Antisemitism Has Infected CUNY: We Demand that the University Adopts the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism
How CUNY Became The Most Systemically Antisemitic University in the U.S. in Just 2 Years
I. Rotten From The Top: Former CAIR Director Saly Abd Alla is CUNY's Chief Diversity Officer, Overseeing 25 Campuses
Hired in 2022, Former CAIR MN Civil Rights Director and BDS activist Saly Abd Alla is currently the Chief Diversity Officer at CUNY. Abd Alla oversees discrimination across CUNY's 25 campuses, serving nearly 250,000 students. In September 2022, Abd Alla was assigned to investigate antisemitism and antizionism discrimination complaints at CUNY. Only upon public backlash and objection from the Zionist Jewish complainant, was Abd Alla removed from the investigation. However, Abd Alla has retained her role overseeing discrimination across the university, and does oversee investigations, diversity events, and all other discrimination matters related to antisemitism/antizionism.
Abd Alla worked as the civil rights director for CAIR MN from 2013 to 2014. CAIR was designated as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Case, the largest terror-financing case in U.S. history, where the FBI tied the organization to funneling money to Hamas. CAIR has advocated for the non-existence of the ADL, publicly supports BDS, defends antisemitic tropes from leaders like Ilhan Omar and Linda Sarsour, and works with antizionist and antisemitic groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine ("SJP") and Jewish Voices for Peace ("JVP").
While under Abd Alla's directorship in 2013-'14, CAIR MN publicly pushed BDS campaigns and initiatives. CUNY has repeatedly defended Abd Alla, both publicly and privately. Publicly, CUNY has called the CAIR BDS activist a "highly qualified chief diversity officer" and has baselessly slammed criticism of her documented ties to CAIR and BDS as "misinformation." In private emails seen and obtained by S.A.F.E. CUNY, Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez has falsely disputed Abd Alla's connections to CAIR MN's BDS campaign. S.A.F.E. CUNY is in possession of documents that confirm Abd Alla's connection to CAIR and its 2014 BDS campaign.
In February, 2023, in what the New York Post called "a master class in 'gaslighting'," CUNY Chancellor Felix Matos Rodriguez and Vice Chancellor Doriane Gloria tapped Abd Alla to lead a series of discrimination symposiums, including discussions about antisemitism. Matos Rodriguez and Gloria touted Abd Alla's qualifications to oversee antisemitism initiatives at CUNY less than 3 months after antisemitism watchdog StopAntisemitism.org gave CUNY a failing grade in its 2022 report on campus antisemitism partially because it did "not include Jews in its DEI initiatives."
After swift and widespread condemnation and after a number of Jewish professors signed up to attend Abd Alla's event, CUNY cancelled the in-person event, converting it to online-only. The university then refused to publicize the link to the online event even to its own employees who were initially all invited to attend. The University declined to contact CUNY employees who had already registered for the event, failing to provide them with the link. A number of legitimately-enrolled Jewish CUNY professors, including some members of S.A.F.E. CUNY were forced to "sneak in" in order to attend the event. Those employees have shared that no antisemitism-related questions were even permitted to be asked of Abd Alla at the event.
In early February, 2023, Chancellor Matos Rodriguez touted the launch of an online discrimination portal purportedly designed, in part, to meaningfully combat the widespread antisemitism problem across its campuses. In reality, the portal was a farcical smokescreen, doing nothing at all to specifically combat antisemitism. The "new" system did nothing more than convert the same previously manual process to an online mechanical incarnation that continued to process and collect all discrimination complaints for all protected classes in the same way CUNY has always previously done. In moving discrimination complaints to an online portal, nothing was done to in any way combat antisemitism.
Much worse, the portal page included guidance that appears to be a concerted effort to systemically enable antisemitism by linking to the CAIR-endorsed Jerusalem Declaration of Antisemitism (the "JDA"). The JDA, among other things, defends "opposing Zionism as a form of nationalism and declares boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel as "not, in and of themselves, antisemitic." JDA’s nefarious “definition of antisemitism” has been almost universally rejected, having been adopted by 0 entities. In contrast, the IHRA definition of antisemitism is widely accepted and has now been adopted by over 1,100 entities. The JDA seeks to re-interpret and define IHRA by people and organizations with an insidious and antisemitic agenda. By including the JDA on its discrimination portal page, CUNY has legitimized that agenda. Moreover still, right below the JDA link, the portal page provides a reminder that (former CAIR Director and BDS Activist) Saly Abd Alla is the CEO overseeing all of this.
II. CUNY's Faculty Union is Rotten From the Top: BDS Activist James Davis is the President of the 23,000 Member PSC-CUNY Union
James Davis, a publicly avowed BDS advocate is the President of CUNY's 23,000 faculty member labor union, the PSC-CUNY. In this video, Davis is seen baselessly testifying at a NYC council hearing blaming CUNY and PSC antisemitism on “White Christian Nationalism”, perjuring himself by denying his public history of supporting BDS and invoking antisemitic Israel dual allegiance tropes. Delegate leaders from Davis' union publicly chant "Zionism out of CUNY" at rallies. S.A.F.E. CUNY obtained and shared video in June 2022 in which Davis boasts of voting to adopt BDS as a member of the American Studies Association. Davis had denied any knowledge of this video or of ever publicly supporting BDS in his perjured City Council testimony.
In June 2021, James Davis' PSC-CUNY faculty union delegates trafficked in classic antisemitic tropes while overwhelmingly adopting a resolution that called for BDS in direct violation of New York State Law and that condemned only civilian Palestinian lives lost while purposefully refusing to condemn the loss of Jewish civilian lives. The resolution perfidiously accused Israel of being a "settler colonial" state and of engaging in "apartheid."
