As the onetime abode of professors like Leonard Jeffries, an Afro-centrist militant who once called Jews “a race of skunks,” and Norman Finkelstein, an academic distortionist known for his propagandistic attacks on Israel, the City University of New York (CUNY) has long been hospitable to hatred of Jews and Israel, as well as America and the West.
Aside from Baruch College, where the curriculum's tilt towards business encourages some degree of sobriety, CUNY’s constituent schools, particularly the liberal arts departments at City College and Hunter College, are home to professors whose political views make the Ward Churchills of the world seem moderate by comparison and whose in-class conduct is the very definition of academic malpractice.
A case in point is John "Tito" Gerassi, a longtime professor of Political Science at CUNY’s Queens College. At the beginning of this fall semester, Gerassi used an introductory course he teaches, and which is required for CUNY students, to deliver a fanatical rant against Israel. As Joshua Rubin reported in the Queens College student newspaper, the Knight News, "within minutes of the first lecture," Gerassi characterized Palestinian suicide bombers as "freedom fighters," called for the annihilation of Israel ("I wish Israel would just stop being Israel altogether"), and gloated that Hezbollah will destroy Israel "within 40 years." And he wasn’t done yet. As Rubin reported:
Once he finished his diatribe about Israel, [Gerassi] claimed that we are misinformed about what is occurring in the Middle East as a result of a Jewish conspiracy to control the media. In his words, as he mumbled, "Too many Jews are in the editors' meetings."
For spewing such anti-Semitic drivel, Gerassi receives $101, 435 a year, according to the New York Post. Most disturbing about Gerassi's anti-Jewish libels is that his father, Fernando Gerassi, was a Sephardic Jew. The son, however, proclaims himself to be a supporter of Hezbollah, thus joining the ranks of such self-hating Jews as Noam Chomsky, Alfred Lilienthal, and Norman Finkelstein.
Significantly, Gerassi’s attacks on Israel fail even the most basic test of historical accuracy. For instance, he asserts that Ariel Sharon "planned, then ordered, the massacre of two thousand poor Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, the same Sharon who, with such other Irgun and Stern Gang terrorists become prime ministers as Begin and Shamir, killed the wives and children of British officers by blowing up the King David hotel."
Every claim in this sentence is false. Sharon neither planned nor ordered an attack on Palestinian refugees, and Maronite militiamen, not Israelis, killed the several hundred (not "two thousand") Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila; Sharon was a member of the leftwing Haganah, the (sometimes brutal) opponent of Irgun and the Stern Gang; and no "wives and children" were living in the King David hotel, which was purely a military-administrative headquarters of the British occupation
While his hatred for Israel is obvious, Gerassi reserves his most strident contempt for his own country. Calling himself an "anarcho-communist" (regular Marxism-Leninism has too much "centralization" for him), Gerassi has throughout his career blamed the United States for all the evil in the world, from the bloodbaths committed by Communist dictators in Latin America to Pol Pot's killing fields. Indeed, as Gerassi sees it, "the greatest terrorist nation is the United States."
Immediately following 9-11, Gerassi wrote an article called "Will Tears Ever Stop?" for the far-left Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. In this screed, he criticized himself and other Americans for mourning the victims of 9-11 while forgetting to mourn the millions of people he claimed had been killed by the United States.
"Why didn't I cry," asked Gerassi, "when we helped Pol Pot butcher another million?" Of course, it was Communist China, long romanticized by American radicals like Gerassi, that supported the Cambodian mass murderer. In addition, the historian Paul Hollander has recorded that, during his days at Berkeley, California, Gerassi was an active member of the “Committee to Support Revolution in Peru,” a group organized in solidarity with Peru’s brutal Maoist guerilla movement, the Shining Path.
Nowhere does Gerassi acknowledge his own dubious record on human rights. Instead, turning to the 1983 overthrow of Grenada’s Marxist dictatorship by American Marines, Gerassi laments, "We didn't cry when the US invaded that wonderful tiny Caribbean nation of Grenada and killed innocent citizens who hoped to get a better life?" Gerassi’s despair is easily explained: As a pro-Castro Marxist and a fervent supporter of Cuba’s communist revolution -- in the 1960s Gerassi edited a collection of speeches and writings by Che Guevara -- Gerassi naturally resented this setback to Castro’s plans for turning Grenada into a base for communist terrorism in the Caribbean.
Despite or more likely because of his political radicalism, Gerassi has inspired what reporter Joshua Rubin calls a “major following at Queens College.” His youthful acolytes call themselves "the Gerassians.” Queens College, for its part, defends Gerrassi’s bigotry on the grounds that "it is the responsibility of a college to encourage a diversity of viewpoints, especially regarding difficult or controversial subjects.” For unspecified reasons, the school considers the classroom an appropriate forum for Gerassi’s ravings against Jews and Israel -- this from an institution funded exclusively by taxpayer money and with a large Jewish student body.
Less mysterious is Gerassi’s willingness to collect a salary in the country he openly despises. As Joshua Rubin asks at the conclusion of his article, "If Professor John Gerassi has such disdain for Jews, Israel, and America, perhaps he would feel more comfortable teaching in Iran." But then, they don't pay six-figure salaries in Tehran.
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