Yet Mr. Koch undoubtedly recognized the pitfalls of supporting Weisenfeld publicly. The union representing the CUNY faculty also called for Mr. Weisenfeld’s resignation, along with ”Mr. Kushner’s fellow artists, his supporters, university professors and civil libertarians,” according to the New York Times. Union leader Dr. Barbara Bowen said Wiesenfeld “has abused his position as CUNY Trustee on numerous occasions. He should resign immediately and the trustee selection process should be reformed so that the Board is composed of qualified people with genuine expertise in higher education…” Ellen Schrecker, Yeshiva University history professor, and American Communist party (CPUSA) apologist, wrote a letter to Schmidt saying she cannot “remain silent when the institution that once recognized the value of academic freedom now demeans it,” adding that she planned to return her own CUNY honorary degree. Marxist mouthpiece Barbara Ehrenreich said she planned to do the same. Karen Kaplowitz, the head of the John Jay faculty committee which nominated Kushner, claimed she was “mortified” that Kushner had been treated with “such disrespect.”
Yet it is the nomination of Kushner which yields the most telling clues as to the genesis of leftist indignation regarding the board’s original decision. Kushner was nominated for the honorary degree by two professors, one of whom was Dr. Michael Meeropol. Meeropol is the son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were tried, convicted and executed for spying against the United States. Both Meeropol and Kushner are on the advisory board of Jewish Voice for Peace, a radically anti-Israel organization which equates Palestinian terrorism with Israeli self-defense. Meeropol is currently a visiting professor of economics at John Jay College.
Each piece of vitriol directed at Mr. Weisenfeld is part of a mosaic designed, not only to silence anyone who would dare to point out the litany of reprehensible Israel-demonizing statements made by Mr. Kushner himself, chronicled in my previous column on the subject, but to chill potential criticism of Israel demonization in the future. Mr. Weisenfeld, who made it clear to me he has “every intention of serving until June 30th 2013,” explained that he “can’t imagine anyone as stupid as I am to rise up and take a [pro-Israel] position unless there’s a change of paradigm from Jewish leaders to enable it to happen.”
But perhaps there is a glimmer of hope. A letter reportedly hand-delivered Monday to each member of the board of trustees signed by “Members, Association of CUNY Alumni and Retirees” decries the “character assassination” of Mr. Weisenfeld, and asks the board to “initiate an investigation into the assault on Jews at the City University, disguised as anti-Israelism[.]” If the board ignores the request, the writers will make sure that “CUNY alumni are apprised of recent events and are exhorted to reconsider donations to their alma maters,” and “Jewish graduates and others of good will are apprised that the colleges which were once their homes, [but] are no longer welcoming to supporters of Israel.” The final sentence of the letter says it all: “We will not sit by idly and allow this cancer to continue to grow.”
Unfortunately the “cancer” is not yet in remission. Mr. Kushner will get his degree, and leftists, aptly described by columnist Daniel Greenfield as people who want to “storm the barricades and then break off for a meal at a five star restaurant,” will have their sanctimoniousness satisfied. But it remains to be seen whether their retributive campaign against a defender of Israel — for the crime of opposing the veneration of a radical anti-Israel propagandist — will be assuaged.
Arnold Ahlert is a contributor to the conservative website JewishWorldReview.com.
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