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Communist University of NY (CUNY) Denies Honor to Israel-Bashing Playwright Tony Kushner

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Posted on May 6 2011 3:15 pm
Phyllis Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at City University of New York. For extended biography visit The Phyllis Chesler Organization.

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Incredibly, miraculously, my old university, where once I labored for nearly thirty years, has just snatched back an honor from one of the Left’s most beloved sons. This is really quite a Big Deal.

I am talking about the City University of New York (CUNY) aka the Communist University of New York, which has just decided to rescind its promised honorary degree to none other than playwright Tony Kushner. The Communist University of New York—alright, I exaggerate a bit, there are many exceptions, but my description is essentially true.

Here’s the thing I hate most about “hate speech.”

It is this: When those who engage in it view themselves—and are also viewed—as glamorized victims, brave non-conformists, public sacrifices of the “Zionist Lobby” or the “Military Industrial Complex.”

Once, I moved in circles in which Kushner was, as yet, unknown; circles that swiftly grew to adore him as his star rose. These were the kind of leftists (there are no other kind) who love Broadway and Hollywood celebrities. They especially love all the Jewish theatre people who stand against Israel on nothing other than their own naked ignorance. If a playwright is not known to be properly anti-Israel, his or her work will not be produced. It is as simple as that.

To be sure: mourning all the dead Jews murdered in the European Holocaust remains a theatrical favorite but only as long as the somber themes include happy little touches (think about the misuse of Anne Frank) or when the destruction of the Jews is universalized by bringing in every other genocide to prove that there was nothing unique about the Shoah, and that Jews will not mourn other Jews only, that Jews will mourn all victims equally.

However, when one of these anointed Broadway and Hollywood darlings, like Kushner, is actually called on his brand of anti-Semitism, something which happens very rarely, the celebrity who is used to naught but praise, is shocked–shocked!–and righteously, mightily, offended.

Indeed, Kushner was so shocked that he wrote a three page letter to the CUNY Trustees accusing them of “defaming” him by deciding not to award him an honorary degree. In the letter, Kushner insists that his view that Israel engaged in the “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians in order to create a Jewish state is not an anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic view. He also claims that the “brunt” of the “ongoing horror in the Middle East” has been “borne by the Palestinian people.”

And then Kushner trots out his credentials, which include his proud board membership in Jewish Voice for Peace, a radically left anti-Zionist organization which supports the effort to boycott, divest from, and isolate Israel (BDS). He also notes that he “has a long and happy affiliation with such organizations as the 92nd St Y, The Jewish Museum and the Upper West Side JCC.”

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