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NYC council member pulls funding for CUNY Law School after BDS endorsement

Council member Inna Vernikov claims that faculty are engaging in antisemitism after they agreed to support the boycott of Israel in support of Palestinian rights
Palestinian supporters attend a protest in Brooklyn, New York, to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the Nakba, on 15 May 2022 (MEE/Azad Essa)

A New York City council member pulled $50,000 in funding that was supposed to go towards providing free law services for people in the district of the CUNY School of Law because its faculty endorsed a BDS resolution. 

Councilwoman Inna Vernikov, a Ukrainian-born Jewish Republican representing parts of Brooklyn, claimed that professors at the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law were engaging in antisemitism. 

The council member, who earlier this month pulled $5,000 in funding for New York City's Museum of Jewish Heritage after the institute allegedly barred conservative Florida governor Ron DeSantis from speaking there, told the New York Post: "It seems as if antisemitism is the only politically acceptable form of racism which exists. We must stop handing out free passes to antisemites like candy."

The $50,000 in funding was supposed to go towards providing pro-bono law services for residents in her district.

For the last 15 years, the CUNY School of Law Justice and Auxiliary Service has provided assistance to hundreds of constituents of Council District 48. 

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Vernikov told the Post that the funds were being pulled from the law school and would instead go to Legal Services NYC.

She referred to CUNY professors as "hypocrites" and claimed they were targeting Israel and ignoring other countries "who actually commit atrocious human rights violations, including but not limited to genocide, rape, torture, and persecution".

"During a time when antisemitic hate crimes are up by 300 percent, it is incumbent upon our academic institutions to do everything in their power to protect their Jewish and pro-Israel students, not pass resolutions which directly place them in harm's way," she told the Post.

In December, CUNY Law School's student government passed a resolution endorsing the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The resolution was originally put forward by the law school's student government body and co-sponsored by the university's chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the Jewish Law Students Association (JLSA). 

Earlier this month, CUNY Law professors voted to unanimously endorse that resolution. 

The BDS movement is a non-violent, Palestinian-led initiative encouraging individuals, nations and organisations to censure Israel's consistent violations of international law and human rights standards through a variety of boycotts.

Middle East Eye reached out to the CUNY School of Law and Inna Vernikov for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication. 

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