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No Haven

When Yale shuttered its Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism last month, critics saw anti-Israel political correctness. But the project may simply have been a casualty of the university’s global ambitions.

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Yale University. (CanWeBowlPlease/Flickr)

Over time, Smith said, these divisions proved “very crippling” for the committee’s work. Geoffrey Hartman, a professor of literary theory and another committee member, said that Small “wouldn’t really alter the path of his direction with the emphasis on contemporary anti-Semitism,” and that this inability to reconcile the two competing visions was what led to the YIIPSA cancellation. “I think it was just a matter of programmatic expectations and wanting to now have a program on a broader basis,” Hartman told me. “Small’s heart was in the fight against contemporary anti-Semitism and alerting everyone to the dangers towards that—and that is certainly important.”

Critics of Yale’s decision, like Alan Dershowitz, have pointed to what they said was the unusually secretive and abrupt process in which the verdict was rendered. It was “made without even a semblance of due process and transparency,” Dershowitz wrote. “Never before have I seen such a lack of process and fairness in the termination of a program.” Yale, however, said that like other programs of its nature, YIISA simply came up for its fifth-year review. The four-person Review Committee, headed by economics professor Steve Berry, consulted with the 13-member Faculty Governance Committee to learn members’ thoughts about the future of the program. According to Ranis, a “majority of members of the governance committee appointed last fall did agree it should be given more time, but the review committee recommended it should be terminated.” Yale has refused to make the report public.

Yale denies that politics played any role in the decision to terminate YIISA. “I can say categorically that this was a decision made after an academic review by a distinguished group of professors,” Salovey wrote me in an email. “Politics played no role, and there were no outside pressures.” The word “politics,” especially in the realm of academia, can be parsed endlessly, and interviews with those who were officially consulted about the program by the review committee suggest that politics indeed did play a role. The most outspoken critic of YIISA has been sociology professor and governance committee member Jeffrey Alexander. Earlier this month, he decried the “political character” of YIISA to NPR. “It would be as if you had a center for the study of, let’s say, racism, organized by, let’s say the Black Panther movement,” he told a radio interviewer. Alexander offered more specific criticism in a conversation with me. “The ambition of the center was to tie criticism of Israel and current Israeli policies to anti-Semitism,” he said. “That was a theme hammered time and time again.” Alexander, who said that he is a Zionist, found it galling that an official from the Israeli Foreign Ministry, its director for combating anti-Semitism, opened last August’s YIISA conference. Here was the inevitable collision foretold in Small’s 2007 interview with the Jerusalem Post, in which he had expressed his interest in exploring the connections between extreme expressions of criticism against Israel and classical anti-Semitism. “The victim in Charles’ version of the center wasn’t so much Jews as it was Israelis, in my opinion,” Alexander said. “And I just couldn’t feel a lot of sympathy for the settler movement and the conservative, often hysterically anti-Arab right wing of Israel.”

Gustav Ranis, who told me that he was one of those governance committee members who advised the review committee to give YIISA another year to reform itself, said that “there was a little bit of a tendency to be too polemical in YIIISA rather than academic.” Steven Smith, the committee’s other co-chair told me that “it would be foolish to deny” that YIISA’s brushing against political sensitivities did not play a role in its being shut down. (He was quick to add that it did not play a “decisive” role.) “I think it was thought to be too politically partisan, too involved in a way that was also not part of its mission,” Alexander told me, adding that focusing more on historical anti-Semitism is a way of “de-politiciz[ing] the center.”

Robert Burt, a Yale Law School professor and member of the faculty governance committee, told me that the YIISA lecture series were “like a broken record,” with an almost single-minded focus on the Iranian regime. “I kept on hearing Ahmadinejad’s a bad guy, bad people, bad people, and basically what I was interested in was trying to understand this phenomenon, and understanding requires having an historical sense,” he told me. “It also requires making sense of the fact that Jews were not always scorned and reviled in Western society, there were periods when Jews were welcome.” Burt adds that, before he stopped attending the lecture series due to lack of interest, he noticed that the audiences, while relatively large, were composed mainly of “elderly members of the suburbs” and not students and faculty. (Small replies that “Yale prides itself on trying to be a good citizen of the Yale community, so if people from the community came, it’s Yale’s policy that that’s successful.) Ranis and Burt expressed a more quotidian objection to the conference: that it was held at the end of August, right before the academic year commenced, thus depriving Yale faculty and students the ability to participate.

