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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Yale tries to ignore anti-Semitism

As you all know, Yale has determined to close down the Yale Interdisciplinary Initiative for the Study of Anti-Semitism. It is opening a new program under the direction of Maurice Samuels instead. What's wrong with that? Clemens Heni explains.
A Judaica collection has little to do with research on antisemitism, especially when it comes to the threats of 2011: genocidal threats from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah.

Neither does 19th century literature. In 2004, Maurice Samuels published The Spectacular Past: Popular History and the Novel in Nineteenth-Century France. In it, he deals with a film from 1927 about Napoléon, and points to a snowball scene, which reminds him of the following:
One example is the famous snowball fight scene that opens the film, a version of which had been featured in Bonaparte à l’école de Brienne, ou le petit caporal, souvenirs de 1783, the Napoleon play starring Virginie Déjazet in 1830. Images of the snowball fight also appear in A.V. Arnault’s Vie politique et militaire de Napoléon (1822) and Laurent de l’Ardèche’s Histoire de l’empereur Napoléon (1839), two of the illustrated histories I discuss in chapter 2.
That’s fascinating and fine scholarship, just not the sort of work needed to address antisemitism in the contemporary world.

An antisemitism program needs scholars who deal with Qassam rockets, Grad rockets, and other rocket systems, not snowballs. Scholars who deal with satellite systems, and firebombs targeting Israeli civilians and tanks. Who study soldiers of Hamas, Hezbollah, and other antisemitic terror groups. It needs scholars who deal with Islamist thinkers, from Hasan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb to Mohammad Chatami, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s anti-Israel and pro-suicide-bombing fatwas.

It needs scholars who deal with the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamism — not only in Egypt, but in the entire Middle East, Europe, North America, and elsewhere. It needs scholars on Iran and the analysis of incitement to genocide.

It needs scholars on Turkey, lawful Islamism, and its relationship to anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

It needs scholars on Islamic jihad, terror, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and homegrown terrorism in the West.

It needs scholars on left-wing, progressive, Muslim, and Neo-Nazi anti-Zionist antisemitism, and the ideologies and concepts of postorientalism, postcolonialism, and their possible relationship to antisemitism (e.g., in the work of Edward Said). And it needs scholars on antisemitism and anti-Israel propaganda in Western mass media in the 21st century.

There is nothing wrong with scholarship on France and Jewish history; it is important. But it shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for serious scholarship on contemporary antisemitism. The study of dead antisemites and past campaigns of vilification is already part of every single Jewish Studies department in the world. And dealing with Jewish literature (the topic of Samuels’ new book in 2010) has nothing to do with research on (contemporary) antisemitism.
It seems that Yale itself has a skeleton in its closet. Anti-Semitism.
Harvard professor and YIISA board member Alan Dershowitz said the following in an interview with David F. Nesenoff, a keynote speaker at YIISA’s August 2010 conference “Global Anti Semitism: A Crisis of Modernity”:
I think some of the blame lies not only with the Jewish faculty members but with pro-Israel faculty members who are too frightened to speak up because it makes them unpopular. You pay a price on campus today for being pro Israel. Even I pay a price for that.
Yale, in fact, has a long history of antisemitism. Dershowitz continued:
The slogan of Yale was urim v’tumim‘ [light and truth] in Hebrew. The joke was if you could read it, you can’t go there. The college had an overt quota system. I was not in the college. I couldn’t get into the college obviously. When I went to the law school there was overt antisemitism in the hiring process by law firms. And there were secret clubs that didn’t allow in Jews. That was 50 years ago. Yale has a terrible legacy of antisemitism, which should make it sensitive to the issue.
Historian Stephen H. Norwood’s The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower demonstrates that Yale and many other Ivy League universities were very much pro-German, and not at all anti-Nazi. Norwood writes:
Yale University and Vassar College German clubs invited Dr. Richard Sallet, attaché at the German embassy in Washington, to speak on campus about Hitler’s Germany. The Nazi-diplomat spoke informally on December 11 to Yale’s Germanic Club, which was composed of faculty members and graduate students, on “The New Foundation of the German Commonwealth.”
It gets worse. Read the whole thing.

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