Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut was rocked with controversy last week when it was announced that the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism (YIISA) is to be closed.
In a statement issued by the institution, Donald Green, political science professor and Director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies, said that the decision was predicated upon YIISA's "generating little scholarly work that earned publication in highly regarded journals, and its courses attracted few students."
Citing the Center for the Study of Race, Inequality and Politics as another example of an "underachieving program". Dr. Green said that “YIISA suffered the same fate because it failed to meet high standards for research and instruction”.
The claim is disputed by resptected academics, Jewish leaders and political commentators who have suggested that the university acquiesced to the critiques of YIISA programs by leading Muslim personalities and organizations.
Referencing the 2010 YIISA sponsored conference entitled, "Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity," Abby Wisse Schachter writes in a New York Post op-ed of June 7 that studying "Christian anti-Semitism is fine; political Jew-hatred, like communist or fascist anti-Semitism, no problem. But get anywhere near Muslim or Middle Eastern anti-Semitism, as presenters at YIISA's conference did last year, and you've crossed the line."
Schachter reports that subsequent to the conference, "the PLO representative in America scolded the school's president, Richard Levin, complaining of the attention paid to anti-Semitism among Palestinians and Muslims."
The PLO "ambassador" in question, Maen Rashid Areikat, wrote to Levin in a letter saying, "It's shocking that a respected institution like Yale would give a platform to these right-wing extremists and their odious views. I urge you to publicly dissociate yourself and Yale University from the anti-Arab extremism and hate-mongering that were on display during this conference."
The conference addressed Islamic anti-Semitism, but anti-Semitism in Western academia was also examined and hundreds of pages of research materials were produced on the topic.
Led by the sociologist Charles Small, YIISA was established in 2006 as the largest research unit in North America devoted to an exploration of anti-Semitism in its various forms with a focus on its urgent contemporary significance. Its defined stated mission was "to explore this subject matter in a comprehensive, interdisciplinary framework from an array of approaches and perspectives as well as regional contexts."
Each year, respected scholars who have published monographic studies on anti-Semitism have gathered for YIISA sponsored colloquiums. Among those scholars attached to YIISA programs include Irwin Cotler, the former Canadian Attorney General and Minister of Justice, David Hirsh of Goldsmiths College in London, Phyllis Chesler, emerita professor of psychology and women's studies at the City University of New York and Bassam Tibi, emeritus professor of international relations at the University of Goettingen.
In January 2010, Iran announced that it was instituting a boycott of 60 institutions. Yale was among them. Although the regime did not explain the reason for the boycott, university officials attributed Tehran’s decision to YIISA’s activities in spotlighting the regime’s role in promoting genocidal anti-Semitism. Due to the boycott, Yale professors involved in research in Iran were forced to end their activities. These professors reportedly blamed YIISA rather than Iran for the cancellation of their research projects
Ms. Schachter of the New York Post writes that in 2009 "a lecturer at Yale's new Jackson Center for Global Affairs (Hillary Mann Leverett) took her graduate students to New York to visit with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad explained to the students that there is no hard scientific proof that the Holocaust happened."
As a participant at various YIISA conferences, Dr. Phyllis Chesler calls the closing "a tragedy" and remarks in a June 13th article entitled, "Islam and Anti-Semitism at Yale" that appeared on the Israelnationalnews and on FrontPage Mag web site, "Yale has rendered racism respectable, has contributed to the academic isolation of scholars of contemporary anti-Semitism, and snuffed out truth-telling, genuine dissent, free speech, and academic freedom. This will be a permanent stain on Yale and on American academia."
Alex Joffe, in a June 13th article titled, "Anti-Semitism and Man at Yale", said, "Yale has long been seeking support from wealthy Arab donors..In particular, it has wooed Saudi Prince Alwaleed ibn Talal, who in 2005 gave $20 million apiece to Harvard and Georgetown for Islamic-studies programs." Yale, which competed vigorously for the prize, made it to the final round.
Mr. Joffe adds, "true to their donors' intent, such academic programs are faithful disseminators of the "narrative" of Muslim victimization. In the same connection, it should likewise be borne in mind that in 2009, alerted to the imminent publication by its own press of a scholarly book on the Danish-cartoons controversy, the Yale administration summarily intervened to yank images of the cartoons from the final product—on the grounds that their appearance might elicit 'violence'."
Jewish organizations criticized the decision to close YIISA. David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee said, “We hope Yale will review this unfortunate decision so that YIISA’s critical work can continue. In our experience working with YIISA, AJC has been impressed by the level of scholarly discourse, the involvement of key faculty, and the initiative's ability, through conferences and other programs, to bring a wide range of voices to the Yale campus.”
Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League of Bnai Brith added, "Especially at a time when anti-Semitism continues to be virulent and anti-Israel parties treat any effort to address issues relating to anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism as illegitimate, Yale's decision is particularly unfortunate and dismaying."