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Prestigious New York City University to Hold Antisemitic ‘BDS’ Vote Over Passover to Exclude Jewish Participation

Prestigious Pratt Institute in Brooklyn is being accused of promoting antisemitism with a proposed Israeli boycott — and its top advisory panel was set to vote on it during Passover, when no observant Jews could likely participate.

The venerable college’s Academic Senate planned to discuss and possibly vote Tuesday on the controversial resolution calling for an “academic and cultural boycott of Israel”, a priority of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement. — the first full day of the eight-day Passover holiday. 

“They might as well pass a resolution condemning God for freeing the Jews from Egypt in the first place,” said Rory Lancman, senior counsel at the Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, a Jewish legal civil-rights advocacy group, to The Post.

Jewish faculty were being excluded from having any say because the measure was being introduced and potentially voted on during their religious holiday, when most if not all will be with family and friends, said Lancman, who is repping staff and students opposed to the proposal.

The Pratt Academic Senate is described as a “shared governance body” representing faculty that advises the school’s board of trustees and administration on academic matters and meets regularly with leadership.

The antisemitic proposal is so broadly written that it could even ban Jewish community groups such as Hillel and Chabad from campus, Lancman said.

“Holding a vote to boycott Israel at that Passover meeting is positively obscene,” raged Lancman, a former state assemblyman from Queens, in an April 19 letter to Pratt board of trustees Chairman Garry Hattem, President Frances Bronet and Academic Senate President Uzma Rizvi, an archaeological professor.

Pratt did not respond to a Post request for comment till Sunday, two days after it was asked for a response and following the exclusive story being posted online.

“The scheduling of the discussion of the issue in conflict with the observance of Passover was inadvertent, and it has been removed from the agenda of the April 23rd meeting,” a Pratt spokesman finally said in an email to the outlet.

The institution would not say when discussion and a vote on the proposal would take place.

The measure’s controversy is just the latest act of hostility against Jewish faculty and students at colleges across the country. Anti-Israel protests at Columbia University and on numerous other campuses have left Jewish students reporting harassment and fearing for their safety.   

Lancman’s letter had asked the Academic Senate and school higher-ups to withdraw their consideration of the resolution because it would “violate numerous federal, state, and local anti-discrimination laws” — or at least to postpone the debate and the vote over it till after the Jewish holiday.

He put Pratt on notice that a lawsuit could be in the offing if the college — founded in 1887 and known for its art, design and architecture programs — didn’t allow Jewish staff and students an opportunity to properly voice their opinion on the anti-Israel resolution.   

“Fortunately, the law is here to help,” Lancman wrote.

The Pratt resolution claims Palestinians have endured “six months of genocide” committed by Israel, with more than 33,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza — devastation that has “eclipsed any claim of proportionate response to the Hamas violence of October 7.”

The resolution makes no specific mention of the more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians, killed by the Palestinian terror group Hamas during the massacre — nor the dozens of Israeli hostages still being held by the terrorists in Gaza. 

It calls for  “an academic and cultural boycott of Israel” in which “Pratt no longer engages in events, activities, agreements, or projects involving Israel, its lobby groups or its cultural institutions, or that otherwise promote the normalization of Israel in the global cultural sphere, or whitewash Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian rights.”

The statement also recommends that Pratt scrap its partnership with Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design — Israel’s national school of art in Jerusalem — and divest holdings from Israeli companies and other groups that “profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”

Listed as “requesting signatories,” or those urging the proposal’s passage, are members of Faculty for Justice in Palestine and professors and instructors Rachel Levitsky, Todd Ayoung, Caitlin Cahill, Cameron Crawford, Lisabeth During, Laura Elrick, Christian Hawkey,  Ann Holder and Anna Moschovakis.

Lancman warned that Pratt’s refusal to accommodate the religious beliefs of Pratt’s Jewish students and staff by postponing a meeting that particularly impacts them as Jews would violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covering higher education institutions that receive federal funding.

He noted that a state executive order implemented first by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2016 and continued by Gov. Kathy Hochul bars the New York government from doing business with an institution that supports the boycott, divest and sanctions movement against Israel.

“Any such boycott is illegal and, of course, among other things, would trigger the state to
divest (oh, the irony) all state funding from Pratt,” Lancman said in his letter.

He said the boycott amounts to religious discrimination because it attacks mainstream Jewry in the US who closely identify with Zionism and the state of Israel.

Even Jewish holiday observances could be called into question under the boycott, Lancman claimed, because Jews celebrate the closing of Passover by singing “Next Year in Jerusalem ” as well as during service on Yom Kippur.

Nearly all Jewish holidays and ceremonies reference Israel as the ancestral holy land. 

“The BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] Resolution’s ban on Israel’s `lobby groups’ arguably would be used to punish any Jewish religious or communal organization that supports Zionism, i.e., the existence of an independent Jewish state,” Lancman wrote in his letter to Pratt’s leaders. “That is to say, the BDS Resolution could be construed to ban Pratt’s association with virtually all of mainstream American Jewry’s religious and/or communal institutions and organizations.

“It is a realization of the antisemitic goal of demonizing every Jew; of mapping’ the Jewish enemy that exists everywhere among us down to every last Jewish gathering spot,” he added.

The US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Right has treated the targeting of Jewish students who are Zionists as harassment or discrimination, Lancman said. 

“Pratt must reasonably accommodate its students’ and staff’s religious observance of the Passover holiday by postponing the Academic Senate meeting currently scheduled for the first day of Passover, April 23, 2024, or at least postponing consideration of the proposed BDS Resolution, so that Jewish Senators and Alternates who observe Passover can participate fully in the deliberations and vote on the BDS Resolution,” he said in the letter to Pratt.

“Pratt should abandon the BDS Resolution entirely as its effectuation would violate
numerous federal, state, and local anti-discrimination laws.”

Neither Hattem, Bronet nor Rizvi responded to Post requests for comment.