Joining Caroline Glick, Alex Joffe takes a close look at Yale’s closure of the Yale Interdisciplinary Initiative for the Study of Antisemitism (YIISA) after five years of successful operation. Like Gilck’s column, Joffe provides a measured analysis. Here is one factor adduced by Joffe that supplies what may be relevant context:
At a 2010 conference titled “Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity,” experts from around the world gathered to deliberate the most dangerous global form of contemporary anti-Semitism, namely, the Muslim variety. Dangerous in more ways than one: the event’s discussions provoked the ire of some Yale faculty and students, as well as representatives of the official Muslim world; the ire evidently caused institutional discomfiture; and YIISA’s fate was sealed.
No doubt other considerations went into Yale’s decision to shut down this enterprise; it is difficult to know for sure. But the finality of the move, and the evasive rationales advanced for it, suggest a desire to dodge the issue. After all, universities rarely admit mistakes and even more rarely correct them. More typical are bureaucratic fixes: downgrading “programs” to “projects,” moving units to smaller office spaces (the academic equivalent of Siberia), or, in truly bad situations, replacing leaders and putting units in receivership. Why pull the plug so completely?
In the event, Yale’s stated reasons for terminating YIISA omit any mention of the 2010 conference or its subject matter. . . .
Joffe circles back to the 2010 conference a bit later in his column:
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.”
This, from an operative of a group whose very name is soaked with the blood of murdered Jews and whose doctrines have poisoned the minds and disfigured the passions of whole generations, including in centers of elite Western opinion. Asked about the possible influence of responses like Areikat’s in its decision to terminate YIISA, a Yale spokesman huffed that the university “doesn’t make decisions about individual programs . . . based on outside criticism.”
Joffe comments: “Maybe so. But it would be naïve to suppose that Yale is anything less than super-sensitive to its institutional self-interest in a part of the world whose favor it may wish to court–and the all too palpable consequences of whose wrath it seeks to avoid.” Joffe credits Abby Wisse Schachter’s New York Post item breaking the story. For those of us observing from from the outside it is worth another look as we try to figure out what happened.