UPDATE: CUNY reconsiders and awards Kushner honorary degree

Many – including AMP – still calling for trustee’s resignation

From the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP):

(CHICAGO 05/11/2011) – The City University of New York Trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld will not resign his position in wake of the controversy caused by racist comments he made about Palestinians last week. Wiesenfeld disparaged Palestinians, other Arabs of the Middle East and Muslims in his argument against awarding an honorary degree to Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner — whom the trustee said held anti-Semitic views on Israel — during a Board of Trustees meeting on May 2. The board tabled the issue because of Wiesenfeld’s remarks, but reversed its decision and approved the award on Monday after a national outcry.

The American Muslims for Palestine logged an official complaint with the university and called for Wiesenfeld’s resignation on May 9. AMP’s letter was published in its entirety at 1 p.m. on the “Kushner Crisis” blog, on the CUNY Graduate Center Advocate website. At 6:19 p.m., the CUNY Faculty Union officially called for the trustee’s resignation as well, according to the blog.

Wiesenfeld has since been quoted in several sources saying he will not resign his post. Wiesenfeld was quoted in The Atlantic accusing Kushner of “blood-libel” for saying Israel engaged in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. The trustee also said his mother – a Holocaust survivor – would label Kushner a “Kapo,” a derogatory term used for Jews who worked for Nazis in the death camps.

Kushner has said that he will accept the award and also will speak at CUNY’s commencement, according to the Advocate. Kushner also said Wiesenfeld’s behavior was “inappropriate.”

“My feeling is that his [Wiesenfeld’s] behavior both during that meeting and in the many interviews he has given since represents a misuse of his position as a trustee of the City University of New York… I don’t believe his behavior is in any way appropriate and actually I think it had very little to do with any legitimate business of CUNY and had only to do with his own personal and political agenda. I don’t think that’s what a trustee should be about.”

Accord¬ing to the May 2 board tran¬scripts pub¬lished by the New York Times, Mr. Wiesen¬feld said the Middle East’s Arab states “…are misog¬y¬nist, anti-gay, anti-Christian and soci¬eties that are doing today to the Chris¬tians what they did to the 500,000 Jews who lived in the Arab world in 1948 at the time of the cre¬ation of the State of Israel, dis¬pos¬sess¬ing them, mur¬der¬ing them, deport¬ing them.”

Referring to Palestinians, Wiesenfeld told also a New York Times reporter, “Peo¬ple who wor¬ship death for their chil¬dren are not human …They have devel¬oped a cul¬ture which is unprece¬dented in human history.”

CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein told the New York Times on Tuesday that he does not agree with the “strenousness” of Wiesenfeld’s comments, but added the trustee has “done some very good work on the board.”

Nevertheless several sources, including the New York Times and the Atlantic, report that pressure for Wiesenfeld’s resignation is mounting.

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