The NY Jewish Week newspaper deserves a lot of credit for its coverage of CUNY’s decision not to honor Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner over his alleged views on Israel. Our journalist friend, Doug Chandler, broke this blockbuster story in an online news article in The Jewish Week. And, in a followup, he’s reported that the CUNY board may reverse this ill-considered action [which it did, on Monday night], while Ed Koch, New York’s outspoken and very pro-Israel former mayor, has called for the “resignation or removal” of the CUNY trustee who attacked Kushner.
Also on the Kushner affair, in his Political Insider blog, James Besser (The Jewish Week’s Washington correspondent) sensibly asks, “what kind of pro-Israel movement do we want?” He warns against a narrow ideological view regarding Israel.
While Kushner’s views on Israel should be entirely irrelevant to his suitability for an honorary degree (especially at a public university), they are a source of confusion, as well as controversy. In his vociferous protest against CUNY’s board, he’s indicated that he’s been misrepresented, that he’s never opposed Israel’s existence.
In a published interview with a Canadian Jewish newspaper in 2007, he stated: “I want the state of Israel to continue to exist. I’ve always said that. I’ve never said anything else. My positions have been lied about and misrepresented in so many ways. People claim that I’m for a one-state solution, which is not true.”
Due to his association with the Jewish Voice for Peace (not explicitly anti-Israel but generally one-sided in its barbs against Israeli policy, as well as agnostic on one state vs. two) and with some other blistering statements and protests against Israeli policies, it actually surprises me that he proclaims a perspective not particularly different from my own. If he’s guilty of anything here, it’s a certain naivité or a lack of awareness of how he comes across (a charge that could be leveled at the JVP as well). But again, none of this should be relevant to his being awarded an honorary degree for his achievements as a playwright.