In 2005, Kushner brought his radical ideology to the big screen, co-writing the movie “Munich,” which told the story of the Israeli government’s retaliation for the assassination of Israel athletes by terrorist group Black Friday at the 1972 Olympics. The film attempted to make moral equivalence between the terrorists and the Israeli agents tasked with dispatching them. The central premise of the story, which posited that Israeli agents had regrets about taking out the terrorists, was harshly criticized for its historical revisionism. Avi Dichter, a retired head of Israel’s Shin Bet who likened the movie to a children’s adventure story, said there was “no comparison between what you see in the movie and how it works in reality.” Ephrain Halevy, former Director of Mossad, said Munich “had no relation to the truth or the facts.”
Kushner took to the streets of New York in 2009 to protest Israel entering Gaza to stop Hamas from indiscriminately firing rockets into the country. Joining a group called Jews Against the Occupation, Kushner characterized the move as “policy on the part of the Israeli government of reoccupation,” adding that he “can’t imagine that this is not going to continue to be bloody and a violation of human rights.” He warned that it’s “an imperative not to stand by silently while the Palestinian people are brutalized and repressed.”
The John Jay’s board of trustees was made aware of Kushner’s odious ideology during the meeting. They subsequently voted 11-1 in favor of shelving Mr. Kushner’s honorary degree. Kushner characterized it as “a decision based on slanderous mischaracterizations without giving the person in question a chance to be heard…I’m sickened that this is happening in New York City. Shocked, really.” Jay Hershenson, CUNY’s senior vice chancellor for university relations and secretary of the trustees, offered the same statement with respect to both the vote and Mr. Kushner’s accusation of slander. “The CUNY board of trustees acted independently and exercised its authority,” he responded.
Trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, whose objection led to Kushner’s reassessment, went further. “I think it’s up to all of us to look at fairness and consider these things,” he said. “Especially when the State of Israel, which is our sole democratic ally in the area, sits in the neighborhood which is almost universally dominated by administrations which are almost universally misogynist, antigay, anti-Christian.”
Mr. Wiesenfeld has been targeted for opposing Kushner. “Scores of emails laced with obscenities” were being sent to him, he said. The CUNY Advocate, a student newspaper, called him a “Zionist witch-hunter.” Sandi Cooper, University Faculty Senate chair, accused him of inappropriately criticizing the playwright for his “presumed anti-Israel sentiments.” Professional Staff Congress president and anti-Israel extremist Barbara Bowen called Kushner’s rejection “an insult to the academic judgment of the faculty,” and “an attempt to close off and narrow public debate.”
Weisenfeld was unruffled. “Even if you put aside Kushner’s politics, an honorary degree adds prestige [to the university]. It’s a form of marketing. How is it helpful to have an Israeli-basher get a degree?” he asked.
It isn’t. Yet Tony Kushner remains indignant, apparently believing that his ideology should be inconsequential with regard to an honorary degree. No doubt that impression was fostered when he was awarded one by Brandeis University in 2006, and former Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz’s responded to critics then by saying that “the University does not select honorary degree recipients on the basis of their political beliefs or opinions[.]“ The website Maggie’s Farm reveals the absurdity of that premise, asking if philosophical giant–and Nazi party member–Martin Heidegger would be granted an honorary degree by CUNY.
Not as far as this particular CUNY Board of Trustees in concerned. Score one for common sense — and common decency.
Arnold Ahlert is a contributing writer to the conservative website JewishWorldReview.com.
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