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Friday, May 6, 2011

The Shameful Treatment of Playwright Tony Kushner

KusherBy David Mixner -

When reading The New York Times story on how the City University of New York (CUNY) refused to honor Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tony Kushner you cannot help but deduce that CUNY had dealt a deadly blow to free speech. Kushner was invited to receive an honorary degree from John Jay College, a branch of the university, when a single trustee protested that he didn't like some of the playwright's views on Israel. Then, after much debate, astonishingly, the Board of Trustees voted to deny him the degree.
Tony Kushner, who wrote "Angels in America" is considered one of America's most outstanding playwrights.
Kushner who is Jewish and pro-Israel has indeed critiqued policies of Israel that forcibly removed Palestinians from their homes. Ironically he has never been viewed in any way, shape or form as a vocal opponent of the nation. This attempt to rigidly deny any debate on the Israeli question is simply outrageous. The action does a disservice to the State of Israel, as well as to those who believe in free and open debate and academic freedom.
Long regarded as 'the Harvard of the proletariat,' City University of New York has a long rich tradition of academic excellence and free speech. When minorities, including African-Americans and Jewish Americans, were denied access to elite universities, they were welcomed with open arms to CUNY. The campus was a hotbed of intellectual thought that challenged injustice everywhere.
To witness the historic and proud institution attempting to stifle free speech is indeed heart- breaking. Mr. Kushner deserves an apology and hopefully he will reconsider his decision to not appear if re-invited. The most sad part would be if the students and faculty remained silent in the face of this outrage. Such silence would make a bad situation an appalling one.

For more from David visit Live from Hell's Kitchen.

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