The opinions expressed in this article do not represent the opinions of the Excelsior.
To the Editor:
We write with regard to the false and defamatory statements you published in The Excelsior about the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) in your April 6th article entitled Tuition Freezes as CLAS Takes on ZOA. Specifically, you falsely, recklessly, and with malice published that the ZOA:
(1) “Provided false testimony to the Senate and basically decided to lump all students together”;
(2) “Urged the State Senate to push budget cuts upon the CUNY system”;
(3) “Catalyzed these budget cuts, and provided unsubstantiated evidence for those who already had an interest in defunding CUNY regardless of a particular instance of discrimination”;
(4) by its “efforts . . . would punish a vast and diverse student body – including the victims of the anti-Semitism for whom they advocate – and is ignorant of the importance of CUNY to New Yorkers of all races, genders, and classes”; and
(5) “Was unsuccessful in its efforts to cut the budget.”
Not a single one of the above statements is true, which you knew or reasonably should have known had you made any effort to verify the truth of the statements before publishing them. In fact, you made no effort. You failed to contact anyone at the ZOA about the actions it took prior to publishing these false and defamatory statements. You failed even to take note of the public statement issued by the ZOA on March 25th regarding the proposed funding cuts to CUNY. (See http://zoa.org/2016/03/10318880-zoa-statement-on-proposed-funding-cuts-to-cuny/.) In the statement, the ZOA’s National President made it crystal clear that “the ZOAnever personally requested a cut in CUNY funding.” The ZOA provided no testimony to the State Senate, did not urge the State Senate to push budget cuts, did not catalyze the cuts, and did not provide unsubstantiated evidence to anyone with an interest in defunding CUNY. The ZOA took no action to punish the student body or the victims of anti-Semitism at CUNY, and is well aware of what CUNY means to New Yorkers. The ZOAmade no efforts to cut the budget. The ZOA simply alerted CUNY leadership to problems reported to us by students and others. Significantly, not a single CUNY leader has denied the allegations we made or suggested they were exaggerated.
The ZOA is the oldest and one of the largest pro-Israel organizations in the U.S. Our illustrious leaders have included Rabbi Dr. Abba Hillel Silver, Rabbi Stephen Wise, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. The Wall Street Journal has called the ZOA “the most credible advocate for Israel on the American Jewish scene today.” The Jerusalem Posthas described the ZOA as “one of the most important and influential Jewish groups in the U.S. today.” We are leaders in fighting campus anti-Semitism, a problem on your own campus as acknowledged by student government leaders in your article.
You knowingly and recklessly disparaged us, impugned our integrity, and created the false and damaging perception that the ZOA took actions to hurt rather than help students at Brooklyn College. We note that your article was based in part on statements made by student government leaders and a resolution issued by the CLAS Student Government, which also disparaged the ZOA and made false statements about the ZOA without any basis to do so and without verifying the facts beforehand. The student government’s reckless and irresponsible conduct will have to be judged by the student body, but your conduct is actionable under the law.
We demand an immediate retraction of all of the above statements made about the ZOA, an acknowledgement that they were issued and published recklessly and without any effort to verify the facts, and a public apology.
Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., Director, Center for Law and Justice
Zach Stern, Managing Director, ZOA Campus
Zionist Organization of America