Fresh off a failed attempt to fire a Brooklyn college professor for not properly toeing the line on Israel, CUNY Board of Trustees member Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld chose a much higher-profile target: Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner. Wiesenfeld, who is a repeat abuser of his power as a CUNY Trustee, succeeded in getting CUNY to table Kushner’s honorary degree for what is believed to be the first time ever. Kushner’s crimes? Criticizing Israel, and serving on the Advisory Board of Jewish Voice for Peace.
Here’s Kushner’s searing rebuke:
[Ed. note: Jewish Voice for Peace engages in campaigns that promote boycott and divestment from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation, not Israel as a whole.)
Wiesenfield cited the “disingenuousness and non-intellectual activity” on US campuses as a reason for barring Kushner, though barring a figure of Kushner’s brilliance seems like a funny way to combat that problem. Unless of course your real goal is ideological control.
Here’s a comparison of the views of Tony Kushner with those of former New York City mayor Ed Koch, who unlike Kushner, received unanimous support for getting an honorary degree from CUNY this year :
- Tony Kushner wrote a play called Homebody/Kabul which details the “cruel and beautiful history of Afganistan.”
Ed Koch declared “Afghanistan, it’s a not a country” and called for its bombing by drones.
- Kushner wrote the script for the movie “Munich” which tried to depict the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “something tragic and human, recognizable.” He also called for an open debate on Israel even among families saying “arguing is good for the digestion.”
- Koch wrote that Obama was “throwing Israel under the bus” for his since-abandoned attempt to stop the construction of new Israeli settlements and tried to silence debate by comparing Obama to the Allies who negotiated with Hitler: “There is a foul whiff of Munich and appeasement in the air.”
- Kushner warns about the dangers of religious fundamentalism in plays like “Angels in America.”
- Koch talks about being proud that he “aroused the Christian, pro-Israel community.” which includes manyfundamentalists like John Hagee, who Koch has defended.
As for Wiesenfeld, he knows something about shady proceedings, being appointed by then-governor George Pataki in a last minute session after concerns were raised about his calling blacks “savages” and Jews “thieves.”He also led the Stop the Madrassa coalition to block Debbie Almontaser from opening an Arabic language and culture school in New York City. Kushner and Almontaser, both are winners of the “Risk Taker Awards” from Jews For Racial and Economic Justice. Koch also defended Glenn Beck from charges of anti-semitism..
Who would you rather honor?