Discussion of Israel excluded from academic freedom
We have reached a point in our universities and colleges where academic freedom means never having to say Israel is wrong. If students and communities are forbidden from an open and honest discussion on Israel and its internationally condemned and illegal occupation of Palestinian lands that are deemed to be war crimes and crimes against humanity by UN agencies, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the EU Parliament and many governments around the world, then the very essence of freedom of speech, freedom to learn, freedom to challenge and criticize, and freedom from censorship in bastions of intellectual development is lost and our nation and the world loses the benefit of intellectual analysis and criticism to improve our presence and future.
The mere fact that one Jewish member of the board of trustees at CUNY can single-handedly deny a deserved honor to Mr. Kushner, a Jewish playwright with the foresight and courage to criticize abusive Israeli policies, says more about the passivity and intimidated silence of the larger society than the power of one person, group, lobby or nation.
Our government has for decades surrendered its power and foreign policy in the Middle East and the Muslim world to Israel's interests; must our academic institutions also lose their independence to special interests, in this case Israel's?
As a former academician I urge the board of trustees executive committee to reverse this outrageous decision driven by one member and declare its independence to honor its mission and vision for academic freedom. CUNY's students must learn the courage of their convictions and their right to speak, hear and learn all points of view during their time at this illustrious University.
Giving Mr. Kushner his honorary degree would set a precedent that academic decisions are made deliberately and studiously and not in response to pressures from any person, not even a board member.
Mohamed Khodr, MD
May 7 2011 - 7:16pm