Prof. Azriel Genackis a Distinguished Professor of Physics at the City University of New York (CUNY). He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the Optical Society of America and was a Fulbright Fellow. At CUNY, he has written and found support for petitions opposing the boycott and demonization of Israel, and organized symposia and developed the web site for CUNY Alliance for Inclusion providing a broad perspective on Israel. He also co-chaired the US/Middle East Conference on Photonics. Dr. Genack and his wife live in Manhattan. He is the father of Rabbi Dr. Yaakov Nagen of the Yeshiva of Otniel.
The JNS Op Ed that appeared on Arutz Sheva last week, titled, “Look who’s in charge of protecting the Jews at CUNY,” by Charles Jacobs,, is, in my opinion, defamation, plain and simple, possibly due to purposeful disinformation that the author of the said op-ed received. The article misrepresents the tireless work of a leading pro-Israel activist and is aimed at damaging our faculty group, the CUNY Alliance for Inclusion, (CAFI), which has been battling the singular demonization of Israel and antisemitism found in many quarters of the City University of New York.
Ilya Bratman, who stands accused in this article, is, in fact, a tireless fighter against the demonization of Israel. As the director of seven Hillels, he hosts almost weekly events for students in support of Israel. He provides students with key perspectives and the information they need so they can be proud of who they are in an often hostile environment.
Ilya has brought the question of antisemitism to the New York City Council and organized the testimony of students regarding their painful experiences at the Council’s hearing on Antisemitism on New York City Campuses. He is the pivotal figure working to make the Campus Climate Initiative of the Academic Engagement Network at CUNY meaningful. Ilya is also working to bring CUNY students and faculty into the CUNY Advisory Council on Jewish Life, so that the Council can make a difference and not provide cover for inaction. All this, while he is a full-time instructor in English.
The Op Ed is a composite of distortions that have been endlessly repeated by a single individual on Twitter. This individual has threatened CAFI members with lawsuits and hectored them until they simply leave the struggle. Yes, Ilya Bratman’s name appears on a petition that is hostile to Israel, but this is par for the course. Those with malicious intent will find a way to disrupt those whom they see as opposing them, including by adding their names to petitions without their permission..
The individual who has been discrediting individuals within CAFI and the group as a whole has also been on the attack against the three members of the New York City Council who have taken on the CUNY administration and demanded that antisemitism be addressed. Below is a tweet by a respected member of this group, Kalman Yeger. I have indicated the name of the individual with an X.
“Nebuch, poor joke “Professor” [X] upset at elected officials for not wanting photo ops with a raging lunatic like him, so he picks fights with the only Council Members who actually have a record of taking on antisemites. Perfect Chodesh Av vibes from the maniac wing of Twitter.”
I am deeply involved with CAFI. The group is not run by a single individual, as claimed in the article, but is a collective of dedicated, independent faculty members. The person, who this article claims runs CAFI, is not an enemy of Israel but a devoted friend and tireless advocate for Israel. You can find a statement by our group condemning the antisemitism of the CUNY faculty union in my recent featured blog on Times of Israel:
CUNY activists add ‘dehumanization’ to Sharansky’s ‘3 Ds of antisemitism’
A faculty-and-staff union dubbed CUNY's critique of a commencement hate speech betrayal; now our faculty group is speaking truth to power
You can also see where CAFI stands in the letter sent to the CUNY Chancellor given below. Contrary to the Op Ed by Charles Jacobs, CAFI stood strongly against the link to the Jerusalem Declaration on the CUNY anti-discrimination web Portal and protested to the CUNY administration.
Date: March 15, 2023
Dear Chancellor Matos Rodriguez,
We are heartened that you are addressing discrimination and antisemitism at CUNY and by your leadership of a visit to Israel by CUNY College Presidents to strengthen ties with universities in Israel and the 'West Bank'.
We are therefore dismayed that the Online Portal for Students and Staff to Report Community Acts of Discrimination and Retaliation lists The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism as an External Resource. The Jerusalem Declaration seeks to remove barriers to the singular use of double standard in criticism of Israel and thereby undermines the fight against antisemitism.
Point 14 of the Jerusalem Declaration states:
"Boycott, divestment and sanctions are commonplace, non-violent forms of political protest against states. In the Israeli case they are not, in and of themselves, antisemitic"
This statement is disingenuous. Boycott, divestment and sanctions are not commonplace. The very meaning of BDS in the world today is the boycott of Israel. BDS applies every negative trope about the Jewish people to the state of Israel. Rational people should understand what is in store for the Jews of Israel if BDS achieves its goals. It will be anything but “nonviolent.”
The Jerusalem Declaration also brushes aside the firm stand against restrictions on speech of The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, which states, “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.” Ending the use of double standards against groups is the starting point of the fight against discrimination, not an impediment, just because it applies to Israel.
Prejudice and discrimination will not vanish at CUNY or anywhere else as long as there is an exception made for a single group with regard to which belief in lies and readiness to apply a double standard are accepted and seen by many as a test of virtue.
Removing the Jerusalem Declaration from the online portal is fully consistent with your statement regarding the BDS Resolution Adopted by the CUNY School of Law Student Government Association.
Since the main tool used to dig into the wellspring of antisemitism by bodies within CUNY is the double standard employed to condemn Israel, any effort to stand against antisemitism at CUNY is doomed to failure if the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism is offered as a possible model for dealing with antisemitism. The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism should therefore be removed from CUNY’s portal to reporting on community acts of discrimination.
We ask that you meet with our group, the CUNY Alliance for Inclusion, which works to preserve civility and academic integrity at CUNY. We are ready to engage with you and your office on issues that touch us deeply. These issues need urgent attention if CUNY is to maintain a welcoming, free, and vigorous social and intellectual climate.