Nearly 200 City University of New York faculty members have resigned, or plan to resign, from the university system’s faculty trade union in protest over two vitriolic anti-Israel statements endorsed by the union and an affiliated organization.
A group of CUNY professors charged the union, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC CUNY), with violating its mandate by recently passing a resolution that “displays astonishing factual inaccuracy and foments anti-Semitism,” and by diverting union resources to such political advocacy. The 182 who have signed the professors’ “Mass Resignation Pact” describe the resolution, passed in June 2021, shortly after clashes between Hamas and Israel, as “abhorrent and divisive.” (You can read more by some of the signers here, here, and here.)
Another anti-Israel statement written by radical activists affiliated with the union and published shortly prior to the union’s vote on the resolution prompted over 2,600 faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members to call for a just and lasting peace while protesting the statement’s “one-sided” rhetoric. (You can view, and sign, that statement here.)
The signers of the protest document charged the statement’s authors with denying Israel the right to defend itself against rockets, and effectively denying Israel’s right to exist. The statement’s inflammatory language, they continued, creates a hostile environment at CUNY, “particularly for Jewish students, many of whom have been threatened and harassed by activists who seek to delegitimize Israel.”
That hundreds of CUNY professors have raised concerns about antisemitism is certainly alarming and warrants further attention.
Because the resignation pact and protest statement are concise, they don’t go into great detail about all the defects of the multi-page, anti-Israel screeds. The paragraphs that follow, then, examine the longer of the anti-Israel statements, the so-called “Statement of Solidarity with the Palestinian People,” and highlight its extremism, its indifference to the facts, and most disturbingly, its indulgence of anti-Israel violence.
It quickly becomes apparent that statement’s authors are disinterested in Hamas violence against innocent Israeli Jews. The statement begins by slamming Israel’s military strikes against Hamas and yet fails to mention, let alone condemn, the Hamas rocket attacks that set off the round of fighting.
.@TWennesland: Hamas & other militants’ indiscriminate launching of rockets & mortars from highly populated civilian neighborhoods into civilian population centers in #Israel violates IHL law and must cease immediately. Civilian areas must never be used for military purposes.
— UNSCO (@UNSCO_MEPP) May 16, 2021
If it seems odd for a document to repeatedly cite international law, leveling assorted charges of “illegality” against Israel, while even a single mention of Hamas’s indisputable war crimes, it gets worse.
More appalling — perhaps most appalling — is the statement’s apparent endorsement of terror attacks against Israelis.
Supporting Palestinian “Resistance”
One could certainly argue that the statement’s silence on Hamas war crimes amounts to complicity. Indeed, the PSC CUNY resolution accuses other U.S. labor organizations of giving “approval” to Israeli policies by “failing to challenge the U.S. government’s support” for those policies. By the anti-Israel activists’ own logic, then, their failure to challenge Hamas’s policy of attacking civilians amounts to “approval” of those attacks.
But it gets worse yet, because the Statement of Solidarity doesn’t just refrain from criticizing anti-Israel violence. It explicitly approves of Palestinian “resistance.”
The statement’s authors begin by announcing that they “stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine resisting” alleged Israeli crimes. Later they go further, giving a timeline for the resistance they endorse: “We take our stand with Palestinians who have been resisting settler colonialism for more than one hundred years.”
Whatever “resistance” might have meant in the American political milieu during the Trump years, in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict the word is broadly understood, not only by outside observers but by Palestinian terror groups themselves, as referring to deadly violent attacks against Jews.
As the Associated Press reported during a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings in 2003, for example,
The militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who broke off cease-fire talks with Abbas a week ago, said Saturday they had no plans to halt attacks on Israel.
“The word ‘cease-fire’ is not in our dictionary,” said Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a hard-line Hamas leader. “Resistance will continue until we uproot them from our homeland.”
That same year, after a suicide bomber targeted a restaurant, killing 21 civilians, the terror group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack and its leader Ramadan Shallah threatened that this brutal attack “will not be the last resistance operation.”
Likewise, the Associated Press reported after a 2007 suicide bombing that
A spokesman for the Islamic militant group Hamas defended Monday’s Palestinian suicide bombing in Israel as legitimate “resistance” against Israel.
