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The hallowed halls of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut were rocked with controversy last week when it was announced that a well-respected scholarly program called the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism (YIISA) was scheduled to be terminated. In a statement issued by the iconic ivy league institution, Donald Green, a political science professor at Yale and Director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies, said that the decision was predicated upon YIISA “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.”
These allegations have been zealously disputed by a veritable repertioire of top-tier academics, Jewish leaders and political commentators who have suggested that the university acquiesced to the strongly-worded critiques of YIISA programs by leading Muslim personalities and organizations. Referencing the seminal and highly enlightening 2010 YIISA sponsored conference entitled “Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity,” Abby Wisse Schachter writes in a New York Post op-ed piece of June 7th 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 also imputes a conspiratorial tone to the decision to shut YIISA’s doors by reporting 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, expressed his umbrage 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 the virulent nature of Islamic anti-Semitism, considered by experts in the field to be the most pernicious manifestation of modern-day global antipathy. Anti-Semitism in the Western academy was also meticulously examined and hundreds of pages of research materials were produced.
Led by the renowned sociologist Charles Small, YIISA was established in 2006 as the largest research unit in North America devoted to a nuanced exploration of anti-Semitism in its various incarnations with a focus on its urgent contemporary significance. Its clearly 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.
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