Also complicating matters was YIISA’s unusual provenance: It was a pre-existing research institute (Small’s Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism), incorporated into Yale and run by an outside academic not on the university tenure track. “The problem was that Charles was not a Yale faculty member and Charles had no standing with the Yale faculty,” Smith said. “He saw Yale as a kind of place to raise his flag. His constituency was the kind of broader world of people interested in this subject. He was either distrustful or didn’t think it was important for it be a real member of the Yale community.” “The problem with YIISA from the beginning is that it came from the outside,” Robert Burt told me. In this analysis, it wasn’t so much the ideology of YIISA that was a problem but its structure. Setting up YIISA with an outsider like Small at the helm, Burt said, “was a mistake from the outset.” When I posed these concerns to Small, he told me he was aware of them and had proposed a tenured Yale faculty member be put in charge of the program (specifically recommending Maurice Samuels for the job) while he would remain as a research fellow. But that idea was rejected.

A former Yale faculty member and defender of the program told me that the effort to portray Small—his job status, his management style, and his academic background—as the reason for the closing of YIISA is a distraction from the real issue, which is the university’s political orientation. “Charles suffered from this systemic fault in the academy,” this former faculty member told me, saying that universities “exploit and dominate junior faculty in a disgusting sort of way.” There was an easy solution, this former faculty member said: “If the university wanted someone tenured, tenure Charles, he has the credentials.” (Small holds a doctor of philosophy from Oxford.) Indeed, if Yale thought that Small’s academic standing was such a problem, this former faculty member said, the university should have never incorporated his initiative into Yale in the first place. This source believes that the reason for YIISA’s demise was political and the explanations offered by the university of bureaucratic incompatibility and academic ineptitude are smokescreens: “Liberals at Yale who look at YIISA and say it’s a conservative front are correct because anti-Semitism is now of concern to the right and not really of concern to the left. Why is it not of concern to the left? Because the left doesn’t sympathize with Jews anymore. They sympathize with the other guys.”

Deborah Lipstadt and Charles Small at the YIISA/IASA Conference on Tuesday, August 24, 2010Deborah Lipstadt and Charles Small at the YIISA/IASA Conference on Tuesday, August 24, 2010

One of the few academics involved in YIISA to support the university’s decision is Deborah Lipstadt, a professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory, who delivered a lecture as part of the program’s seminar series and participated in the “Crisis of Modernity” conference. Her initial reaction to the news that Yale was going to close YIISA was one of disbelief; she tweeted that the institute “ran first rate events,” called the move “disturbing,” and asked if the closing was “a political decision cloaked in pseudo claims & excuses” and if YIISA “was a victim of anti-Semitism, or, at the least, anti-Israelism.” Just a few days later she changed her position in an article for the Forward. “Friends of YIISA counseled the institute’s leadership that some of its efforts had migrated to the world of advocacy from that of scholarship,” she wrote. “There were a few presentations that gave me pause,” she wrote of last year’s conference. “They were passionate and well argued. But they were not scholarly in nature.”

When I asked Lipstadt what aspects of YIISA had “migrated to the world of advocacy from that of scholarship” and what presentations at the “Crisis of Modernity” conference “were not scholarly in nature,” she did not offer any specific examples. “You know, I’d have to go back and look at them,” she told me. “But I remember at the time. I can’t be more specific. I wish I could. I’m not dodging the question. It’s such generalized memories, but I remember thinking, this is not such great scholarship.” Lipstadt then cited Small’s 2007 call to haul Ahmadinejad before the International Criminal Court for incitement to genocide.

Continue reading: Islamophobia and Muslim anti-Semitism, programs of dubious academic merit, and “Israel is not an oppressed group.” Or view as a single page.

