Commentary Magazine


Yale and the Causes of Anti-Semitism

Last week, the New York Times published a series of letters in response to an op-ed by Deborah Lipstadt, a professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University, entitled, “Why Jews are Worried,” which examined the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe.

One of the letters caught my eye. It blamed the rise of anti-Semitism on Israel and seemed to hint that Jews themselves are to blame for their support of Israel. Here is the letter in full:

Deborah E. Lipstadt makes far too little of the relationship between Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza and growing anti-Semitism in Europe and beyond. The trend to which she alludes parallels the carnage in Gaza over the last five years, not to mention the perpetually stalled peace talks and the continuing occupation of the West Bank. As hope for a two-state solution fades and Palestinian casualties continue to mount, the best antidote to anti-Semitism would be for Israel’s patrons abroad to press the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for final-status resolution to the Palestinian question.

The author of the letter is Bruce M. Shipman, the Episcopal chaplain at Yale University.

The firestorm initiated by the letter has spread far beyond New Haven. Rabbi Shua Rosenstein, from Chabad at Yale, released the following statement, transposed here by David Bernstein at the Washington Post’s Volokh Conspiracy blog:

Reverend Bruce Shipman’s justification of anti-Semitism by blaming it on Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza is frankly quite disturbing. His argument attempts to justify racism and hate of innocent people, in Israel and around the world.  One can and should study the Israeli policies regarding human rights, and the honest student will realize the painstaking efforts undertaken by Israel to protect innocent civilians. Hamas, ISIS and other radical groups make it their mission to torture, rape and kill as many civilians as possible. Yet, no moral person however, would attempt to justify blatant global anti-Moslem hatred in light of these atrocities. I call upon Bruce Shipman to retract and apologize for his unfortunate and misguided assertion. Instead of excusing bias and hatred against others, he should use his position to promote dialogue, understanding, and tolerance.

Shipman at first responded to the controversy by doubling down but, when the controversy continued, issued what can best be called a non-apology apology.

Let’s assume Shipman is sincere in wanting to walk back the crisis. That’s fine, but what he omits–even days into the controversy–suggests he is wrong on any number of levels. He appears ignorant of Hamas’s founding charter which promotes genocide against Jews. While Nazi analogies are sometimes overused, they are relevant to Hamas or Hezbollah, both of whom make no secret that they seek to target not only Israel, but also Jews. On October 23, 2002, for example, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah encouraged all Jews to gather in Israel, thereby saving Hezbollah “the trouble of going after them worldwide.” The land dispute between Palestinians and Israelis is secondary to these movements. He also seems to forget that the occupation of Gaza ended nearly a decade ago and, as with the Oslo Accords and the withdrawal from southern Lebanon, Israel’s compromises were met with a massive increase in Israelis killed at the hand of terrorists.

The problem is not just Shipman. In 2011, Yale University shut down the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism after it had been in operation for only six years. Professors complained that the program’s consideration of contemporary anti-Semitism was too political and not academic enough. This charge, of course, was nonsense as the program attracted the foremost scholars in the field to its conferences and colloquia. Perhaps—with Yale University actively seeking donations from and partnerships with Arab governments as well as a predominant attitude on campus encapsulated by Shipman—the idea of the study of contemporary anti-Semitism simply hit too close to home amongst the Yale faculty, many of whom might not like to consider the uncomfortable questions such study might encourage.

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5 Responses to “Yale and the Causes of Anti-Semitism”

  1. STEVEN GERBER says:

    Given the fact that Shipman disagrees with you (and me) on the issues, I think that this is a good apology, and certainly not a “non-apology apology.”

    • SY WEINER says:

      I must be missing some thing in your response. is it satirical or nonsensical please oilluminate the unwashed masses of conservatives

  2. ELLIOTT GREEN says:

    “Professors complained that the program’s consideration of contemporary anti-Semitism was too political and not academic enough.”

    This explanation on Yale’s part was just too dishonest and disingenuous. There are plenty of programs in US universities that are very very political and hardly at all academic. Consider programs in minority ethnic studies, gender studies, queer studies, Middle Eastern studies –and area studies programs for other area– that are very much indoctrination programs, political recruitment programs, and hardly at all academic.

    I would not say that a program in American Indian studies, for example. is out of place or should not exist. What I am saying is that programs of this kind have in fact been made political all too often.

  3. ERIC LEVINE says:

    Bruce M. Shipman has made a lauphing stock of Yale on the matter of human rights! Shame on Yale!

  4. EJ MCTIERNAN says:

    Hilaire Belloc:‘The Jew individually feels himself superior to the non-Jewish contemporary and neighbour of whatever race, and particularly of our race; the Jew feels his nation immeasurably superior to any other human community, and particularly to our modern national communities in Europe.
    The frank statement of so simple and fundamental a truth is rarely made. It will sound, I fear, shocking to many ears. To many others it will sound not so much shocking as comic, and to many more stupefying.
    The idea that the Jew should think himself our superior is something so incomprehensible to us that we forget the existence of the feeling. ..

    Belloc thinks Jews should abate their arrogance; he also supports Jewish newspapers, schools etc. on the grounds it makes their views known

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