CUNY School of Law faces state probe over anti-Jewish bias after BDS support


February 23, 2023 | 7:11 p.m

The state Department of Human Rights launched a bombastic probe into whether the CUNY School of Law discriminated against Jews when its faculty board passed a resolution last year supporting the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

The “active investigation” was confirmed in a February 16 letter from the agency to Jeffrey Lax, a professor at Kingsborough Community College and co-founder of Students and Faculty for Equality at CUNY (SAFE CUNY).

“You will be contacted by the human rights specialist responsible for your case when the active investigation of your complaint begins,” DHR Regional Director Joyce Yearwood-Drury wrote to Lax, the Kingsborough CC operations department chair.

The state investigation has been a long time coming.

SAFE CUNY sent a letter to the Human Rights Agency on July 5 last year, alleging that the CUNY Law School faculty council’s BDS resolution, passed in May, called for a “discriminatory boycott” against Jewish students and faculty — as well as against Israelis. under the state human rights law.

The resolution condemned the so-called “incessant military occupation and colonization of Palestine by the Israeli state” as “both settler-colonialism and structural racism, supported politically, financially and militarily by the US.”

The resolution also called for CUNY to sever ties with Israel and accused the school of being “directly involved in the ongoing apartheid, genocide and war crimes committed by the state through its investments in and contracts with companies from which it benefits.” Israel against the Palestinian people is committing Israeli war crimes.”

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The state Department of Human Rights has launched an investigation into the CUNY school of law and passed a resolution in support of the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

The faculty also called on the school to end student exchange programs with Israel and join the BDS movement.

“We are pleased to learn that NYSDHR will conduct an investigation against CUNY for its law school’s implementation of the BDS policy, in flagrant violation of New York State’s discriminatory boycott law,” Lax and SAFE CUNY told The Post . “A significant portion of the BDS movement is acting as a coordinated and sophisticated effort to not only harm Israel directly, but also the economic interests of those doing business in and with Israel, or those perceived to be too closely associated with the country connected apply.

“There is clear evidence that discrimination in the BDS movement affects Jewish people and/or people whom the movement considers too closely aligned with Israel differently. We believe the new BDS policies being implemented at CUNY Law School discriminate on the basis of actual or perceived belief, race, and nationality. We hope the NYSDHR will recognize and expose the policy for what it is: discrimination against protected classes of Jewish people.”

The organization Students and Faculty for Equality at CUNY sent a letter to the Department of Human Rights last year claiming the resolution was a “discriminatory boycott” against Jewish students and faculty. Eric McGregor

The original complaint alleged that CUNY and the law school administrators could not wash their hands of responsibility for Jewish bias because the school board is very involved in the administration of the law school.

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“The CUNY School of Law faculty sets the policies for the institution and is involved in almost every aspect of the school’s operations: grading, admissions, faculty recruitment and more,” the complaint reads. “His discriminatory boycott not only targets Zionist Jews and Israeli CUNY students and faculty members, but also provides identifying personal information with links to names of suspected Israeli and Zionist Jews.

“The resolution passed went so far as to support the boycott and elimination of Hillel, the most popular Israeli and Jewish cultural student club within CUNY, with a universally welcomed presence at over 850 colleges across the US. It also advocated the abolition of Israeli student exchange programs and faculty scholarships with any connection to Israel or Israelis, a popular program among Israeli and Zionist Jews.”

The Israeli-Palestinian strife has raged among faculty and students at a number of CUNY campuses in recent years, prompting a spate of complaints about anti-Semitism and bullying that even led to a city council hearing.

After criticizing how it was handling a surge in anti-Jewish behavior on its campus, CUNY announced last fall that it would spend nearly $1 million to process discrimination complaints, including establishing an online portal to track Hate crimes across the system’s 25 campuses.

The controversy has also prompted action in Albany, as Gov. Kathy Hochul extended an executive order issued by her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, that bars the state government from investing in companies involved in BDS activities.

In October 2021, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli withdrew pension investments from Ben & Jerry’s parent company after the ice cream maker announced a boycott of sales of goods in Israeli-occupied territories.

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CUNY spokesman Joseph Tirella told the Post late Thursday the university “is not commenting on any pending or threatened claims.”

A spokesman for the Department of Human Rights said it could not comment or confirm whether it was conducting an investigation.

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