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Isn’t it interesting that to go global it means Yale has to ignore the realities of Islamic antisemitism and how it plays a massive role in today’s Middle East conflict and the growth of global antisemitism. How convenient for the author and for Yale that they do not examine Yale’s desire for Arab financing and how as soon as YIISA was ended Saudi money suddenly appeared. To hide behind the inartful and libelous claim of poor academic scholarship is disingenuous. If academic responsibility were the issue then a large portion of leftist academics and their polemic gobbeldygook would not even warrant a second look at any major educational institution, never mind a tenured position at an Ivy league institution.

steve says:

Independent patriot above is correct , I think. Moreover, Yale knows that no matter how far to the right this went, it’s footprint is microscopic compared to the overall far leftist views (including those on Jews and Israel) that greatly dominate teaching at Yale. The author is correct that Yale has global goals, but it attampts to achieve them with the same anti-semitic slant that Arab Oil Money will demand. As for Professor Samuels, his rationalizing defense of history is absurd. While he is an excellent scholar, he’ll confine his curriculum to that old comfortable history of anti-semitism. For an excellent critique of his strengths and this project’s intended short-sightedness, listen to the jpost radio interview of harvard prof ruth wiesse where she states samuels is a great scholar and the perfect man for the job that Yale wants. That job is to pussyfoot around contemporary hate issues Jews face and stay in the past. Finally, the palestinian rep’s letter to Yale: “odious” views? Anything relating to Judaism or Israel is odious to this guy. That Yale listened to him and sucked up to his hate agenda, is the true north indication of how much Yale will prostitute itself to be a global propaganda machine.

Yale kowtows to Arab money and Islamic justification for anti-Semitism (while Islamists play word games claiming they can not be anti-Semitic [which means anti-Jew] because arabs are semites).

Here is the website for the Ruth Weisse critique:

Nothing more needs be said.

Asherz says:

In short, follow the money. Academia’s claim that of paramount importance is the “search for truth” has not been a reality for decades. The progressive agenda and political correctness has ruled the roost. Those who set the agenda have sold themselves to the providers of funds that are compatible with their own prejudices. This does not bode well for our proud nation and its future leadership in the current breeding grounds. The framers of the Constitution would not recognize the same institutions that they knew, 236 years later.
“Lux et Veritas” and the “Urim V’tumim” have been dimmed by the dim leadership that inhabit those halls of ivy in New Haven.

I could read it until I found the next sentence: “Ahmadinejad delivered a highly controversial address at Columbia University in September 2007″. What is so controversial about it? Since when a call to genocide is “controversial”? Then, the author writes: “Small doesn’t deny that he brings a set of passionate views to his work, seeing himself as part of a tradition of “engaged, critical” scholarship …. In addition to this “engaged”—or, as his critics would say, crusading—research…”. So, Small is a “crusader” (“as his critics say”), and Ahmadinejad is just “controversial” (from the author’s point of view). I think this is enough to understand the author’s position pretty well. It is exactly what I get used to see in Tablet.

Yale, like America, is disgusting with its slavish adulation of oil-rich moguls at the expense of support for anti-Semitism. Their excuse for
withdrawal or replacement of the program’s leaders as due to so-called academic scholarship is typically academic and pathetic. It is the old
Blood Libel in academic terminology that I know from experience, is
Kafkian. CYA Cover your “behind.”

Solution might be to discover other forms of energy than oil, and divest these oil-rich countries of our money and their power. If we cannot show honor among thieves, let us at least seek a solution that does not depend on dealing with oil-rich moguls who openly, right now, acclaim the glory of destroying Israel. Give us some credit for seeing through your pathetic sophisms. How can we divest anti-Semites of the power they claim Jews have? Oil-powers rule now. Do not think America will escape Muslim drive to rule the world again. Our women will soon be covered from head to foot and forbidden to drive. Anti-Semitism is alive and well. Concentrating on the past is to stick your heads in Arabian sands and ignore present threats.

jzsnake says:

This article has left me speechless. I hope Jewish alumni will stop donating to Yale and Jews will go elsewhere for an education.

