Kushner’s reply to CUNY


I just updated our brief with Tony Kushner’s reply, via Salon, to City University of New York’s decision to table an honorary degree for the playwright because of his views on Israel.

It’s a good reply. Here it is at Scribd.

His distancing himself from BDS is especially interesting.

It’s also beside the point. If Kushner is right, and the board of CUNY’s John Jay College did not invite Kushner or an associate to defend him, that is a calumny and it is all the calumny we need to know.

This is the recording of the hearing. The section dealing with Kushner is 10 minutes before the end.

Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, his accuser, justified his research by saying it was culled in part from the writings of Norman Finkelstein, who is anti-Israel, and that therefore lends it some kind of credibility…

Oy. Facts are facts, they either are or they are not. This kind of discourse has no place beyond the elementary school yard. ("Jenny says Margie is stinky, and Jenny is stinky, so she must know.")  Do we look to David Irving to affirm who is and is not an anti-Semite?

Kushner’s views are beyond the pale of the Jewish mainstream, it’s true. This passage in his letter demanding an apology especially strikes me as tendentious, and not simply in a pro-Israel context:

My questions and reservations regarding the founding of the state of Israel are connected to my conviction, drawn from my reading of American history, that democratic government must be free of ethnic or religious affiliation, and that the solution to the problems of oppressed minorities are to be found in pluralist democracy and in legal instruments like the 14th Amendment; these solutions are,like all solutions, imperfect, but they seem to me more rational, and have had a far  better record of success in terms of minorities being protected from majoritarian tyranny, than have national or tribal solutions.

That formulation makes just about every country except for the United States a tyranny. Maybe Canada, perhaps Australia and New Zealand can squeak in. (All three were founded on predicates of the expansion of British culture, but have since evolved.)

Otherwise, what government is free of ethnic affiliation? Is Ireland a tyranny? Japan? China? Ukraine, Argentina? Poland? Italy?

And affiliations are not just born, they are invited. Who’s to say calling oneself an American is not an expression of tribe? Or calling oneself an internationalist? Or a fan of the 14th Amendment?

But that paragraph is merely dumb. It — like the letter — is not vicious. 

"Vicious," however, may describe the public humiliation CUNY’s board delivered to Tony Kushner.

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