University blocks honour over Tony Kushner's Israel stance

By Jennifer Lipman, May 4, 2011
Tony Kushner

Tony Kushner

Tony Kushner will not be honoured with an honorary degree after a New York university cancelled plans because of the award-winning Jewish playwright's stance on Israel.

After one of the City University of New York (CUNY) board members objected to the institution celebrating Mr Kushner's career at its commencement ceremony later this year, the rest of the board voted against the plans.

If Mr Kushner had been honoured, he would probably have been chosen as the guest speaker at a CUNY graduation ceremony.

Board member Jeffrey Wiesenfeld told the New York Jewish Week that he had blocked the honour because of the level of "disingenuousness and non-intellectual activity directed against the state of Israel on campuses across the country".

He told the newspaper: "Boycotters can also be boycotted".

Mr Kushner, whose work has included the screenplay for the film Munich and the Pulitzer-winning epic Angels in America, is no stranger to university-related controversy.

In 2006 Israel advocacy groups criticised Boston's Brandeis University, home to a large Jewish student population, for giving an honorary doctorate to such an outspoken critic of the Israeli government.

Mr Kushner is thought to support the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

He once said that former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was "one of the world's worst people" and according to Ha'aretz newspaper described the state of Israel as a "moral, political catastrophe for the Jewish people". Last year he lent his support to Israeli artists refusing to perform in the West Bank.

The two-time Tony award winner once told the JC that he was not anti-Zionist, but also not a Zionist. He said: "I do actually think that what was hoped for in founding Israel - the end of Jewish suffering at the hands of antisemites - was not something that could have been accomplished by the creation of a new national entity."

Last updated: 5:40pm, May 4 2011