It must be that the brief departure of Yale from its anti-Semitic patterns of excluding Jews from faculty positions and tenure which characterized the 1940′s and 50′s–and earlier–is over. Expect that those “powers that be” will use the same old excuses to marginalize and exclude Jewish scholars from their “hallowed halls.” Only this time there will be more help from Yale Jewish scholars themselves who do not realize how vulnerable they, themselves, are. MA.Yale, ’55.

A. Bernal says:

It’s truly pathetic when a known terrorist organization like the PLO and its “ambassador” can sway academia to such a degree that Charles Small would be seen as the anti-Semite. Yes, the Palestinian’s are Semites; therefore, maybe Prof. Small should have used anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli instead. Regardless, I doubt that would have made any difference.

Anyhow, America and its Ivy-league politically-correct sensitivity will continue to destroy the minds of our young people. Furthermore, because the majority of Jewish Americans are liberals, I doubt that they’d recognize Hitler if he were alive and staring them in the face. It seems like the academic community would rather protect Anti-Jewish Arabs for money’s sake, than to stand up for truth regardless of the cost. Bravisamo to Small for his willingness to loose to eventually win.

This article reminded me of Richard Gant’s character (George Washington Duke) in Rocky V when towards the end of the movie there’s a scene where he is seen shaking his head while quoting, “Only in America . . .”

jacob arnon says:

I think the problem lies with Jewish intellectuals who have decided that antisemitism is of no concern to them.

The reason for this are two fold:

First and most mundane is selfishness: if it doesn’t affect me directly, they tell themselves who cares.

The second reason is more serious because it’s harder to counter: many Jews have bought into the antisemitic view that Jews are too well off, too powerful, and control the world.

This is the only thing that can explain why some “well educated” Jews (at Yale and elsewhere) though abominably ignorant of history can even contemplate sympathizing with groups like Hamas and Hizbollah. This is what those Jews who are on the “flotilla to Gaza” do. Their heroes are people like Chomsky who has gone so far as to embrace a Holocaust denier.

Unfortunately, only another catastrophe to the Jewish people will waken them to reality. This is a prize not worth paying. Hence we need to device strategies to counter a world view that tells them that “Jews have immense power.” For some embracing this view is comforting since it tells that that pogroms and Holocausts are a thing of the past, to other it tells them that all Jews need to sympathize with the underdog including the Palestinians of groups like Hamas.

Will they be able to wake up before the underdog bites them?

Andrea D. Merciless says:

The idea of an ANTISEMITISM studies is a form of advocacy in itself. It assumes that all or most hostile views against Jews are wrong, irrational, or evil. Why not just a program on JEWISH HISTORY which discusses antisemitism as an element in the history of Jews and gentiles? Why do we need a program that focuses ONLY on antisemitism? Such study only looks for evidence where Jews are ‘poor saintly victims’ of ‘evil goyim’. Imagine if a college had a program about Jewish antigoyism and did nothing but amass all the negative feelings, thoughts, and actions of Jews against gentiles? Imagine a program called ANTI-ARAB STUDIES which documented European and Jewish hostility against Arabs/Muslims while ignoring the negative feelings Arabs/Muslims have toward Europeans and Jews. Only an idiot would deny that antisemitism is an important topic, but it is a facet of larger history of Jews and gentiles. And it has to be understood not only in terms of gentile distrust or hatred toward Jews but longstanding Jewish contempt and disdain for goyim. It also has to be seen in light of the murderous Jewish role in communism, Jewish agenda against the white majority, Jewish support of the radical gay agenda, and Jewish domination of Wall Street, by which it robbed most of America blind.

We need a China Studies department and Russian Studies program, but should we have a Anti-Sinocist Studies Program and anti-Russian studies program that only perceive those peoples/nations as hapless victims of hateful enemies? No people are all good or all bad. Jews have been bloodied, but they also have blood on their hands.

Also, the fact that Jews have had an Antisemitic Studies Program at such a prestigious university is not sign of Jewish victimhood but Jewish power. And the so-called studies is used not so much to understand history but to serve as an intellectual weapon of Jewish power, i.e. ‘if you criticize Israel or Jews, you’re a Nazi and should have your career destroyed’.

