I am hesitant to waste any more time on the outrage over Tony Kushner’s being denied an honorary degree from CUNY. But it is worth a moment to ponder the intellectual dishonesty of one particularly outraged voice. Tablet’s Liel Liebovitz has expressed support for boycotts of Israel and opposes the blockade of Hamas in Gaza. Like the Jewish Voices for Peace whom Kushner serves as a board member, Liebovitz is hardly in a position to vouch for anyone’s Zionist fides. Not that that stops him from ranting about CUNY’s decision today.
What’s really crazy is the nature of his attack on the university. To show how preposterous he thinks it is to rescind the degree for Kushner, he cites some others who have received such honors. Now, I’m sure the roster of miscreants who have been awarded honorary degrees from CUNY and many other schools is quite long. After all, many such degrees are, more or less, payment for charitable donations. A lot of people who have that kind of money to spend aren’t always that admirable.
But whom does Liebovitz cite as scandalous honorees? The Wall Street Journal’s Dorothy Rabinowitz and the lawyer Alan Dershowitz.
Like Kushner, Rabinowitz is a Pulitzer Prize winner; unlike Kushner, she actually deserved the prize. Her long journalistic crusade against the unjust prosecution of the Amirault family in Massachusetts on clearly false charges of child molestation is an act of enduring intellectual courage. To Liebovitz, however, the fact that Rabinowitz supported the allegations of a woman who claimed that Bill Clinton sexually abused her is sufficient to disqualify her from honor.
Dershowitz’s sin in Liebovitz’s eyes is pretty much the opposite of Kushner’s. He is too supportive of Israel and too critical of Hamas for the Tablet writer’s taste. According to Liebovitz’s political calculus, Dershowitz is as far out of the mainstream on Israel as Kushner, even if he is a loyal Democrat and down-the-line political liberal. Which is true, I guess, if you are gauging what passes for mainstream opinion in Gaza.
Liebovitz and Tablet (which published a less insane defense of Kushner a day earlier by Marc Tracy) are entitled to their opinion. But this piece, like others by Liebovitz, once again calls into question Tablet’s pose as a reasonable participant in the national Jewish conversation.