Fawzi Barhoum called the attack a “natural response” to Israeli military policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as its ongoing boycott of the Hamas-led Palestinian government. “So long as there is occupation, resistance is legitimate,” he said.
After a 2016 suicide bombing on an Israeli bus, a Hamas official declared that the attack “affirms to everyone one that our people will not abandon the resistance path.”
The Popular Resistance Committees is a group defined by its terror attacks, such as their murder of Tali Hatuel, who was 8-months pregnant, and her four children, aged 2, 7, 9, and 11. Hamas, an acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement, is best known for suicide bombing like the one that killed 15 civilians, including seven children, at a Jerusalem pizzeria; the one that killed of 21 people, mostly teenage girls, outside a dance club; and massacre of 30 mostly elderly Jews celebrating Passover at a hotel dining room.
The list could go on and on. After nearly every deadly suicide attack, Palestinian terror groups described their murder of Jews as “resistance.” The authors of the Statement of Solidarity would be expected to know as much.
And indeed, even their own document places “resistance” in the context of deadly attacks. A throwaway line about how the authors “mourn all loss of life” is immediately followed but the word that tends to follow throwaway lines: “But….”
But what? But, they continue, they reject comparisons between Israel, with its strong military, and Palestinians, who are simply “resisting” oppression. So the authors know, just as the Jewish community and Israelis know, and just as Palestinians acknowledge, that Palestinian “resistance” leads to the loss of life.
(Not only in Israel, it should be noted. As self-described resistance fighter George Habash noted in 1976, after another Palestinian group hijacked a French airliner and took Jewish passengers hostage, “We retain the right to strike pro-Zionist imperialist projects all over the world.” More recently, in 2005, Al Qaida’s Abu Musab al-Suri published a “Global Resistance Call” enjoining followers to attack “places where Jews are gathered, their leading personalities and institutions in Europe” and journalists at “Zionist and Zionist-friendly Crusader media institutions.”)
And yet the CUNY authors still endorse that word. It’s no wonder that CUNY faculty expressed concern that the rhetoric by CUNY’s anti-Israel activists created a hostile environment for Jewish students.
“Resisting” rabbis, beleaguered immigrants, and Holocaust survivors
While the Islamic Jihad leader Barhoum and other leaders of Palestinian terror groups often vow that their violent “resistance” will continue “so long as there is occupation,” a term they use to describe the very existence of Israel since 1948, the CUNY statement astonishingly broadens the timeline further.
Its approving reference to Palestinians “resisting settler colonialism for more than one hundred years” includes an era long before Israel even existed, when ancient Jewish communities were attacked and refugees fleeing the Holocaust were murdered.
While there were no Israelis one hundred years ago, there were antisemitic riots during which Jews were slaughtered in the streets, such as the April 1920 Nebi Musa attacks and the May 1921 massacre of Jews in Jaffa and neighboring Jewish towns. A 1929 attack during which over 100 Jews in Hebron and Jerusalem were murdered targeted long-established Jewish communities in Hebron and Jerusalem, and resulted in the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Hebron.
What were the attackers “resisting”? Jews immigrating to join the Jewish community in Jerusalem, the holiest city in Judaism, where despite expulsions Jews have lived continuously for well over a thousand years?
That is indeed what the authors are referring to when they refer to over 100 years of “resistance” against “settler colonialism.”
Libels and Distortions
The rest of the document, meanwhile, spreads disinformation about Israel (and, by extension, its supporters).
It falsely charges, for example, that Israeli law systematically discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel.” The group most responsible for promoting this claim is Adalah, which purports to host on its website a “discriminatory law database” that names “65 Israeli laws that discriminate.”
The farce becomes apparent when examining the laws they list: One “discriminatory law” merely describes the shape and design of Israel’s flag. Another places a candelabrum on state documents. Another encourages vaccination by cutting state child allowances to families who don’t give their children needed inoculations. Another is Israel’s version of the American G.I. Bill. Another “requires NGOs that receive 50% or more of their funding from foreign governments to state that fact in various situations.” Another doesn’t deal with citizens at all, but rather with people seeking to immigrate to the country. Another allows the Knesset to strip pension benefits from any parliamentarian convicted of a serious crime. And so on.
