I have been meaning to write about the storm raging in New York following CUNY's board of trustees decision not to present an honorary degree to anti-Israel propagandist/faux artiste Tony Kushner but due to travels and other time killers, haven't had the opportunity.
Before it is too late, I want to add my two bits to the controversy.
First, for the unititiated here is the short version.
Kushner is an Israel-bashing leftist. Other Israel-bashing leftists who teach at CUNY recommended that the university honor Kushner with an honorary degree.
Last week, the CUNY Board of Trustees met to consider the recommendation and due to the objections raised by trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, the board decided not to accept the faculty recommendation and passed him over for the honor.
Kushner pulled out the McCarthy card. His leftist fans at the New York Times and everywhere in academia rallied to his defense and began a process of demonizing Wiesenfeld.
The university president panicked and took the unprecendented move of overturning his trustees' decision and agreed to give Kushner the honorary degree.
Now the leftist screechers are demanding that Wiesenfeld be removed from the board of trustees because by professing an opinion they don't like, he has destroyed what passes for academic freedom in their twisted little Orwellian world.
So four thoughts on this:
First Wiesenfeld is a Jewish hero and deserves the support of all good Jews and supporters of truth.
Second, the fact that the leaders of the major Jewish organizations -- almost all located in New York - have not seen fit to stand up for Wiesenfeld is a mark of shame on all of them. What their silence shows is that there is no reason to believe that they are up to the challenges of defending the Jewish community in the US on any issue of major or minor significance. Wiesenfeld is after all being demonized for the act of standing up to a maligner of Israel. That's all he did. And they cannot even muster the courage to defend him for that.
Third, the assault on Wiesenfeld should raise alarm bells for all parents in the US. It isn't just that universities are increasingly closed to critical thought regarding Israel. Their refusal to countenance the truth in the discussion of Israel -- Columbia, my alma mater just established an institute of Palestine studies. That is, Columbia just established an institute to study an imaginary country and a nation that was invented by the Soviets circa 1969 -- is a signal that they cannot study anything. What the Kushner story shows is that there is no reason for parents to believe that a college degree from most US universities today will provide their children with anything remotely resembling an education.
Finally, while I applaud and respect Wiesenfeld for standing up for what is right, the assault on him raises the issue of whether there is any point anymore to contributing money to corrupted institutions. Many philantropists argue that by funding universitities they buy the ability to influence policies and save them from the inside. But what the assault on Wiesenfeld shows is that this influence is an illusion.
It seems to me that it is far wiser for people who value education, critical thought, Israel, America and Western civilization to fund institutions and initiatives dedicated explicitly to advancing these critical causes in order to empower them to replace the corrupted institutions on the Left. This is of course the notion that propelled me to establish Latma. I'm not trying to make a pitch for money - although I might as well be, why not? \if you want to contribute, press here.
But still, I am convinced that if you want to win a war of ideas you have to support your ideas and that means, strengthening those who agree with you as much as you possibly can so we can defeat the intellectual forces gunning for the destruction of our values, our countries and our way of life.