CUNY School of Law faces state probe over anti-Jew bias after BDS backing

The state Division of Human Rights has opened a bombshell probe into whether CUNY’s School of Law discriminated against Jews when its faculty council passed a resolution last year supporting the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel.

The “active investigation” was confirmed in a Feb. 16 letter from the agency to Jeffrey Lax, a Kingsborough Community College professor who is co-founder of Students and Faculty for Equality at CUNY (S.A.F.E. CUNY).

“You will be contacted by the Human Rights specialist assigned to your case when the active investigation of your complaint begins,” wrote DHR regional director Joyce Yearwood-Drury to Lax, the chairman of Kingsborough CC’s business department.

The state probe has been a long time coming.

S.A.F.E CUNY sent a letter to the human rights agency on July 5 of last year, alleging that the CUNY Law School Faculty Council’s BDS resolution, approved that May, constituted a “discriminatory boycott” against Jewish students and faculty — as well as of Israelis — under the state’s human rights law.

The resolution decried what it called the “unceasing military occupation and colonization of Palestine by the Israeli state” as “both settler colonialism and structural racism, supported politically, financially, and militarily by the US.”

The resolution also demanded that CUNY sever ties with Israel and accused the school of being “directly complicit in the ongoing apartheid, genocide, and war crimes perpetrated by the State of Israel against the Palestinian people through its investments in and contracts with companies profiting off of Israeli war crimes.”

The state Division of Human Rights has opened a probe over CUNY’s School of Law passing a resolution to support the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement.
Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

The faculty also called for the school to terminate student exchange programs with Israel and to sign on to the BDS movement.

“We are pleased to learn that NYSDHR will be conducting an investigation into CUNY for implementing BDS policy at its law school, in blatant violation of New York State’s Discriminatory Boycott Law,” Lax and S.A.F.E. CUNY told The Post. “A significant part of the BDS movement operates as a coordinated and sophisticated effort to directly harm not only Israel, but also the economic interests of persons conducting business in and with Israel, or with people deemed too closely affiliated with the country.

“There is clear evidence that the discrimination in the BDS movement disparately impacts Jewish people, and/or people that the movement feels are too closely affiliated with Israel. We believe that the new BDS policies implemented at CUNY Law School discriminate on the basis of real or perceived creed, ethnicity, and nationality. It is our hope that the NYSDHR will recognize and expose the policy for what it is: discrimination against protected classes of Jewish people.”

The Students and Faculty for Equality at CUNY organization sent a letter to the Division of Human Rights last year claiming the resolution is a “discriminatory boycott” against Jewish students and faculty.
The Students and Faculty for Equality at CUNY organization sent a letter to the Division of Human Rights last year claiming the resolution is a “discriminatory boycott” against Jewish students and faculty.
Erik McGregor

The original complaint claimed CUNY and Law School administrators can’t wash their hands of responsibility for Jewish bias, since the faculty council is very involved in governing the law school.

“The faculty of CUNY School of Law sets policy for the institution and is involved in nearly all facets of the school’s operation: grading, admissions, faculty hiring, and more,” the complaint read. “Its discriminatory boycott not only targets Zionist Jews and Israeli CUNY students and faculty members, but provided identifying personal information with links to names of suspected Israeli and Zionist Jews.

“The adopted resolution even went so far as to endorse boycott and elimination of Hillel, the most popular Israeli and Jewish cultural student club within CUNY, with a universally welcome presence on over 850 colleges campuses throughout the US. It further endorsed the elimination of Israeli student exchange programs and faculty fellowships with any connection to Israel or Israelis, a popular program among Israeli and Zionist Jews.”

The Israel-Palestinian dispute has raged in recent years among faculty and students at a number of CUNY campuses, leading to a rash of complaints of anti-semitism and bullying that even prompted a hearing by the City Council.

Following criticism of how it handled a rise in anti-Jewish behavior on its campuses, CUNY announced last fall that it would spend nearly $1 million to address discrimination complaints, including the creation of an online portal to track hate crimes on the system’s 25 campuses.

The controversy has also prompted action in Albany, with Gov. Kathy Hochul extending an executive order issued by her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, that prohibits the state government from investing with firms engaging in BDS activities.

In October 2021, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli pulled pension investments from the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s after the ice cream maker announced a boycott of selling goods in Israeli-occupied territories.

CUNY spokesman Joseph Tirella told The Post late Thursday the university “doesn’t comment on pending or threatened claims.”

A spokesperson for the Division of Human Rights said it cannot not comment or confirm whether it is conducting an investigation.