Tony Kushner 311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
NEW YORK – The trustee who opposed Jewish-American Tony Kushner’s honorary
degree on the basis of the playwright’s views on Israel is being called on to
Kushner had originally been removed from a list of candidates for
honorary degrees from the City University of New York after trustee Jeff
Wiesenfeld denounced his past statements about Israel and Palestinians,
including a reference to “ethnic cleansing” during the formation of the
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A special meeting of the trustees was held on Monday night, and
Kushner was put back on the list to receive a degree.
Now, former New
York City mayor Ed Koch and the union representing CUNY faculty, among others,
are calling for Wiesenfeld’s resignation.
obsessed. He’s obsessed with the issue of Israel,” Koch said in The
“I’m a very big supporter of the State of Israel, but I
understand that there is dissent on a whole host of issues. It isn’t evil to be
supportive of the Palestinian cause... He’s a nice guy, but he’s
Wiesenfeld responded to his fellow board members in an e- mail
“I am proud to represent this great university on its board of
trustees,” he wrote.
“My service, by law, expires following 14 years of
service on June 30, 2013.”
Bill Herman, a CUNY professor, wrote on his
blog that he had sent a specific message to the board of trustees, demanding
that Wiesenfeld lose his position as trustee.
“Mr. Weisenfeld’s (sic)
attack on Mr. Kushner was bad enough, but his followup answers to a New York
interview illustrate a profound bigotry that cannot be tolerated from one
of the public faces of CUNY,” Herman said.
Herman cited Wiesenfeld
telling The New York Times
that there could be no moral equivalence between
Palestinians and Israelis, because “People who worship death for their children
are not human.”
Herman’s letter also stated that he is “ashamed to work
for a university whose trustee thinks it appropriate to describe Palestinians as
Ronn Torossian, a friend and business colleague of Wiesenfeld’s,
wrote in Algemeiner that Wiesenfeld, rather than being condemned, “should be
commended for speaking truth to power, and holding the university to standards
of decency, and respect.”
Torossian recommended that readers send letters
of support to CUNY on Wiesenfeld’s behalf.