Update, June 10: Antony Lerman, a scholar of anti-Semitism, has written a very good post on the Yale decision, against the backdrop of the politicization of the study of anti-Semitism. For more substance (and more length) please read his in addition to mine.
"When the sons of Eli break through the line/That is the sign we hail/Bull Dog! Bull Dog! Bow-wow-wow!/ Eli Yale"
-- Cole Porter
Sorry for that burst of filial love for my alma mater. But the Yale Daily News is reporting that Yale has decided not to renew the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism.
The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism (YIISA), which has operated since 2006, will not continue next year, Director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies Donald Green said in a statement.
The decision to end the program has met criticism from groups across the nation that show support for Jewish people, such as the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League. But Green, a political science professor, said YIISA generated little scholarly work that earned publication in highly regarded journals, and its courses attracted few students.
"YIISA suffered the same fate as other initially promising programs… that were eventually terminated at ISPS because they failed to meet high standards for research and instruction," Green said, citing the Center for the Study of Race, Inequality and Politics as another example of an underachieving program.
In other words, the program was crappy. And so it was axed. Good for Yale. And good for the serious study of anti-Semitism.
The moral of this story? Take an important phenomenon which is worthy of study and have it hijacked by people with an ideological agenda, who organize conferences that revel in Islamaphobia and rightwing Zionism, mixing mediocre academics and non-academics with serious scholars, all of whom have axes to grind – in short, trivialize anti-Semitism in order to silence critics of Israel – and sooner or later, God willing, real academics will write it off as an embarrassment.
For my criticisms of the pseudo-scholarly hate-fest organized last year, see my post here.
I have no objection at all to a Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism, though a Center for the Study of Racism, including Anti-Semitism as one of several phenomena, would suit my tastes better. And I agree with Abe Foxman that it would be better to try to fix the YIISA then to end it – but not for his reasons:
"The decision to end the Center was a bad one on its own terms, but it is even worse because it leaves the impression that the anti-Jewish forces in the world achieved a significant victory," Foxman said.
For Foxman the Initiative was to have been a Yale Anti-Defamation League, combating world anti-Semites, rather than a serious intellectual endeavor.
May I suggest to Mr. Foxman that if the anti-Jewish forces in the world have achieved a significant victory, it's because the intellectual poverty of the Initiative had become a shonde for the Jews and for the goyyim.
Let Yale study anti-Semitism – but let Yale do it seriously, and not put on conferences like the one I criticized.
And, please, Yale – hang tough when the alumni donors start making phone calls.
h/t to Mairav Zonszein