The Statement of Solidarity alleges that Israel is crisscrossed with “settler-only highways.” There are no such highways. Their claim is an exaggeration of a similar canard that there are “Jewish-only roads.” There are no such roads, either. Any road open to Israeli Jews are open to Israeli Arabs, Christians, and Muslims, too.
The document charges Israel with maintaining an “illegal blockade” on Gaza, a dubious claim rebutted by a report commissioned by the Secretary General of the United Nations, which determined that “The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”
In reference to Palestinians in Israel’s capital, the document refers to “the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem.” In fact, since the reunification of the city, the Palestinian population has grown rapidly, and in fact has outpaced the growth of the city’s Jewish population.
As a result, notes a study by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies:
The proportion of Jews in the city’s population dropped from 74% in 1967 to 72% in 1980, and to 65% in 2007. There was a concomitant rise in the proportion of Arabs in the city’s population, from 26% in 1967 to 28% in 1980, and to 35% in 2007.
The statement also claims there is “an ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine.” The population growth in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, though, is high. The United Nations Population Fund, or UNFPA, describes “a rapid population growth and large youthful population with 69% below the age of 29. The population growth rate stands high at 2.8% and it is expected to remain stable due to decline in mortality rates while fertility rate remains one of the highest in the Arab region standing at 4.06….”
The Statement of Solidarity also charges Israel with building a “separation wall that swallows illegally occupied Palestinian land.” But the “wall” is almost entirely a fence. Occupations are not illegal, and even legal scholars who are sharply critical of Israeli policy have disputed such charges. And the disputed land behind the security barrier is not recognized as “Palestinian” by either the Oslo Accords (the main treaty signed by Israeli and Palestinian leaders), UN Security Council Resolution 242 (the centerpiece of peacemaking attempts since 1967), or a number of respected international legal scholars (including, for example, them the late Eugene Rostow, a dean of Yale’s law school).
Malicious Lies Harm Jews
Along with these lies is the document’s Big Lie, which casts Jews moving to the Holy Land over the past 100 years are “colonizers” and Israel as an “apartheid” state, when in fact it is a multi-ethnic democracy in which Jews and Arabs serve alongside each other in the parliament, government, courts, military, academia, and business world.
The Statement of Solidarity’s explicit endorsement of resistance could, as mentioned earlier, understandably make Jews at CUNY feel concerned for their safety. But even without that word, disinformation and demonization of the type the fills the Statement of Solidarity also has the potential to make Jewish students feel vulnerable and unwelcome on campus. To falsely call Israel an “apartheid” state (as the document does despite the fact that Israel is a multi-ethnic democracy in which Jews and Arabs serve together in the parliament, government, courts, military, and beyond) is to cast the mainstream Jewish community — and polls have shown that majorities of Jews around the world care about Israel, the safety of Israelis, and the existence of the Jewish state — as racists and criminals.
And indeed, at Baruch College, a CUNY campus, a protest against proposed tuition hikes gave way to calls for expulsion, with members of the school’s Students for Justice in Palestine branch shouting, “Zionism is a racist ideology” and “Racists’ out of CUNY!” Similar chants have been heard at CUNY’s Brooklyn College. And Jewish students have indeed been forced to leave and kept from on-campus events.
At Hunter College, another CUNY campus, Jewish students were confronted at a protest organized by an on-campus Palestinian group groups with chants like “Zionists out of CUNY” and “Intifada, intifada, long live the intifada!” (A Zionist is someone who supports Israel’s right to exist. The 2nd intifada that was a campaign of Palestinian violence against Israeli men, women and children characterized by suicide bombing attacks on buses, restaurants, and pizzerias.)
An independent investigation determined that “there is evidence that some members of the crowd shouted ‘Jews out of CUNY’ and ‘Death to Jews,” and cited a video in which a person in the crowd of protestors referring to “Jewish people … you racist sons of bitches.”
The report also described “physical assaults” and “threatening conduct that puts a community member in fear for his safety.
Unsurprisingly, while the authors Statement of Solidarity claim that they “vow to support those who are most vulnerable to attack for organizing and speaking out on our campuses, including Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, and other students, faculty and staff of color,” they say nothing about Jews.
The authors stand with resistance. They perhaps stand with “the people of Palestine.” But they, and wittingly or not many members of the Professional Staff Congress trade union, don’t stand with beleaguered Jews on campus or in Israel who are harassed, attacked, or targeted with terrorism.