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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

ZOA criticizes ‘Deis award pick

Published: April 28, 2006
Section: News

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has criticized the universitys decision to give an honorary doctorate award to playwright Tony Kushner at Mays commencement, according to a ZOA press release.

Kushner is most recently known for writing the screenplay for Munich, though the playwright owns a Pulitzer Prize for drama, two Tony Awards and two Drama Desk Awards. He has been outspoken regarding his views on Israel.

Kushner has in the past called the founding of Israel a mistake. In the Yale Israel Journal of Winter 2005, he stated that Israel was founded in a program that, if you really want to be blunt about it, was ethnic cleansing, and that today is behaving abominably towards the Palestinian people.

He opposes Israeli settlements and the security fence, but believes that it would be a great historical crime for the State of Israel to cease to exist, according to the Yale Israel Journal.

Still, ZOA has called for Brandeis to reconsider its decision. “A Jewish-oriented college should not be giving respectability and legitimacy to someone who has been such a hostile critic of Israel,” the president of ZOA, Morton Klein, told the New York Sun.

ZOA has also criticized Brandeis this month for continuing to foster its relationship with Palestinian Al-Quds University. The Al-Quds website, according to ZOA, denies the Jewish historical connection with Jerusalem.

ZOA also believes that Crown Center Professor Khalil Shikaki has connections to USF professor Sami al-Arian, Omar Abdel Rahman, who was involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Hussan Turabi, who transferred funds in the 1990s to Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Kushners literary accomplishments are not meager. The Pulitzer and other aforementioned awards were a result of Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. Munich earned five Academy Award nominations this year, including best adapted screen play. Some criticized Munich for attempting to equate Israeli self-defense with Palestinian terrorism.

Kushners degree will be awarded on May 21 with the other six recipients, including Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, who will give the commencement address at Brandeis 55th annual commencement ceremonies. Every year, the Brandeis Board of Trustees selection committee considers possible honorees and presents them to President Reinharz. The other honorees are Marilyn Horne, Mimi Silbert, Judith and Sidney Swartz, and Blenda J. Wilson.