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Why Did Yale Can Anti-Semitism Initiative?

On Friday, COMMENTARY contributor Abby Wisse Schachter reported in the New York Post that Yale University had killed the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism. The program was, as Wisse Schachter said, “an academically stellar one-stop anti-Semitism research shop.” While Yale claimed the program failed to serve the interests of the faculty and didn’t attract large numbers of students to its courses, the inescapable conclusion is the problem was its unwillingness to confront the virus of Jew-hatred at a time when such sentiments are gaining a foothold in American academia.

As Schachter noted, the YIISA was widely respected in its field and was praised by the university when it held its inaugural conference last year. But not everyone was happy with the fact that among the subjects of that conference was the spread of anti-Semitism in the Arab and Muslim world. The representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the United States blasted the university because the conference did not gloss over the way Palestinian Arabs had embraced anti-Semitic stereotypes in their war on the state of Israel. Schachter pointed out while the study of Christian anti-Semitism was not a problem, the willingness of the YIISA to take on Arab and Muslim attitudes towards Jews was considered controversial.

Yale’s response has been muddled and comes across as disingenuous. Given the cut-throat competition in the academic world these days for large donations from the Arab world, it may well be dangerous for a university to associate itself with the study of Arab Jew-hatred. As Alex Joffe writes today in Jewish Ideas Daily, Yale has itself been a major participant in the scramble for Arab money. Yale is also the academic home of some of the worst apologists for Iran.

Whatever went on behind the scenes at Yale, this decision comes at a time when movements to boycott Israel are gaining traction on American campuses. This effort to single out the one Jewish state in the world and treat it differently from any other country in the world is an example of how anti-Zionism can morph into traditional anti-Semitism. That Yale would choose this moment to send the message this subject is no longer fashionable is a shocking commentary on the indifference of the academic establishment about the revival of Jew-hatred.



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