CUNY Professors Leave Union in Droves Following Anti-Israel Statement

Jewish faculty say they've faced anti-Semitic attacks for years

Anti-Israel CUNY protesters / Getty Images
July 28, 2021

City University of New York (CUNY) professors are leaving the faculty union in droves after it passed a resolution condemning Israel as an "apartheid" state.

The Professional Staff Congress, CUNY’s chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, approved a "Resolution in Support of the Palestinian People" in June. The union "condemns the massacre of Palestinians by the Israeli state" and formally backs the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. The New York Post reported on July 25 that at least 50 faculty members resigned from the union after the resolution passed, though some professors told the Washington Free Beacon that the number could be more than 100.

The first professor to resign, Jeffrey Lax, told the Free Beacon that the union’s statement is inconsistent because it simultaneously claims that Israel is a "diverse nation state."

"Which one is it? Either you’re a diverse nation state or an apartheid state. They’re talking out of both sides of their mouth," Lax said.

The union’s statement came weeks after Hamas attacked Israel and launched more than 4,000 rockets into the Jewish state, killing several Israeli citizens. The Israeli military’s targeted counterstrikes neutralized several terrorist weapons caches and Hamas leaders.

CUNY has been dogged with accusations of anti-Semitism for years. In June, a pro-Palestinian professor and several students hacked into a Hunter College Zoom lecture and recited anti-Semitic tropes. The CUNY system’s Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy selected anti-Semitic activist Linda Sarsour as its commencement speaker in 2017. Later that year, CUNY awarded a top faculty honor to Beth Baron, a vocal proponent of boycotts targeting the Jewish state.

Jewish professors at CUNY told the Free Beacon that they’ve been subject to attacks from union leadership, colleagues, and students for years. Professors report having their tires slashed, their family photos destroyed, and Israeli flags stolen. University administrators refuse to respond to the professors’ allegations, even though an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report from February confirmed CUNY has fostered a hostile environment for Jews.

Susan Aranoff, a business professor at Kingsborough Community College, told the Free Beacon that she was refused admission to the Progressive Faculty Caucus because she was Jewish. Members of that group—many of whom also belong to the Professional Staff Congress—excluded Aranoff from email lists and meetings. The professor has had Israeli flags stolen off of her car twice. After the second offense, she decided not to replace the flag to avoid further harassment.

Aranoff considered resigning from the union earlier this spring after American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten claimed Jews were "part of the ownership class" in response to questions about schools reopening during the coronavirus pandemic.

"I myself was ready to resign earlier because Randi Weingarten made such an anti-Semitic statement. It was so shocking," Aranoff told the Free Beacon. "Why in the world did she target Jews?"

Aranoff said she’d feel unsafe walking around Kingsborough’s campus if the system decides to return to in-person learning this fall.

Vandals popped the tires of Kingsborough adjunct business professor Michael Goldstein’s car and desecrated a photo of the professor and his father, the late Leon Goldstein, who served as president of the college for nearly three decades. Goldstein told the Free Beacon that he’s had a public safety officer chaperone him around campus for three years. Goldstein said that pro-Palestinian activist students at Kingsborough have gone so far as to physically attack Jews on and around campus.

"These are students that are agitated and indoctrinated by the faculty at Kingsborough to hate Jews," Goldstein told the Free Beacon.

The number of Jewish students and professors at CUNY is dwindling, according to the professors. CUNY will be a "Jewish-free college and university" in the near future, Goldstein said.

Like their professors, students have been both perpetrators and victims of anti-Semitic attacks.

Mitchell Langbert, an associate business professor at Brooklyn College, told the Free Beacon that students have made anti-Semitic claims, like repeating the trope that Jews control the financial sector and the Federal Reserve. The "unhealthy atmosphere" has led to a sharp decline in the number of Orthodox Jews that attend the college, Langbert said.

Jewish students have told Aranoff that other professors wouldn’t accommodate tests scheduled for religious holidays. One student claimed that she was being stalked and threatened because she was Jewish. Goldstein said that two faculty members once seized a table that Hillel, a campus Jewish group, had set up in the college breezeway to raise money. The professors who commandeered the table allegedly used the spot to raised money for Palestinian refugees.

New York state senator Anna Kaplan (D.) and a group of nearly 1,000 rabbis have issued statements supporting the CUNY professors who left the union.

Like its CUNY chapter, two California chapters of the American Federation of Teachers have also released anti-Semitic statements. United Teachers of Los Angeles and the United Educators of San Francisco called Israel an "apartheid" state and endorsed the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel in their resolutions.

The Professional Staff Congress’s statement, and similar criticism of the Jewish state, according to Aranoff, often "distort" the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by leaving out crucial historical and political details.

"It's such a distortion through omission," Aranoff said. "It’s outright lying. You don't know where to begin when you get a statement like that."