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CUNY group plans to get school’s Jewish population to ‘unlearn Zionism’

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A small group of City University of New York (CUNY) students, faculty, and alumni plan to get the school’s Jewish population to “unlearn Zionism.”

The CUNY, which was the subject of a recent New York City Council hearing on anti-Semitism on college campuses, is no stranger to anti-Israel and anti-Jewish activity. Its law school approved a resolution to boycott Israel and all things related to it, also inviting Nerdeen Kiswani, who has a history of anti-Israel rhetoric and actions, as the keynote speaker in May.

Now, a group calling itself NIONCUNY – currently made up of 32 signatories, including seven students and four union delegates – has released a statement pledging to “create networks and programs within the CUNY Jewish population to challenge, criticize and unlearn Zionism so that they can form their own Jewish Identity”.

The statement challenges the links between Zionism and Judaism, accepted by the vast majority of Jews, and members of the CUNY population who support it.

“We vehemently oppose the Zionist movement within CUNY which aims to criminalize and demonize Palestinian students and workers. Additionally, we oppose liberal Zionist entities that falsely classify themselves as anti-Zionist while promoting Israeli settler colonial rule,” the statement read.

It also encourages endorsing boycotts against “the colonial and apartheid state of Israel without question and supporting all efforts to establish it within the CUNY.”

Jeffrey Lax, an Orthodox Jewish business professor at CUNY’s Kingsborough Community College and founder of SAFE (Students and Faculty for Equality) CUNY, told JNS that the NIONCUNY group is small, but represents something dangerous.

“I am convinced that the group is not representative of the overwhelming majority of Jews at CUNY or around the world, but, of course, I am concerned because it is the very strong, radical and militant vision that has caused problems for so many people,” he said.

Lax said it’s particularly troubling that four pledge signatories are delegates from CUNY’s Professional Staff Congress (PSC), the union that represents CUNY’s 30,000 faculty and staff.

“It’s not just emotional. It becomes a problem with the negotiation. The university admitted [at the City Council hearing] he knows there is a problem with anti-Semitism, so how can our bargaining unit be anti-Zionist? It’s a big professional problem, and it’s not true. Imagine saying you’re anti-black at a university with thousands of black students. It’s disgusting,” Lax said, adding that he had quit the union, although they still represent him legally in negotiating his terms of employment.

NIONCUNY also received the endorsement of the Communist Youth League of CUNY.

The signatories pledged to “encourage the hosting of anti-Zionist Jewish professionals to come and speak on CUNY campuses to show young Jewish adults that Zionism is not the only path and that since Zionism exists, the anti-Zionism is right. .” The group also calls for “wholehearted” endorsement of BDS and opposition to the widely accepted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism.

CUNY Law School’s BDS resolution is the subject of a complaint to the accrediting body of the American Bar Association and the New York City Commission on Human Rights and from the New York State Division of Human Rights for potential violations of the Discrimination Act.