‘Outrageous insult’: Jewish group slammed for honoring CUNY board chairman

Bill Thompson only belatedly condemned as hate speech the CUNY Law School valedictorian’s anti-Israel commencement address last month.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) has come under fire for honoring the chairman of the board of CUNY, the City University of New York system, after the board only belatedly condemned a hate-filled commencement address against Israel by a law graduate last month and has taken no other steps to combat antisemitism that critics say is rife on many of the campuses.

CUNY Chairman Bill Thompson received JCRC’s annual “Public Service Award” on Monday night. The chairman, who is a former city comptroller, “has been a friend to the City of New York and to JCRC-NY for over three decades… and has been a dedicated advocate for diversity, innovation, and progress across the public and private sectors,” JCRC said in a statement.

“This is an outrageous insult and obsequious act against the Jewish community. No one in the CUNY administration should be honored by JCRC,” said Jeffrey Wiesenfield, who had been a CUNY board member for 15 years before stepping down in 2014.

“Billy Thompson and the chancellor didn’t fire the law school dean who applauded that jihadist speech to destroy the Jews in Israel. Let’s call it what it was,” he said.

Dean Sudha Setty and other school officials sat on the dais and applauded the commencement address in which valedictorian Fatima Mousa Mohammed praised resistance to “Zionism” and made numerous false claims, such as, “Israel continues to indiscriminately rain bullets and bombs on worshipers, murdering the old, the young, attacking even funerals and graveyards.”

It took over two weeks for CUNY’s chancellor and board of trustees to condemn the May 12 address as “hate speech” and to say that it “will not condone hateful rhetoric on our campuses,” but no further action was demanded or taken.

The JCRC had expressed its dissatisfaction with the reaction. “We’re disappointed they didn’t call it out for what it was: Antisemitism,” the group tweeted, demanding that CUNY “revise its commencement speech guidelines before next year’s graduation.”

CUNY Law School is already being investigated by New York authorities for possible anti-Jewish bias due to its official support for the anti-Israel BDS movement and its apathy regarding anti-Semitism on campus.

Last June, one of the law school’s former students testified before a city council hearing on antisemitism in New York colleges, saying “I feared for my physical and emotional wellbeing” after being regularly vilified by fellow students for her faith and support of Israel. Due to the pressure, she transferred to a different school.

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Many others spoke of hate-filled atmospheres and slurs on CUNY campuses, both written and orally delivered, with nothing being done about it.

“We hear last night’s @JCRCNY Gala was poorly attended and morale down. JCRC has disgracefully thrown CUNY’s Jews to the wolves and assists and strategizes with CUNY in furthering antisemitism,” SAFE CUNY, which “advocates for Zionist Jews systemically discriminated against and excluded” by CUNY and its faculty, tweeted on Tuesday.