On October 7, the Palestinian militant group Hamas launched a surprise attack on southern Israel, killing 1,400 Israelis and reigniting a decades-old conflict in the Middle East. Though the Biden Administration has voiced its strong support for Israel, a jarring number of antisemitic, pro-Hamas statements and rallies have plagued American institutions from universities to labor unions.
The City University of New York (CUNY), represented by the Professional Staff Congress union, has a history of antisemitism that predates the current conflict between Israel and Hamas. According to some reports, CUNY has taken measures to systematically remove Jewish representatives from its senior leadership roles. In the spring of 2023, the final two Jewish members of CUNY’s senior leadership team left the institution. Though 20 percent of New York’s population is Jewish, this marks the first class of CUNY leadership without any Jewish representation since the university’s inception in 1961.
In addition, three senior CUNY leaders are affiliated with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.
CAIR has been linked to the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), a group established by a senior Hamas operative. Furthermore, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has designated CAIR as a terrorist organization due to CAIR’s inclusion in the Muslim Brotherhood Hamas support network called the Palestine Committee. According to the Capital Research Center, CAIR not only has roots in Hamas, but several of CAIR’s associates in the U.S. have been indicted or convicted of terrorism-related charges.
The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a Palestinian-led initiative that seeks to apply political and economic pressure on Israel with the goal of ending “Israeli apartheid and colonialism” of Arab lands.
In 2021, CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez appointed Saly Abd Alla as the University’s Chief Diversity Officer. Though Abd Alla once served as CAIR’s Minnesota state director, her aggressive, pro-BDS rhetoric forced the organization to sever ties. Abd Alla’s personal anti-Israel bias casts doubt on whether she can be trusted with initiatives and investigations regarding antisemitism on campus.
Additionally, under Rodriguez’s leadership, CUNY introduced the contentious “University-Wide Discrimination and Retaliation Reporting Portal,” a public platform to report alleged discrimination on campus. CUNY’s platform relies on a definition of antisemitism developed in the widely criticized, CAIR-endorsed Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA) over the generally accepted definition from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Critics of the JDA argue that the definition undermines the consensus on what constitutes antisemitism, diluting the focus on Jewish persecution by including all forms of racism. Allegations of antisemitism among the declaration’s signatories raise additional concern.
CUNY’s faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC-CUNY), shares the University’s antisemitic sentiments. The union, in collaboration with CUNY4Palestine, has actively organized and endorsed pro-Hamas rallies, encouraging antisemitism on campus while making Jewish CUNY community members feel unsafe.
In addition to PSC-CUNY’s biased rhetoric on social media platforms, the union has blocked “@_SAFECAMPUS” on Twitter, an organization dedicated to advocating for Jews who face discrimination and exclusion on college campuses. The account is non-partisan and focuses on providing support and resources for Jewish students.
James Davis, president of PSC-CUNY and a staunch BDS supporter, has come under fire for his #ZionismOutOfCUNY campaign. In 2021, his leadership endorsed an intensely antisemitic, pro-BDS resolution, leading to the resignation of nearly 300 faculty members, a majority of which were Jewish. This resolution condemned Israel for the “massacre of Palestinians” and indicated the union would consider an endorsement of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel in the future. The CUNY law school faculty had also shown support for BDS by endorsing a student council resolution targeting Israel.
A report by the Students and Faculty for Equality at CUNY has shed light on widespread, entrenched antisemitism across the university, from antisemitic posters throughout the Borough of Manhattan Community College campus to the CUNY School of Law’s unanimously adopted the BDS resolution. Deliberate promotion of this hateful ideology across CUNY’s campus is unacceptable and demonstrates the university’s rampant antisemitism problem.
The Freedom Foundation stands in firm opposition to such divisive agendas and is unwavering in its commitment to raising awareness about hateful, union-sanctioned rhetoric. The month of October saw a record number of New Yorkers leaving their union memberships behind. This is indicative of a larger, national trend, as public-sector employees recognize that government unions do not have their best interests in mind. As we continue to challenge the influence of expansive public-sector unions that propagate hate, the Freedom Foundation’s mission remains clear: to empower individuals and defend their rights.