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Hunter College CUNY Zoom Lecture Turns Into Pro-Palestinian Protest

“Until universities hold individuals responsible for Jew-hatred sometimes masquerading as anti-Zionism, it will never stop.”

Jewish Journal

Aaron Bandler | June 11, 2021

A May 20 Zoom lecture at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College-CUNY devolved into a pro-Palestinian protest, leaving several Jewish students wary of returning to campus for in-person classes.

Fox News reported that the lecture, which took place during a “Practice Lab” session, was about the varying manifestations of oppression. Many of the nearly 200 participants on the lecture changed their Zoom user names to “Free Palestine: Decolonization” and put Palestinian flags in their backgrounds. Participants read out statements accusing Israel of engaging “in the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians from their land” and praising Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) for calling Israel an apartheid state, among other things. The Zoom chat also featured comments like, “The Holocaust has been used as a tool. The fear of anti-Semitism as the fear of ‘this could happen again’ is being used preemptively to oppress and kill others.”

Jewish students told Fox News that professors on the lecture made no effort to stop the protest and one even joined in, and that there wasn’t any opportunity for pro-Israel students to chime in. “I was sick to my stomach,” one student said, adding that “the horrifying thing is that there were professors that were expressing their opinions on it. They’re supposed to be the mediators in the discussion, not the ones who are fueling the fire.”


Another student similarly told Fox News, “For professors who are the experts in this anti-oppression curriculum to not stand up or do anything or say anything to intervene was quite shocking. What violence could have taken place if this happened in person? Because it really felt like a virtual mob.”

The school said in a statement to Fox News, “In a recent, end-of-year virtual class on zoom, the discussion went in an unplanned direction as students expressed strong and, at times, heated opposing viewpoints and sentiments about the recent conflict in the Middle East. After this exchange, the lead instructor asked for mutual respect and empathy for all points of view, and reminded students they could continue their discussion in smaller class sections. The virtual course continued to its conclusion as planned.” They added that they “will not tolerate hate speech in any form.”

Jewish groups weighed in. Anti-Defamation League New York / New Jersey Regional Director Scott Richman tweeted, “In a time of rising #antisemitism, an online lecture converted into an anti-Israel hate fest epitomizes the kind of bullying that makes Jewish students feel unsafe. This doesn’t promote peace. It prompts prejudice — and @Hunter_College should condemn it.”

“What happened at Hunter College is going to continue to happen all over the United States in various ways whether it’s Zoom or in-person,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Journal in a phone interview, adding that “it’s sort of like the online revolution of the cultural revolution in China…this is a full-throttled assault on the American Jewish community.” He called for the school to determine who was behind the protest and throw “them the hell out of the school.” “Until universities hold individuals responsible for Jew-hatred sometimes masquerading as anti-Zionism, it will never stop.”

Morton Klein, National President of the Zionist Organization of America, similarly said in a statement to the Journal, “These Jew-hating moronic students must be expelled from their school and any Jew-hating professor fired. Hunter College leaders must be joined by political leaders and have a major press conference condemning these antisemitic actions and make it clear they are disgusting and won’t be tolerated.”

ZOA Center for Law and Justice Director Susan Tuchman also said in a statement to the Journal, “It’s outrageous that an entire class was taken hostage by Israel-bashers. Especially knowing that Jewish students are now afraid to return to school in the fall, school officials must speak out and publicly condemn everyone who carried out this scheme. The students involved should be disciplined, as should any professors who encouraged and helped create a hostile environment for Jewish students.”

StandWithUs co-founder and CEO Roz Rothstein said in a statement to the Journal, “While many universities are seeing a rise in hostile attitudes toward Israel, and a related increase in antisemitic activity, this situation was particularly egregious. For students to disrupt and effectively hijack a class session for the purpose of spreading false information about the recent war between Israel and Hamas is bad enough. For professors to support those efforts is an affront to the values of open debate and diversity that should be at the center of any college educational experience. We commend the Jewish and other students who courageously confronted and exposed a hateful and hostile situation and applaud them for highlighting the line between legitimate criticism in political discourse and blatantly antisemitic statements.”

Stop Antisemitism Executive Director Liora Rez also said in a statement to the Journal, “CUNY is once again showing its true antisemitic colors and affirming Jewish students are not safe on their campus, virtually or in person.”

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