NYC Councilwoman cuts CUNY law school funds over antisemitism

"It seems as if antisemitism is the only politically acceptable form of racism which exists. We must stop handing out free passes to anti-Semites like candy."

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA

New York City Councilwoman Inna Vernikov is pulling $50,000 in funding for the City University of New York (CUNY) Law School over the faculty's support of a resolution in favor of the antisemitic Boycott, Sanction and Divestment (BDS) movement resolution against Israel.

Vernikov, a Ukranian-born Jew who represents neighborhoods in southern Brooklyn, told The New York Post on Friday, "I have pulled funding from the program and redirected it to Legal Services NYC. It seems as if antisemitism is the only politically acceptable form of racism which exists. We must stop handing out free passes to anti-Semites like candy."

The money had been set aside for CUNY School of Law Justice and Auxiliary Service, a branch staffed by alumni, to provide pro-bono services to those in need in her district, thanks to discretionary funding provided by council members.

Vernikov also told the outlet that CUNY professors are hypocrites for targeting Israel over disputed territory with Palestinians, while ignoring other countries "who actually commit atrocious human rights violations, including but not limited to genocide, rape, torture, and persecution."

"During a time when antisemitic hate crimes are up by 300 percent, it is incumbent upon our academic institutions to do everything in their power to protect their Jewish and pro-Israel students, not pass resolutions which directly place them in harm’s way," the councilwoman added.

Vernikov previously pulled $5,000 in planned funding for a Holocaust museum, after it banned Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis from speaking.

On May 12, the CUNY Law professors voted to endorse a BDS resolution which had previously passed in the school’s Student Government Association last December.

The resolution endorsed BDS, and called on the school to divest from Israel, end-all Israeli student exchanges, and cut ties with any groups that "repress Palestinian organizing."

The vote came the day before an anti-Israel student bashed the Jewish state during her commencement speech at the school’s graduation ceremony.

Founder of the anti-Israel group Within Our Lifetime (WOL) Nerdeen Kiswani praised the faculty's support of the BDS resolution in her speech her speech and criticized other CUNY branches for not being as supportive of Palestinian movements as CUNY Law. She also criticized the university’s chancellor for going on a trip to Israel and said that the chancellor engaged in double standards, releasing "selective" statements on freedom of speech but "is silent on Palestine."

On March 30, WOL called for an armed uprising against Jews when they chanted "globalize the intifada" and "there is only one solution, intifada, revolution."

Kiswani also claimed that there had been a campaign to prevent her from speaking at the graduation and that she had been "facing a campaign of Zionist harassment by well-funded organizations with ties to the Israeli government and military on the basis of my Palestinian identity and organizing. Beginning in the Fall 2019 semester — my very first semester as a law student — It has lasted ever since."

Her classmates disputed her claims. Rafaella Gunz, a former classmate of Kiswani's at CUNY Law, told The Jerusalem Post, "No, she's under scrutiny because she says really outlandish things and does things like go up to people wearing IDF sweaters and threatens to light them on fire."

Gunz left the institution due to what she described as a "toxic" antisemitic environment. "It's not because of her Palestinian identity, it's because she interrupts Holocaust memorial ceremonies and says that she hopes the last thing Zionists hear in their life is 'pop pop.' She says crazy, violent things and it's f***ing cheered on."

Gunz added, "I felt like I was targeted by the student body for being a Zionist. I have spoken to Jewish faculty and students across CUNY, and so many of them are concerned. Many are scared. I get calls from parents of prospective Jewish students who ask me, 'is it safe to send my child to CUNY?'"

SAFE CUNY, a student run NGO, told The Jerusalem Post, "Not just in this speech, but in other venues, Kiswani has demanded 'Zionism out of CUNY.' In other words, that Zionist Jews should be discriminated against based on their religion, ethnicity, and/or national origin as students, faculty, or staff members and be thrown out of CUNY."

In 2020, Kiswani shared a video of herself threatening to set a man's IDF sweatshirt on fire and that same year she was named by the StopAntisemitism as "antisemite of the year."

SAFE CUNY added, "Kiswani is unqualified to hold a law license in New York state because she emphatically expresses views that violate the attorney's oath of office and religious liberty for all religious beliefs, including Zionistic ones, under the New York State constitution. It was even more shocking to observe CUNY Law Professors on stage applauding and cheering Kiswani's discriminatory rhetoric."

The group continued that "CUNY's persistent and longstanding practice of ignoring antisemitism has enabled it to foment the horrifying Jew-hate that we are all seeing now across its campuses."


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