Kushner responds to university on Israel views

By Jennifer Lipman, May 5, 2011
Tony Kushner

Tony Kushner

Playwright Tony Kushner has criticised New York's City University for delivering a "grotesque caricature" of his views on Israel after the university's board voted against plans to give him an honorary degree.

In a letter to the board, the Jewish Pulitzer Prize winner said he had been the victim of a vicious attack by board member Jeffrey Weisenfeld, who led the campaign to remove Mr Kushner's name from this year's list of honorees.

Mr Weisenfeld based his opposition to Mr Kushner because of the playwright's past statements on Israel and his alleged involvement in the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

Mr Kushner said he was a member of the advisory board for Jewish Voice for Peace, an organisation which "defends activists' right to use the full range of BDS tactics", but he denied personally supporting an Israel boycott.

He said the board had failed to offer give him an opportunity to defend himself and instead relied on "internet gossip".

"I'm not a difficult person to find, nor am I lacking in articulate colleagues and friends who would have responded," wrote Mr Kushner.

Mr Kushner added that his political stance on Israel did not resemble Mr Weisenfeld's account. He wrote that while he opposed certain actions of the Israeli government policy towards the Palestinians, he was "very proud of being Jewish".

"I believe in the absolute good of public debate, and I feel that silence on the part of Jews who have questions is injurious to the life of the Jewish people".

Mr Kushner added: "My opinion about the wisdom of the creation of a Jewish state has never been expressed in any form without a strong statement of support for Israel's right to exist."

He called for an apology from Mr Weisenfeld and said: "I refuse to allow [him] or any other self-appointed spokesman/guardian to diminish the depth or meaningfulness of my connection to the Jewish community."

Last updated: 11:40am, May 5 2011