassed and excluded,” the complaint said.

On Friday, a CUNY spokesperson told The Algemeiner that the university system “has consistently and strongly condemned all forms of bigotry and discrimination, including antisemitism,” and that it complies with all relevant regulations when reporting incidents.

“Every day the university engages in efforts to combat antisemitism, violence, hate, racism, and intolerance of any kind within our campus communities,” the spokesperson continued. “This is important but hard, never-ending work, and we are always learning new ways to improve our efforts. CUNY is committed to fostering an environment where all faculty, staff, and students can work, teach, and learn free from any form of discrimination.”

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