The New York State Senate’s recent claim it cut nearly $500 million from the budget of the City University of New York because of allegations CUNY improperly addressed antisemitism on campus is a blatant and offensive ploy. It obscures the actual reasons Governor Cuomo and Senate Republicans have been pushing for the cuts. It also points a finger of blame away from politicians and directly toward Jewish students on campus, in addition to student activists. If you’re upset about this cut, the silent implication goes, it’s because the Jews complained. In actuality, this plan has been in the works long before recent incidents gained attention in the Senate, and Cuomo has given multiple explanations previously all unrelated to antisemitism for its proposal. This tactic of masking where power truly lies—in this case, with the governor and the Senate—and using the Jewish community as a scapegoat for a policy that will affect some of the city’s most vulnerable students, is itself an old and tired act of antisemitism.

As Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, we strongly condemn this proposal and the accompanying claims. We ask Republican politicians who are pretending this cut is about protecting Jews: if you care so deeply about addressing antisemitism, tell us precisely how on earth a budget cut impacting CUNY’s 270,000 students and 45,000 dedicated staff and faculty would aid your charade of a crusade. CUNY is a crucially important institution for New York. We cannot let it be treated as a political football, and we certainly not allow the Senate and Cuomo to use the Jewish community to justify these destructive cuts.

We stand unwaveringly in our condemnation of antisemitism and our support of publicly-accessible education for all New Yorkers. We reject the idea that the reported incidents at CUNY prove there is a systemic problem with antisemitism on CUNY campuses. We also reject the conflation of antisemitism with critique of Israel, and how this elision is often used to delegitimize activism for Palestinian rights. We support the rights of Arab, Muslim, and Palestinian students at CUNY, who are often the primary targets of such attacks.

At JFREJ, we are deeply committed to fighting oppression in all of its forms. It is precisely because of our commitment, along with that of our allies, to standing up against antisemitism, racism, and class oppression, that we reject this political move by the Senate Republicans. We refuse to be used in your attempts to draw responsibility away from your decision to withdraw crucial funding, and we demand that funding to support CUNY students, faculty, and staff be immediately replaced in the state budget.

Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ) pursues racial and economic justice in NYC by advancing systemic changes that result in concrete improvements in people’s everyday lives. We are inspired by Jewish tradition to fight for a sustainable world with an equitable distribution of economic and cultural resources and political power​

Photo by Diana Robinson, licensed under Creative Commons.