Studying anything having to do with Jews is at once conventional and sedate and potentially perilous. In 2010, a project at Yale University gathered experts from a number of different countries and disciplines to examine the peculiarly modern forms taken by the world’s oldest hatred. The resulting conference, titled “Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity,” included considerations of anti-Semitism in places as disparate as Francoist Spain, Brazil under the Dutch, post-apartheid South Africa, and contemporary settings too numerous to list.
But what drew widespread media attention to the gathering was the treatment of only a single topic, namely, anti-Semitism in the contemporary Islamic world. In fact, the sessions devoted to this phenomenon set off a firestorm of controversy so fierce as to result in the eventual ouster from Yale of the conference organizer, the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA). Although the university’s official reason for shuttering YIISA was the program’s alleged failure “to meet high standards for research and instruction,” there was not the slightest doubt that the real reason lay in the vociferous charges of “anti-Arab extremism and hate-mongering” lodged against the conveners by Arab and pro-Palestinian groups and their faculty supporters. By 2011, YIISA was no more. Read More