Menu JTA Search

PLO envoy slams Yale for anti-Semitism conference

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The PLO envoy to Washington said that a conference on anti-Semitism at Yale University "demonized Arabs."

In an Aug. 30 letter to the university’s president, Richard Levin, Ma’en Areikat cited the Aug. 23-25 inaugural conference of the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism. The conference was titled "Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity."

"As Palestinians, we strongly support principles of academic freedom and free speech, however racist propaganda masquerading as scholarship does not fall into this category," Areikat said.

Don Filer, the director of Yale’s office of international affairs, wrote back to say that Yale does not censor academics, the Yale Daily News reported.

In his letter Areikat cited three lectures and scholars out of more than 100 at a conference that included sessions not only on anti-Semitism in the Islamic world but among feminists, in the Christian world and among Jews. Scholars came from 18 countries and leading educational institutions, and included pre-eminent experts in their fields such as Deborah Lipstatdt.

Charles Small, the initiative’s director, called Areikat’s letter a "cheap political ploy."

"The fact is that Ambassador Areikat did not attend a single session of the conference, and it is clear that he did not read one paper," Small told JTA.

Areikat singled out for criticism Itamar Marcus, who directs Palestinian Media Watch. Marcus delivered a keynote lecture titled "The Central Role of Palestinian Anti-Semitism in Creating the Palestinian Identity."

Palestinians reject as racist and reductive characterizations of their national movement as rising primarily as a means to contain Zionism. 

Marcus, Areikat said, "has spent much of his life trying to ‘prove’ that Palestinians are either unwilling or unable to make peace, thereby justifying Israel’s continued military occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands."

The Palestinian Authority says that PMW’s chronicling of examples of alleged Palestinian incitement ignores recent PA efforts to suppress such incitement, including the sacking of hundreds of Palestinian clerics. The PA also says the PMW at times stretches tenuous connections between purveyors of incitement and government officials to indict the entire Palestinian enterprise.

"It’s shocking that a respected institution like Yale would give a platform to these right-wing extremists and their odious views, and it is deeply ironic that a conference on anti-Semitism would demonize Arabs — who are Semites themselves," Areikat wrote.

"Anti-Semitism" ia a term coined by haters of Judaism in the late 19th century to describe their outlook.

NEXT STORY