III. CUNY Repeatedly Honors Renowned Antisemites with Commencement Speeches
In May 2022, renowned Jew-hater Nerdeen Kiswani was honored by the university with delivering its Law School's commencement address.
Weeks earlier, in April 2022, CUNY faculty union leaders marched alongside Kiswani in demanding that their own Zionist faculty colleagues be ousted from CUNY, promoting a #ZionismOutofCUNY rally outside of the CUNY Graduate Center.
Kiswani is the founder and director of Within Our Lifetime, a group that demands the complete destruction of Israel. The group was banned from Instagram for violence-inciting hate speech.
Kiswani was named "Antisemite of the Year" by Stop Antisemitism.org. In September 2020, Kiswani ignited a cigarette lighter and held it within inches of a man wearing a sweatshirt with an Israel Defense Forces logo on a subway, threatening: "I'm gonna set it on fire... I'm serious." In July 2021, Kiswani virulently called for the death of Zionists. Kiswani advocates for Intifada and expressed solidarity with a USC graduate student who Tweeted her desire to "kill every mother*king Zionist."
The honoring of Kiswani was not the first time CUNY has honored an individual widely-recognized as engaging in antisemitic comments and behaviors to deliver a commencement address. In 2017, CUNY invited Linda Sarsour to deliver a commencement address despite nearly 9,000 petition signatures imploring the university not to honor Sarsour's long and ugly history of antisemitic comments and demonstrated bigotry towards Jews.
IV. CUNY's Only Law School Has Formally Adopted BDS as Policy
Days after Kiswani's commencement address, it was revealed that CUNY Law School's faculty had unanimously and formally endorsed the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. Under the new policy, CUNY Law's entire faculty body declared that Zionist Jews and Israelis were no longer welcome to work at, with, or to attend CUNY School of Law. The policy even called for a ban on Hillel, the most popular Jewish cultural club in higher education. Indeed, CUNY School of Law has no Hillel Club and S.A.F.E. CUNY is in possession of additional information that suggests an active discrimination campaign against Zionist Jews and/or Israelis at the school.
On February 23, 2023, it was reported that the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR) had opened an investigation into the law school for violating state Discriminatory Boycott laws by implementing BDS as institutional policy.
V. Rotten at the Top of CUNY Campuses: The EEOC Has Determined That CUNY's Kingsborough Campus and the PSC Faculty Union Pervasively Discriminate Against Orthodox and Zionist Jews
A stunning February 2021 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) final determination found that at CUNY's Kingsborough Community College, Observant and Zionist Jews were pervasively discriminated against, banned from faculty groups, harassed, and retaliated against on its campus. It also determined that events were purposefully scheduled on Friday night in order to block Observant Jews from attending. Kingsborough President Claudia Schrader, CUNY, and the Chancellor have all done NOTHING in response to the findings, except to further retaliate against its very victims. For over two years, President Schrader has refused to meet or even speak with the Observant and Zionist Jewish victims of the 2021 EEOC findings. She has even refused to speak or meet with one victim who reports directly to her.
in late May 2021, one of Schrader's EEOC-substantiated discrimination victims informed her of a horrifying news story describing a Kingsborough student brutally beating and taunting an Observant Jew only blocks away from campus with a baseball bat. The Kingsborough student yelled, “We'll kill all the Jews! Free Palestine.” While other local campus leaders spoke out about the attack and the spate of antisemitic attacks in the area, Schrader appallingly refused to do so, even after repeatedly and admirably making statements in support of the Asian-American Community and the Black Community when those communities were suffering despicable and brutal attacks. The contemptable refusal to address brutal attacks only when they are against Jews –even when the attack was perpetrated near Kingsborough’s campus and at the hand of a Kingsborough student shines an ugly light on, and helps to explain, President Claudia Schrader’s tolerance and support for the long and widespread Jew-hate on her campus.
VI. CUNY is an Unsafe Place for Jewish People
CUNY has become an unsafe place for Zionist Jews, Observant Jews, Outward Jews, and for all Jewish people. At least 13 legal actions, including several under Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or under City or State law, have been filed by Jewish students and faculty against the university over the past 3-4 years. Countless internal complaints have been filed.
VII. CUNY Has Begun to Investigate Jews Who File Complaints About Antisemitism
On February 20, 2023, it was reported that CUNY had launched retaliatory investigations against two Jewish professors with already-substantiated antisemitism claims, for asserting additional claims of antisemitism against the university related to BDS activism embedded in the hiring processes at CUNY. According to the report, the University has refused to even provide these professors with a copy of the complaint filed against them.
Students And Faculty for Equality at CUNY (S.A.F.E. CUNY) is a non-partisan group that advocates for systemically discriminated and excluded Zionist, Observant, Outward, and other Jews and for all protected classes and those historically underrepresented at CUNY.
We Demand that CUNY Adopt the Widely-Accepted IHRA Definition of Antisemitism
S.A.F.E. CUNY calls for CUNY and the PSC-CUNY faculty union to adopt the widely-accepted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Definition of Antisemitism. The IHRA definition of antisemitism reflects the lived experience of Jewish students, faculty, staff, and others at CUNY and its adoption by the university is the most effective way to address antisemitism at the university and within the PSC-CUNY faculty union.
Over 1,100 entities have adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism. The IHRA definition has been adopted or endorsed by over 50 nations, more than 340 educational institutions, over 30 U.S. states, and by the U.S. State department. It is the accepted definition of antisemitism for the vast majority of Jewish organizations and scholars. The movement is growing. In 2022 alone, over 200 entities adopted or endorsed the definition.
Please sign this petition demanding that CUNY adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism and be guided by the IHRA definition to properly identify and address antisemitism throughout the university.