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September 20, 2022 4:23 pm

New York Councilwoman Protests Appointment of CAIR Supporter to Investigate CUNY Antisemitism Controversy

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Supporters of CAIR are seen at a 2019 protest. Photo: via Flickr

New York City Councilwoman Inna Vernikov is calling on Mayor Eric Adams to address antisemitism at City University of New York following reports that an individual alleged to be a supporter of Hamas was recently put in charge of an antisemitism investigation.

Kingsborough Community College diversity officer Saly Abd Alla —a former civil rights director of the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a group included in the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s (SWC) top ten list of antisemitic organizations in 2021 — was appointed as lead investigator concerning an antisemitism complaint filed by Professor Jeffrey Lax, a member of the college faculty.

Last November, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determined that Lax was discriminated against based on his identity as an “Observant and Zionist” Jew when he was excluded from a faculty group.

“Who at CUNY decided to hire the director of CAIR to lead all discrimination investigations across the university?” said Lax to The Algemeiner on Tuesday. “This is not a ‘bad’ decision. It was a purposeful and evil one. Leaders should resign or be fired. Where is the Governor? The chancellor answers directly to her. He is not fit for this office and should resign immediately or be removed.”

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On Thursday, Councilwoman Vernikov tweeted that trusting Alla to conduct her work impartially “is like asking a sexual abuser to investigate the sexual harassment/rape allegations of a victim of such abuse.”

“Would CUNY hire [former Ku Klux Klan leader] David Duke to investigate claims of racism?” she continued.

Speaking later to the New York Post, Vernikov also criticized Mayor Adams for ignoring the CUNY Jewish community’s concerns that the entire university system is a hotbed of antisemitism, a problem that Mr. Lax has compared to “Stage 4 cancer.”

“The delay on the part of the mayor’s office to address the issue of pervasive antisemitism on campuses, where students are afraid to be openly Jewish or freely express their pro-Israel viewpoints, is puzzling and quite frankly, frustrating,” Vernikov said. “I am hopeful that the Mayor comes to the table very soon.”

A spokesperson for the administration said Mayor Adams is “actively working” with CUNY officials to improve the campus climate for Jewish students and staff.

“Mayor Adams has been unabashed and unapologetic in condemning antisemitism and fighting against hate across our communities,” the spokesperson added.

Councilwoman Vernikov, who has taken a leading role in fighting antisemitism at the City University of New York, said she hopes the Mayor’s statement “leads to real action.”

“I will not stop in the fight against antisemitism,” she continued. “I look forward to working together with Mayor Adams to rid CUNY of Jew Hatred.”


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