CUNY Trustee: Kushner Must Renounce anti-Israel Statements to Get Honorary Degree

Trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld tells Haaretz would vote to reverse decision if playwright Tony Kushner renounces statements claiming Israel engages in ethnic cleansing, denouncing its right to exist; calls Kushner's statements 'pure incitement'.

Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a CUNY trustee, told Haaretz that if playwright Tony Kushner was willing to come before the board of trustees and renounce his statements accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing and denouncing it existence, he would be willing to vote to award the playwright as with an honorary degree as planned.

Kushner, a Pulitzer Prize winner, has condemned Israel's policies against Palestinians, accusing Israel of engaging in ethnic cleansing. The playwright was also quoted saying that it would be better if Israel did not exist.

President of J Street, Jeremy Ben Ami, at the second annual J Street conference in Washington DC. Natasha Mozgovaya

Wiesenfeld said that in the 12 years that he has been a member of the board of trustees, 450 candidates have been given honorary degrees, 30 of whom have expressed opposition to Israel's policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians.

However, the trustee clarified, none of these candidates ever so blatantly expressed anti-Israel statements in such an offensive way as to accuse Israel of ethnic cleansing, comparing it to Bosnia and Darfur. Wiesenfeld said this was pure incitement against Israel.

Left-wing Israel advocacy group J Street condemned the board of trustees' decision in a statement Friday, saying it was an infringement upon Kushner's right to free speech, calling it a "political witch-hunt".