CUNY trustee asked to resign over anti-Palestinian comments

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 resign.

By JORDANA HORN
May 13, 2011 03:11
2 minute read.
Jewish American playwright Tony Kushner

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 resign.

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 state.

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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.

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Now, former New York City mayor Ed Koch and the union representing CUNY faculty, among others, are calling for Wiesenfeld’s resignation.

“[Wiesenfeld]’s obsessed. He’s obsessed with the issue of Israel,” Koch said in The Forward.

“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 obsessed.”

Wiesenfeld responded to his fellow board members in an e- mail this week.

“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 Times 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 ‘not human.’”

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.


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