In a famously misogynist comment in the film “As Good as It Gets,” a misanthropic writer played by Jack Nicholson is asked, “How do you write women so well?” He replies, “I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.”
Recent news of the City University of New York’s attempts to penalize faculty members who speak out against the institution’s systemic antisemitism leads one to think that Nicholson’s remark, with slight adjustments, could well apply to CUNY: “I think of a reasonable and accountable person, and I take away reason and accountability.”
Clearly, CUNY has forsaken reason and has no intention of allowing itself to be held accountable. The evidence is readily available. The organization SAFE CUNY recently tweeted, “FOUR Zionist Jewish Professors who complained about antisemitism on their campuses have now been placed under investigation by CUNY for ‘discrimination’ against BDS and radical Islamist antisemitic activists.”
“The real news here is that CUNY abhorrently and with impunity is now expanding this witch hunt for Jews who complain about antisemitism,” the organization added.
This appears to be quite accurate. A few days before, the New York Post reported that two professors were being investigated because of their criticism of an anti-Israel campus exhibit that consisted of little more than a series of blood libels.
Avraham Goldstein, one of the professors in question, told the Post, “It is evident to me that this investigation against us is a retaliation by CUNY administration for our activity.”
It wasn’t the first time. JNS reported in February that two Jewish professors at Kingsborough Community College, which is part of the CUNY system, were under a similar investigation. One of the targets, Michael Goldstein, called the investigation “definitely retaliatory.”
“They’re doing this because we’ve made accusations against them,” he said. “This has been going on for years. This is their way of getting back at us.”
To those of us who have been following the institutionalization of antisemitism at CUNY, none of this comes as a surprise. It has precedent, to say the least.
In 2020, for example, antisemitic students and administrators at CUNY School of Law ideologically cleansed the school of Jewish student Rafaella Gunz through a campaign of systemic harassment. In a May commencement speech, School of Law graduate Fatima Mousa Mohammed falsely accused Israel of innumerable crimes, prompting criticism even from CUNY’s own Board of Trustees. The previous year’s commencement speaker, Nerdeen Kiswani, spun an antisemitic conspiracy theory to great acclaim.
The Kiswani incident was particularly telling and may explain better than anything else what is happening to the four professors in question.
It is important to understand that this is not just a case of institutional retaliation, though it is certainly that. If this were the case, it would merely be another indication of CUNY’s debasement. An institution, after all, is only as good as the people in it, and it is clear that CUNY is, to a great extent, staffed, led and attended by horrible people.
But there is more to it than that: Those horrible people, by and large, harbor a specific and quite monstrous ideology.
This ideology was expressed rather well by Kiswani, who ranted about a “campaign of Zionist harassment by well-funded organizations with ties to the Israeli government and military” that was persecuting her “on the basis of my Palestinian identity and organizing.”
Put simply, the CUNY professors in question are being “investigated” because those “investigating” them are convinced that the professors are part — perhaps leaders — of a “campaign of Zionist harassment by well-funded organizations with ties to the Israeli government and military.”
This may not be easy for many Jews to grasp, even those deeply concerned about antisemitism at CUNY and in academia in general. Understanding antisemitism requires a leap of the imagination of which many people — including many Jews — are often incapable. They find it impossible to conceive of the possibility that antisemites really believe it.
But antisemites do really believe it. Whether they are the “Goyim Defense League,” the mullahs of Iran or the CUNY establishment, antisemites do not say the things they say in order to scapegoat Jews or achieve Machiavellian ends. They genuinely believe that the Jews — and by extension Zionism — are an all-powerful malevolent force for evil that must be combatted and destroyed.
It is clear what CUNY’s plan is: To purge all Jewish and Zionist members of the faculty and force Jewish students who do not tow the anti-Zionist line off campus. CUNY antisemites have not adopted this plan out of any ulterior motives. They have done so because they believe it is the right thing to do. They believe it is a moral imperative to speak truth to Jewish power and purify their campus of its evil. They are true believers.
No one should labor under any illusions. Many of us want CUNY to listen to reason and hold itself accountable. But CUNY sees this as nothing more than a Jewish/Zionist conspiracy against it.
We must acknowledge this and what it means: The CUNY antisemites will follow through on their plan. They will not stop unless they are stopped, and they will not be stopped unless we stop them. That, above all, must be the imperative of the moment.