It’s been more than a year since Yale University and the Yale Institute for Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YISSA) parted ways. In the process YISSA was closed down with neither due process nor any linkage to precedent. Ignored by Yale was the group’s continual growth and progress, and egregiously missing during YISSA’s trials was any meaningful support for it from the Jewish organizations on campus or within the greater New Haven Jewish community. Charles Small, YISSA’s founder and director built a program over a five-year period that was special and unique. YISSA attracted top scholars from around the world and sustained a post-doc and graduate fellowship program in its disciplines while hosting over 117 research seminars and four international conferences. But Yale deemed this to be not enough. There is reason, Charles Small is apt to point out, that academia has no room for the study of antisemitism on any campus (with one exception).
The catalyst for this sad affair was the 2010 conference that YISSA held in New York City, which we attended and, interestingly, turned out to be the largest ever academic gathering of this type focused on the subject of antisemitism. Over 100 speakers from more than 20 countries participated with more than 500 people in attendance. Only two of the 23 panels at the conference focused their remarks on the antisemitism derived from the Muslim/Arab world and noted the clear and present genocidal danger afforded to Israel and Jews by radical Islam. That open and honest inquiry seems to have offended some and Yale, prodded on by Palestinian agitation out of Washington, D.C. along with a leading voice on Yales’s Board of Corporators, deemed these academic discussions and that conference as offensive, promptly moving to stifle academic inquiry into the linkage between antisemitism and radical Islam by disassociating YISSA from Yale. It was also thought by some that a Yale without YISSA would be more open for Arab money, so ever-present elsewhere in higher education. In New Haven, YISSA was supplanted by an effort (Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism) focused on the history of antisemitism in 19th century France, only a century or two removed from what legal scholar Alan Dershowitz calls today’s inchoate, yet to be completed, crime of genocide against the Jews.
Last week the Institute for the study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, or ISGAP, the organization which funded all of YIISA’s activities and expenses during its tenure at Yale, was formally re-launched as a national organization. The organization presented its first programming for the current year with events at its four affiliated institutions: Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Mass., Fordham University at the Lincoln Center campus in New York City, the Hoover Institute at Stanford University in California, and McGill University in Montreal, Charles Small’s alma mater. McGill’s academic affiliate in Israel, the Interdisciplinary Center in Israel, the IDC, will launch their ISGAP programming this week on their campus in Heraclidan.
Ironically, the new campus group created to replace YISSA at Yale conferenced earlier this month as well and its discussion foundered on the same issue that ensnared YISSA in controversy: radical Islam’s animus towards Jews. When the theoretical parsing of antisemitism’s causes over 100+ years ago in France collided with the March 2012 bloody reality of the massacre of helpless Jewish children and a rabbi in Toulouse, the debate on whether to call the killings racism or antisemitism seemed to consume the conference attendees. In fact, leading Yale scholars asserted at the conference that Islamist antisemitism for the most part ought to be considered a ‘metaphor’ and unworthy of real concern. A dissenting voice has recently written an account of that conference’s proceedings. We wonder how that will play out at the administrative level at Yale this time around. The taboo of mentioning anti-Semitism and Islam in the same sentence might have to be tolerated because it is now becoming clear that all relevant discussion of this issue in the world today ends up with that factor looming large.
ISGAP has also been busy reconstituting its stellar board of academic advisers co-chaired by Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz and Canadian Parliamentarian Irwin Cotler. And it recently announced that Elie Wiesel will serve as its honorary president. Its board of trustees is accumulating a powerful group of people who will make this organization a dramatic and significant new addition to the national scene.
We wish this organization continued growth and strength. Chazak chazak v’nitzchazek.