Home » Not in Our Name CUNY demands that Hunter administration apologize for antisemitism smear – breaking news

Not in Our Name CUNY demands that Hunter administration apologize for antisemitism smear – breaking news

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Not in Our Name CUNY demands that Hunter administration apologize for antisemitism smear – breaking news

On February 28, 2024, Not in Our Name CUNY organized a rally at Hunter College with other anti-Zionist Jewish and Palestinian student groups to protest the role of campus Hillel chapters in building support for Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza — and to announce their desire to create non-Zionist Jewish spaces on campuses. The rally was smeared by Hillel and right-wing media as violent and antisemitic. In response, NION CUNY and the Hunter Palestinian Student Alliance have issued a statement to set the record straight on the events of February 28.

To the Hunter administration and Hunter Hillel executives,

We, Jewish and Palestinian student organizers, demand that both the Hunter President, Ann Kirschner, and the executives of Hunter Hillel issue a public email correcting the dangerously false and misleading allegations against Jewish & Palestinian student protestors on February 28, 2024.

In an email issued to the Hunter student and academic worker body on February 28, Hunter Hillel falsely claimed that protesters “…blocked the West building of Hunter College, engaged in hate speech, and “physically intimidated [Hunter] students.” Hillel Hunter also immediately released an Instagram post claiming that student protesters engaged in “age-old antisemitic tropes” by decontextualizing the chants and speeches of the protestors who were challenging a publicly advertised trip by Hillel. Hillel at Baruch’s & Tanger Hillel’s yearly “Hillel on Base” trip— is a trip publicly sponsored and promoted by Hillel International.

It is deeply concerning that Hunter Hillel was allowed to use official school channels to spread this misinformation to the Hunter student and academic worker body — misinformation easily debunked by footage and eyewitness testimony documenting the entire rally. Despite this, President Kirschner did not correct Hillel’s false accusations. Additionally, it is extremely troubling that the Hunter Director of Hebrew and Jewish Studies potentially disseminated decontextualized clips of students speaking to racist zionist networks to deliberately portray them as antisemites.

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In baselessly claiming that the primarily Jewish protest organizers were engaged in the “personal targeting of Jewish students through these actions” by using “hateful, slanderous, and defamatory language that played on age-old antisemitic tropes,” Hillel Hunter has opened Palestinian and Jewish students alike to a slew of direct, violent comments ranging from sexual harassment to graphic death threats. In juxtaposition, the messaging of the students’ chants and speeches was clear, concise, and explicitly calling out Hillel’s problematic ties as an organization and did not focus on individuals.

The footage then circulated online, where a handful of prominent media publications, including the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Jerusalem Postand The Times of Israelpicked up the story and ran with the misinformation disseminated by Hunter Hillel and, most likely, a member of Hunter’s faculty. This media attention, directly provoked by the intentional mischaracterization crafted by Hunter community members, led to further dogpiling and harassment.

The following week, President Kirschner released her own email, allowing these false claims to go uninterrupted, stating instead that “individuals and numerous organizations…engaged in speech that many found offensive, hurtful, and replete with accusations against members of Hunter College’s Jewish community, including students and staff who are associated with the organization Hillel.” Similar to Hillel’s messaging, Kirschner’s framing intentionally erases the Jewishness of the protest co-organizers. By highlighting the Jewishness of Hillel but not of the protestors, Kirschner essentially erases anti-zionist Jews out of Jewish identity to more successfully obfuscate the central goal and messaging of the rally— to urge fellow Jewish students to divest from Hillel International for its role in anti-Palestinian racism and instead invest in building new spaces for Jewish life on campus.

Hillel International, whose standards of partnership mandate pro-Israel programming, uses its chapters as an entryway for multiple agencies and organizations, such as CAMERA, Canary Mission, and the Anti-Defamation League, who are complicit in the routine doxxing and harassment of primarily Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim students and academic workers under the guise of vaguely “ensuring Jewish safety.” In addition, Hillel participates in programs such as Hillel on Base, working to rehabilitate the public image of a settler colonial army and state committing an ongoing genocide, and supports colonial expansion by attending conventions with the Jewish National Fund, an event Hunter Hillel took part in during early December.

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This latest transgression adds to the mounting racist repression faced by the PSA from the administration, particularly after threatening the PSA with suspension for organizing a successful sit-in demanding that the CUNY administration divest from settler colonialism. While Hunter Hillel’s false claims are taken at face value, student testimony of repeated and continued harassment for pro-Palestine beliefs, coupled with a climate that promotes Islamophobia and anti-Arab & anti-Palestinian racism on Hunter’s campus, is ignored, even when they are reported through official channels. Kirschner instead leaves students and academic workers to use Hunter’s wellness websites instead of taking meaningful action against this harassment and uses civility politics to demonize students rightfully protesting CUNY’s complicity in genocide.

Like Kirschner, we too are “…thinking of our [Hunter’s] campus motto — the Care of the Future is Mine.” We understand speaking out in the face of settler colonial genocide as an important act of care for the future.

As Palestinian, Muslim, and Jewish students,

We demand:

That the Hunter administration and Hunter Hillel executives publicly correct their previous misleading and slanderous statements, which have led to threats on the lives of Palestinian, Muslim, and Jewish students, that include but are not limited to: “…blocked the West building of Hunter College, engaged in hate-speech, and physically intimidated [Hunter] students;” “…personal targeting of Jewish students…;” and “…hateful, slanderous, and defamatory language that played on age-old antisemitic tropes…”

That the Hunter administration takes measures to protect and recognize its Palestinian students, openly condemns anti-Palestinian racism, and meaningfully acknowledges the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

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That the administration and Hillel recognizes the co-organizers of the February 28 rally as Jewish student clubs voicing dissent against an organization claiming to act as a representative voice for Jewish students.

That the Hunter administration work towards addressing the demands issued in CUNY for Palestine’s statement and uplifting the demands of Hunter’s PSA, including demands for the Hunter administration to divest from settler colonialism and decolonize its educational spaces.

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