More on the closure of YIISA – Alex Joffe

There is no need to impute a conspiracy here; it suffices to recognize a confluence of factors—and a mindset. Exactly 60 years ago, the young William F. Buckley, Jr., in God and Man at Yale, published a withering critique of, in the words of a recent appraisal, “the intolerance of the academy toward unfashionable concepts, . . . the stultifying effects of elitist groupthink on thought, and . . . the failure of the university to engage a wide range of ideas fairly and in simple good faith.” At the time, the particular issue salient in Buckley’s mind was the academy’s refusal to engage the subject of God and man. Today, it is the refusal to engage the global campaign to defame, de-legitimate, and demonize the Jewish people. As the fact of anti-Semitism grows, including on some North American campuses, one large, serious academic effort to study anti-Semitism has been shut down.

Read the whole piece, by Alex Joffe on Jewish Ideas Daily.

7 Responses to “More on the closure of YIISA – Alex Joffe”

  1. Blacklisted Dictator Says:

    Alex Joffe writes: “At its 2010 conference, YIISA dared to tackle, openly, the single deadliest form of contemporary anti-Semitism, bringing together for this purpose a bevy of “top-tier” scholars from around the world. It was, clearly, the very holding of such an event that raised hackles from within and without. One response came from Maen Rashid Areikat, the Washington representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization: “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.” ”

    Blacklisted dictator writes: Once again, Areikat equates “right-wing extremists” (in common parlance “Nazis”) with people who confront anti-semitism. His view, standard propaganda in leftist and Islamist circles, is morover one of the reasons why YIISA has such an important role to play. An institute like YIISA could help to explain, by which “intellectual” route, we have sunk this far.

  2. Jimbo Says:

    Not a happy story. For 5 years the first interdisciplinary research university research initiative on antisemitism was allowed to run, then shut down, for venturing into waters that lapped against potential donors.

    The message: Israel and Jews are small in the world, and their concerns marginal to the majority, and expendable.

    This will only serve to bolster the Israeli and Jewish sense of embattlement and isolation.

  3. David Schraub Says:

    I’m not happy that YIISA is closing — I was very much an admirer of their project, and in particular I thought David Hirsh produced some stellar work for them. But I, too, recall being surprised at how little published scholarship was coming out of the institution. It seemed to be punching academically well beneath its weight, and I can’t be too surprised it isn’t being renewed as a result.

    Is there a solid claim that the inability of scholars of anti-Semitism to place their work in top journals is in part a function of academic norms whereby anti-Semitism isn’t seen as a “real” topic worthy of study? Yes, perhaps. But I don’t think this is the whole story. For one, we’ve definitely seen a fair number of scholarly monographs being published on the topic, giving an opportunity to bypass perhaps biased journal editors. For two, Hirsh’s great work notwithstanding, a lot of the published academic work on anti-Semitism I have read has not been particularly impressive in quality. Reading the contents of the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism, I haven’t been blown away by many of the pieces, or wondered why the pieces haven’t been placed in more reputed journals.

    In sum, I’m inclined to accept Yale’s account for the closure of YIISA at face value.

    • Bill Says:

      I agree with David S and have to give some credence to the lack of visible productivity form the unit. Right now the higher education bubble in the US is getting ready to burst (with various ominous statistics from payoff of student loan depth to the crossing of the curve between the # of administrators vs faculty), and administrators are going to trim fat left and right, though rarely on top. But is the reason that the YIISA was not productive in the traditional sense because antisemitism is “undervalued” or treated, as we so often see, as changing the subject from other hobby horses or narratives? Were some papers “spiked” because they didn’t fit into the correct script? What was the ratio between papers/proposals submitted and those accepted low because of that? And would they have cut a similar center with similar production stats if the topic was more in tune with conventional wisdom?

      • R Williams Says:

        There certainly was a HUGE failure to meet high standards for research. I cannot but wonder if hosting a conference with sessions titled “Self Hatred and Contemporary Antisemitism,” and “Scourges and Their Audiences: What Drives Jews to Loathe Israel Publicly and What To Do About It?” had anything to do with the closure. The fact that David Hirsh was part of this idiocy is an insult to all of us members of the Zionist left. IILSA advanced pro-occupation neo-conservative agenda. And yes, I agree with what the PLO representative Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat wrote last year to the president of Yale. For me the world (the Jewish world obviously included) is fresher without IILSA.

        August 30, 2010

        Dear President Levin,

        I write to express my deep dismay over the contents of a recent conference held at Yale entitled “Global Anti-Semitism: A Crisis of Modernity”.

        The conference, which was organized in cooperation with the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA), opened with a speech from an official from the Israeli embassy and featured seminars such as “The Central Role of Palestinian Antisemitism in Creating the Palestinian Identity”, “The Jihad Flotilla to Gaza: Provocative – Antisemitic – Not Humanitarian”, and “Lawfare, Human Rights Organizations and the Demonization of Israel”.

        Amongst the “experts” leading these seminars were retired Israeli army officer Jonathan Fighel, Anne Herzberg of NGO Monitor (whose mission is to suppress criticism of Israel by undermining the credibility of human rights organizations), and an Israeli settler named Itamar Marcus.

        In addition to being the head of a shady propaganda outfit known as “Palestinian Media Watch”, Mr. Marcus also lives in the West Bank colony of Efrat in violation of international law. Mr. Marcus – who, as a settler, has a vested interest in preventing the realization of the two-state solution – has spent much of his life attempting to “prove” that Palestinians are unwilling or unable to make peace, thereby justifying Israel’s continued military occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands. Mr. Marcus is also closely tied to an organization known as the Central Fund of Israel, which funds some of the most extreme and violent elements of Israel’s settler movement.

        It’s 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 antisemitism that is ostensibly intended to combat hatred and discrimination against Semites would demonize Arabs – who are Semites themselves.

        As Palestinians, we strongly support principles of academic freedom and free speech, however racist propaganda masquerading as scholarship does not fall into this category.

        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.


        Ambassador Maen Rashid Areikat

        PLO Representative to the United States

        • David Says:

          Such sickening words from a representative of a people whose leaders have made it their profession through their education system – many examples at – to demonise Israel and promote hate speak, And this idiotic old furphy that the Arabs being semites cannot be perpetrators of anti-semitism. Shame on Yale and shame on anti-semites like the ambassador!

  4. David Says:

    And one further issue with the dear ambassador. This technique of impugning Itamar Marcus and Palestinian Media Watch and thus hoping to prove that their work is not credible is characteristic of the anti-Israel camp and the paucity of their argument. The ambassador cannot directly refute the ugly material at Palestinian Media Watch that implicates the PLO and Hamas; he wants to shoot the messengers.rather than face having to deal with the mountains of evidence that have accumulated.

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