Andrea D. Merciless says:

Some of you bitch about Arab money, but Wall Street isn’t owned by Arabs. Neither is Hollywood or Silicon Valley. Neither are the top law firms. Jewish professors, students, and money far outweight Arab/Muslim counterparts at top colleges. Show me a Muslim president at an Ivy League University. 60% of Democratic Party funds come from Jews. 40% of GOP funds come from Jews. AIPAC is the most powerful lobby in America. J-Street, a milder version of AIPAC, is second.
Jews are behind illegal immigration, and many prominent Jews are giddy with joy that whites are slated to be a minority in this country. The ‘gay marriage’ agenda was pushed by Jews, not Muslims. Everyone knows about the Holocaust but few know about the Bolshevik murder of 15 million Christian Slavs, much of it carried out by Jewish communist party thugs. Why don’t we know more about this? Jewish control of media and history departments. The world called for the end of Apartheid in South Africa and now turns a blind eye to 10,000s of whites being murdered and raped there, but US has been completely supportive of Israel despite Israel’s murderous occupation of West Bank and attacks on Gaza.

Jews, though 2% of the US population, own 40% of all the wealth in America. Of 25 billionaires in NY, 23 are Jewish. Three out of nine Supreme Court justices are Jewish–or 33%.
Yet, we are supposed to see Jews as helpless victims? Gimme a break. If Yale is to have a political studies program, it should be called JEWISH POWER studies. People like George Soros, Bernanke, Sergey Brin, and Timothy Geithner get to call the shots.
7 million American Jews own more wealth than 1.3 billion Chinese or 1 bilion Indians. Jews need to stop bitching about victimhood.

David Rockefeller says:

. . and Andrea D. Merciless wins the thread . . .

Yes, Yale’s whoring itself for petro-dollars is disgraceful. As is its creating a satellite campus in the police state of Singapore — what’s in it for Yale? Levin should lose his job for that stunt.

But this anti-Semitism center is just as bad. The Israeli Right uses the Yale name to smear its opponents. Ask tough questions about Jews claiming their real estate deal with God entitles them to take land presently occupied by Palestinians and a fancy Ivy college brands you a bigot and anti-Semite. I can see Yale deciding that’s a bit too much engagement with the world.

Bravo, Yale, for doing the right thing — at least this once.

After the revelations about Libyan influence money being injected into the London School Of Economics, I stopped paying attention to their Middle East experts. I’d hate to have to do the same thing with Yale.

Ernest Jones says:

It’s about time! Either have a program that address all anti-(fill in your group)or have none at all. The Jews have become the world’s experts at promoting victimhood, as if the holocaust were the only atrocity that has ever occurred in man’s bloody past. That one of the country’s greatest universities would give them a platform was outrageous. Yale, stand your ground!

Katikam says:

I’m not ready to look at the Shoah as past history…. Perhaps after I and the rest of survivors die you can forget it completely and live under the delusion that Middle Eastern Arabs perpetrated it?

I was shocked to read that the Justice minister of Israel stated that Jews assimilating (and this often means Reform Judaism) are fulfilling Hitler’s project. The man seems to be about my age, or even older.

How is it that he, and others (I’ve heard rabbis in the US make the same claim) have already forgotten that the Holocaust had nothing to do with Judaism? Didn’t your institute offer course on the Nurenberg Nazi laws that defined a Jew as someone who had just one Jewish great grand parent? Don’t you remember that the Nazi project was (and still is) driven by pseudo eugenics?

Anyone who was thought to have “one drop” of “Jewish blood” was designed as “life unworthy of life”, along with Romas (gypsies), gays, people of color, Seventh Day Adventists and, lest we forget, the disabled, this in addition to real or perceived political opponents, or people who didn’t know their place like the Polish intelligencia who was so very anti-Semitic and welcomed the Nazis only to find themselves shipped off to extermination camps (remember, Hitler thought that though Slavic people were not “life unworthy of life” they were inferior and destined to be servants to the “Aryans”?).

The Holocaust involved the murder of 11 million people (6 millions of them Jews). As a Holocaust survivor I feel solidarity towards my fellow victims.

