The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has criticized Yale University for announcing that it will close on July 31 the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism (YIISA) and has urged it to rescind this decision. YIISA was founded in 2006 to provide a scholarly approach to the study of contemporary and historical anti- Semitism and was the first center of its kind in the United States (there is now a second, at Indiana University). YIISA is attached to Yales Institution of Social and Policy Studies and fully funded from private contributions. It is not subsidized by the University.
In its short life span, YIISA has organized seminars and conferences that brought leading scholars from across the globe, held conferences and produced cutting edge research publications. These included a groundbreaking statistical study published by Small and Prof. Edward Kaplan from Yales School of Management that demonstrated a direct correlation between anti-Israel sentiment and anti- Jewish sentiment. Last August, YIISA held a large conference, Global anti-Semitism: A Crisis of Modernity, which among other things, covered the genocidal nature of Islamist anti-Semitism.
As the Jerusalem Posts Deputy Managing Editor Caroline Glick observes, The [Global anti-Semitism] conference produced more than 800 pages of scholarly research materials on all facets of anti-Semitism, including anti-Semitism in Western academia. Senior Yale lecturers like Yales diplomat-in-residence and eminent international security studies scholar Charles Hill, and Yales Sterling Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature and Holocaust survivor Geoffrey Hartman, served on YIISAs faculty advisory committees and participated in its activities. According to YIISAs website, several dozen Yale professors and lecturers from throughout the university community were associated with YIISA. Their participation in its activities contributed to the institutes comprehensive study of anti-Semitism. As the only center of its kind throughout North America, YIISAs activities were widely covered by the media. Small and other YIISA personnel have been regularly interviewed in the US and global media on subjects related to the worlds oldest and most resilient form of bigotry.
However, despite a distinguished record of fruitful academic activity and publications, Yales Press Secretary Thomas Conroy wrote that the decision to close YIISA was made by a faculty committee during a routine five-year review of the program, which concluded that [YIISA] had not attracted a critical mass of relevant faculty or stimulated sufficient new research. Also, Yales Professor Donald Green, who heads the Institution for Social and Policy Studies that housed YIISA, has said that YIISA, like all other programs, was evaluated and found wanting by two set criteria: Its success in publishing articles in top-tier academic journals and its success in attracting a large number of students to its courses. Yet, as Glick observes, the use of these criteria to determine YIISAs academic viability is deeply unfair. These criteria are reasonable for politically neutral or popular subjects like agrarianism or American politics. But sadly today, at Yale and throughout the world, the subject of anti-Semitism is steeped in controversy and an objective analysis of its various aspects is considered politically incorrect. Consequently, a decision to use routine standards of assessment for a non-routine subject is not a fair decision. Indeed, it is reasonable to argue that it is a politically motivated decision.
Yale has shown deep interest in attracting funds from the most repressive Arab tyrants and business figures, including Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, who has spent tens of millions of his personal wealth establishing academic centers in American universities so that a politically correct version of Islam and Islamic studies can augmented in the U.S. Alwaleed has given $20 million endowments to both Harvard and Georgetown universities and Yale University has been seeking his largesse as well.(Martin Kramer, Some day, Yales prince will come, August 21, 2009).
Yale also has a record of appeasing violent Islamists. In 2009, Yale University Press published a book on the Danish Muhammad cartons controversy, The Cartoons That Shook the World, but omitted pictures of the Danish cartoons that were at the heart of the controversy. In January 2010, Iran announced that it was instituting a boycott of 60 institutions, including Yale. Although the [Iranian] regime did not explain the reason for the boycott, university officials attributed Tehrans decision to YIISAs activities in spotlighting the regimes 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 (Caroline Glick, Yale, Jews and double-standards, Jerusalem Post, June 9, 2011). Also, the August 2010 Global anti-Semitism Conference attracted outrage from the PLO, whose representative in Washington, Rashid Areikat, demanded that the university disassociate itself from the conference. Areikat wrote, Its shocking that a respected institution like Yale would give a platform to these right-wing extremists and their odious views, and it is deeply ironic that a conference on anti-Semitism that is ostensibly intended to combat hatred and discrimination against Semites would demonize Arabs who are Semites themselves.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, The background to the decision by Yale to close YIISA very strongly suggests that the decision was not based on considerations of scholarship or academic output, but on unsavory political considerations. Put simply, Yale seeks donations and endowments from whatever source, including the most illiberal and tyrannical in the Arab world, and if that means a genuine and important scholarly endeavor like studying contemporary anti-Semitism and the prominence of Muslim anti-Semitism around the world has to be discarded to keep rich, extremist potential Arab donors on side, then that is a sacrifice that they will make. This is a degrading, disgraceful and frightening act of appeasement and amounts to a negation of the pursuit of light and truth in words of Yales motto, to which Yale is supposed to be committed.
Yale should show that this is not the case by immediately rescinding this terrible decision and maintaining YIISA, whose scholarly output does much credit to Yale.