When professor Jeffrey Lax reported pervasive discrimination against Jews, including harassment of Jewish faculty members like himself, the City University of New York placed the investigation in the lap of Saly Abd Alla, an official in the school’s discrimination office but hardly an ally of the Jewish people.
Abd Alla came to CUNY from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, where she worked as a civil rights director alongside officials who have promoted anti-Israel agitprop and defended Jew-hating terror groups including Hamas.
CUNY’s decision to appoint Abd Alla to the case has sparked fierce backlash in the pro-Israel community, with critics saying it is not possible for a former CAIR official to fairly adjudicate claims of anti-Semitism. The selection comes amid a rising tide of anti-Semitic incidents on America’s college campus, some of which has sparked unprecedented investigations by the Department of Education. This includes Jewish students allegedly being booted from a group for sexual assault survivors at the University of Vermont and similar incidents at the University of Southern California in which students were cyber bullied for publicly expressing their Jewish and pro-Israel identities.
Lax, a professor at CUNY’s Kingsborough Community College, says in his complaint that CUNY’s leadership, including Kingsborough president Claudia Schrader, failed to act on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s recent confirmation of pervasive discrimination against Jews on CUNY’s campus. Pro-Israel faculty members and those who identify as Zionist have repeatedly reported being targeted for their beliefs.
“Can you imagine if a college had assigned David Duke to investigate discrimination against black people? That is the equivalent of what this is,” Lax told Newsmax on Monday. “This has been a cancer at CUNY for a long time, the anti-Semitism.”
The Anti-Defamation League reports that CAIR’s leadership uses “inflammatory anti-Zionist rhetoric that on a number of occasions has veered into antisemitic tropes related to Jewish influence over the media or political affairs, or has descended into the vilification of Zionists, which includes the majority of American Jews.”
“Antipathy towards Israel,” the ADL says, “has been a CAIR staple since the group was founded in 1994.” This includes “CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad’s repeated statements in support of Hamas.”
Lax, in information provided to the Free Beacon, said he was first contacted by Abd Alla earlier this month and informed she would be handling his discrimination case.
Lax responded to Abd Alla in an email outlining his concerns about her relationship with CAIR and its support for anti-Semitic causes like the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which wages economic warfare on Israel.
“Central to my claim is that I am being discriminated against and retaliated against because I am a Zionist Jew,” Lax wrote. “I want to be very open, and transparent from the very beginning about a concern that I have: I notice that you are the former Civil Rights Director of CAIR MN. As you know, CAIR is an aggressive anti-Zionist movement and a vocal supporter of BDS. CAIR has also lobbied against the existence of the 100-year-old Jewish Civil Rights organization the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and has supported and defended comments from Ilhan Omar and Linda Sarsour that most Jews believe to be deeply antisemitic.”
Lax questioned whether Abd Alla “could investigate such claims without bias.”
Lax says that Abd Alla has yet to respond to this Sept. 12 email. He also wrote to Abd Alla’s supervisor, vice chancellor Doriane Gloria, asking for a response. Gloria told him last week that she had received his message and would respond this week, though that has yet to come, according to Lax.
A CUNY spokesman told the Free Beacon that Abd Alla will have no problem fairly investigating Lax’s claims of anti-Semitism.
“CUNY is committed to cultivating a diverse and inclusive community, free from antisemitism and all forms of hate, and safe for all individuals,” the spokesman said. “All CUNY chief diversity officers are professionals and trained to ensure the university and its campuses comply with workplace rules and carry out when needed fair and impartial investigations of workplace discrimination.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a group that combats anti-Semitism, lashed out at CUNY on Twitter, accusing the school of losing its moral compass.
“CUNY hire[d] someone from CAIR to investigate anti-Semitism [and] anti-Zionist?” the center tweeted. “CAIR officials have mainstreamed Jew-hatred. CUNY has lost its moral compass.”
CAIR was listed by the Wiesenthal Center as one of its top 10 promoters of anti-Semitism as recently as 2021.
Inna Vernikov, Republican minority whip on the New York City Council, also criticized CUNY’s decision. “CUNY assigning a former CAIRNational rep to investigate allegations of Antisemitism, is like asking a sexual abuser to investigate the sexual harassment/rape allegations of a victim of such abuse,” she tweeted.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R., N.Y.) said in a statement Tuesday that CUNY is guilty of displaying “disgusting antipathy for the students, faculty, and staff who have been the victims of antisemitism on campus.”
“This is just the latest example,” Zeldin said. “If you are appointing someone who held a leadership role in a known antisemitic organization to lead an investigation into antisemitism, there may as well not be an investigation at all. Through its words and actions, the school’s leadership has allowed and encouraged an environment where Jewish students, faculty, and staff do not feel valued and often feel outright attacked.”