Furthermore, hate crimes against Jews are still perpetrated in the US, NOW. They are not the actions of Muslims but of incresingly mainstrean neo-Nazis. Also, the most virulent anti-semitism comes from Christian Zionists who believe Jews will have to convert or be killed. Are these really Israel’s friends?

rich austin says:

YALE STAND YOUR GROUND.. Good post Andrea Merciless. COMPLETELY AGREE. thies woah is me jewish victim thing is frankly ANNOYING. tell that to bernie madoff, golman sachs, aipac, that fat guy at the ADL foxman and whoever is screwing with the USA.

rich austin says:

Another thing is… ISRAEL RECEIVES the most FINANCIAL AID from USA TAXPAYERS out of any country on US dole or welfare. Plus the military benefits Israel gets from the USA. Yet, they have an economy that is fine- ranking near the top- number 5 I believe .The USAs support of the ‘Jewish state’ that privileges one religion/creed/ethnic group goes against the USA founding constitution of separating church and state. The treatment of the native PALESTINIANS by the jewish immigrants to Israel is horrific and arguably one of the main reasons the USA is hated by the ARAB world.

Jacob Arnon says:

Andrea D. Merciless “The idea of an ANTISEMITISM studies is a form of advocacy in itself.”

This is Amdrea major premise in her combative comments. Yet she is unable to support her premise in the body of her comments. On the contrary she shows that her distaste for antisemitic studies is driven by her not so subtle dislike of Jews.

When she says, for example, that antisemitic studies “assumes that all or most hostile views against Jews are wrong, irrational, or evil.” She doesn’t tell us which hostile views against Jews are not “wrong, irrational, or evil.”

However, she does justify Jew hatred when she says:

“It also has to be seen in light of the murderous Jewish role in communism, Jewish agenda against the white majority, Jewish support of the radical gay agenda, and Jewish domination of Wall Street, by which it robbed most of America blind.”

In other words, Andrea’s views of Jews are the mirror image of those of David Duke and other American Nazis.

This alone would disqualify her from being taken seriously on this or any blog that supports traditional liberal values and scorn racism: Andrea’s “Jewish agenda against the white majority,” bigotry, “Jewish support of the radical gay agenda,” and historical lies Andrea’s “murderous Jewish role in communism.”

No wonder Andrea D. Merciless (Andrea the merciless, get it?) hates antisemitic studies programs: her views would be among those that would be studied. This is also why she says that “ANTISEMITISM studies is a form of advocacy in itself” since she is threatened with exposure.

Antisemites like Andrea fear exposure, which is why they hate the idea of an antisemitic studies program.

There are many reasons why we need to study antisemitism but countering the obscene lies of an Andrea should be one of its top priorities.

Jacob Arnon says:

rich austin:

“Good post Andrea Merciless. COMPLETELY AGREE. thies woah is me jewish victim thing is frankly ANNOYING. tell that to bernie madoff, golman sachs, aipac, that fat guy at the ADL foxman and whoever is screwing with the USA.”

Come on rich, you are andrea, aren’t you? You and her have posted the same comment.

If you don’t like Jews why do you keep posting on Jewish websites. You are ab obsessed stoker with nothing to say.

babawawa says:

Frankly, I couldn’t care less what Yale does. They whore themselves out to whomever they please and there’s a price to pay. What does piss me off is idiots like andrea and rich austin putting down Jews for being successful. Jealousy is a bitch, and you will pay the price as well. FYI, can either of you two, or other talk backers, give us the history of of the people who declared themselves Palestinians in 1964 that doesn’t involve Jews? Israel is the Jewish homeland. The end. Not up for discussion.

Harry Eagar says:

I see a t-shirt: Yale University — soft on anti-Semitism since 2011

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For Rich Austin that said:

ISRAEL RECEIVES the most FINANCIAL AID from USA TAXPAYERS out of any country on US dole or welfare.

Why don’t you look through these numbers here:

Floonberg says:

What it all boils down to is this: if it’s bad for “Israel” and Zionists, it’s a win for humanity.


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No Haven

When Yale shuttered its Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism last month, critics saw anti-Israel political correctness. But the project may simply have been a casualty of the university’s global ambitions.