Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tony Kushner Row Threatens Legitimate Anti-Boycott Advocacy

Yesterday I wrote that the Tony Kushner debacle was a waste of pro-Israel political capital. Today I want to go even further: denying Kushner an honorary degree on the basis of his politics is equivalent to silencing pro-Israel speech and boycotting Israeli academics and cultural events. In my opinion it is no different than the ugly intimidation tactics of PACBI, BDS, etc. 

For goodness sakes, Israeli universities employ the largest number of Jewish anti-Zionist academics in the world. We may hate their work but the discourse we must engage in is to challenge their ideas, not silence them. We can't claim to promote Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East and then turn around and abuse the freedoms democracy grants all speech.

As former NYC Mayor Israel supporter, Ed Koch, said yesterday, “I can’t think of a dumber academic action. What does Kushner receiving an award have to do with criticism of the State of Israel? I am a well-known supporter of that nation. What if I were denied an honorary degree because of my strong support for that state? That would make as much sense as denying Mr. Kushner a degree.”

Furthermore, this pathetic strong-arm action initiated by Republican patron Jeffrey Wiesenfeld threatens to 1) make a mockery of legitimate challenges to institutional anti-Zionism, 2) allow right-wing politicians to own the pro-Israel position, giving anti-Zionists an opportunity to exploit that partisanship, 3) Kushner and anti-Zionists, for all their huffing, are enjoying the attention this gives their position, 4) there are far bigger fish to fry, eg, the Methodist Church's new document on Israel and Palestine.

Already, the media is jumping on this story and efforts to demonize legitimate anti-anti-Zionist critiques are emerging. It may start with honorary degree holders renouncing their awards and will, no doubt, end with petitions and letters claiming that the pro-Israel community is holding critics of Israeli policies hostage; think Move Over AIPAC and accusations of Israel Lobby manipulations.

Nevertheless, CAMERA, has a concise précis of Kushner’s position and it’s worth reading in order to counter its many, many flaws. Also worth reading are Jeffrey Goldberg's interesting observations as well as quotes from a conversation with Jeffrey Wiesenfeld.



  1. Actually pro-Israel academics are denied honors all the time, its just that noone makes a big deal out of it.You also confuse freedom of speech with the right to be given a platform to speak. The ignorant and hate filled may have the right to voice their opinion, but it does not mean they need to be given the stage of a respected organization in order to spew their garbage.

    The reality is that an honorary degree is supposed to recognize academic and/or intellectual honesty, neither which Kushner exhibits. If your criteria to give Mr. Kushner this degree is because the leftwing nutjobs will claim Jewish control of the world, you are too late, they already do. It is time the Jews did not hide their heads in the sand and think this too shall pass...guess what it won't. One would have thought the Jewish world would have learned that lesson already.

    By the way Mr. Koch lost his mojo along time ago and his support of Obama for President only proves that he also lacks for common sense.I applaud the University's actions.

  2. Nothing of the sort. It's important to highlight the Kushners of the world for the avowedly pro terrorist antisemitism mouthpieces they are. I've always said, I have no problem with Hamas supporters in the west as long as they admit that's what they are. If you're a Nazi, SAY you're a Nazi.

  3. It depends on the reason for the honorary degree. If it is just for achievement theater productions, give it to him. If integrity is a part of the reward, don't.


  4. I get it now! The Kushners (both in the US and in Israel) tell us that art is political, except, apparently, when being political means you lose an honorary degree for one's appalling politics. In this case, art is an abstract "absolute" thing, and has nothing to do with the artist's political views.

    Of course, judged in some absolute sense, Kushner's work in mediocre, at best.


Comments are moderated so kindly keep it clean and respectful. All racisms -- including anti-Muslim hate speech -- will be denied a place here, as well as terms like Nazi used to designate anyone other than an actual living or past member of a Nazi or neo-Nazi organization.