May 4, 2011
(JTA) — The City University of New York has voted not to honor playwright Tony Kushner with an honorary degree at its commencement after a board member objected, citing the Pulitzer Prize winner’s anti-Israel statements.
The New York Jewish Week reported that the request by CUNY’s John Jay College to recognize Kushner was turned down at a board of trustees meeting Monday after board member Jeffrey Wiesenfeld objected. Kushner would have been eligible to speak at the graduation ceremony.
The decision could be the first time in the university system’s history that a proposed candidate for an honorary degree has been vetoed, the newspaper reported.
Other candidates approved this year for honorary degrees include former New York Mayor Edward Koch and Bernard Spitzer, the father of former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, from the City College of New York; Joel Klein, the city’s former schools chancellor, from CUNY; and Judith Kaye, the state’s former chief judge, from John Jay, The Jewish Week reported.
Kushner has been active with organizations that endorse the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
He has written that Israel was “founded in a program that, if you really want to be blunt about it, was ethnic cleansing.” Kushner also has said that “it would have been better” had the State of Israel never been created.