June 30, 2010 | Quote

Yale Expands YIISA Center

“We are witnessing a profound level of dehumanization of Israelis and by extension the Jewish people,” Dr.Charles Small, the head of the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism (YIISA), the first US-based institute devoted exclusively to academic research covering rising global Jew-hatred, said on Tuesday.

Small emphasized that the phenomenon is especially severe in in many Middle Eastern societies where the rhetoric of genocidal anti-Semitism is becoming mainstream.

The recently expanded Yale center in Connecticut has made great efforts to carve out new territory in the field of researching and combating rising contemporary anti-Semitism, which largely expresses itself as an intense loathing of Israel and its Jewish and non-Jewish supporters in the Diaspora.

In June, YIISA appointed heavyweight political scientist Dr. Steven Smith to be its director of academic affairs. Smith has written extensively on political and Jewish philosophy and is currently the acting chairman of Judaic Studies at Yale.

“YIISA encourages the study of anti-Semitism as an historical and a contemporary phenomenon. It will certainly never shy away from confronting and addressing the problem of genocidal anti-Semitism as expressed in various parts of the world today, especially in Iran,” Smith wrote in an e-mail to The Jerusalem Post.

He added that “I speak here only for myself, but faculty and students often seem reluctant to confront the fact of genocidal anti-Semitism lest they appear politically incorrect. Unless we can speak freely and openly about a problem that concerns everyone – not just Jews or the State of Israel – we abnegate our responsibilities as citizens of a democratic state.”

Small said, “It seems that often scholars are not comfortable with looking at the link between the demonization of Israel and how this relates to contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism. Even though the correlation is strong – there is a political correctness that hinders some intellectuals from assessing the link. There are not many scholars that examine the issues of the Islamisation of anti-Semitism.”

YIISA named David Messer as the first chairman of its board of governors. Messer, a Yale graduate, is involved in diverse communal and philanthropic projects affecting American Jews and Israel. He is a trustee on the Jerusalem-based Shalem Center research institute.

“YIISA will bring together a diverse mixture of Yale professors that will engage in original research projects to identify and analyze historical and contemporary anti-Semitism,” Messer wrote to the Post in an e-mail. “YIISA will disseminate its findings through print media, conferences, scholarly exchange and the creation of an Internetbased archive that will be accessible to scholars and policy- makers around the world.”

YIISA’s inaugural international conference on “Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity,” which is slated for August 23-25 and to cover between 80 and 90 academic papers, seeks to bring the public policy and academic worlds together.

Small said, “We see the disintegration of modernity in some societies with the rise of a radical Islamist social movement – and in the West an acquiescence to it. We know anti-Semitism that once unleashed this disease of hate begins with Jews but does not end with Jews. We see that moderate Muslims, women, gays, Coptics, Bahais, Buddhists etc. also become victims – the basic notions of democracy and notions of citizenship are under assault.

“Some argue that this represents the disintegration of modernity itself – and yet many in the West who we would expect to be opposed, are actually joining the forces of tyranny in some cases. The conference will assess this moment from an array of perspectives and from leading scholars from around the globe,” he said.

Small, who was born in Montreal, has been the engine behind YIISA, which was formally established in 2006. He is an Oxford University-trained academic who has taught at both Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

“YIISA’s ultimate mission is [to be] a beacon for rational, well-thought out research,” he said.