More anti-Semitism in academia: under pressure, Jewish students at Yale Law School pull out of supporting a talk by a centrist Israeli politician

April 23, 2023 • 9:30 am

Does anybody really doubt that American and British college campuses are become increasingly anti-Semitic? You can say, as some do, that opposition to Israel comes mainly from Netanyahu’s right-0wing government, and isn’t directed at Jews themselves, but that won’t wash. The recurrent cries that Israel is an apartheid state (implying that Palestinians are oppressed people of color and that Palestine isn’t the real apartheid state), combined with the trope “Zionists” (an anti-Semitic euphemism for “Jews”), leave little doubt that there’s a palpable resurgence of anti-Semitism both on campus and on the progressive Left. It’s the Jews (“Zionists”) and the existence of Israel, not Netanyahu, who are the targets.

Would an apartheid state allow a member of the Muslim Brotherhood—a terrorist-associated organization banned in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAR—become an Israeli minister (equivalent to a U.S. Cabinet member), while several members of that same organization sat in the Israeli parliament? Of course not, but this was the case in Israel, at least in the recent past. I doubt that the Palestinian Authority or Hamas would allow an Israeli Jew to play a substantial role in their government! If anyone claims that Israel is an apartheid state, you can immediately write them off as both ignorant and anti-Semitic.

You can see the fulminating anti-Semitism clearly in the article below (yes, it’s from the right-wing site Free Beacon, but if you ignore the report because of that, you’re an ostrich).  It recounts how Jewish students at Yale Law School (a hotbed of wokery) invited a moderate former member of the Knesset (the Jewish parliament), and a vocal opponent of Netanyahu, to address them on the topic of anti-Semitism. The speaker was Michal Cotler-Wunsch, a former member of the moderate Blue and White Alliance, a unity group in  the Knesset that was critical of Netanyahu and more pro-Palestinian and pro-gay-rights than other Israeli parties. As the article below notes,

The behind-the-scenes drama surrounding the event demonstrates the extent to which pro-Israel speakers—even those who criticize the Jewish State’s government—are increasingly unwelcome at America’s top law school.

A former member of the Israeli Knesset, Cotler-Wunsh is part of the Blue and White alliance that briefly unseated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2020. The centrist party has promoted same-sex unions, opposed bans on public transit during Shabbat, and signaled an openness to peace talks—albeit not to land concessions—with the Palestinians, stances that have endeared it to secular Israelis while angering the country’s ultra-Orthodox bloc.

“If I’m controversial, I don’t know who isn’t,” Cotler-Wunsh said.

The topic of her talk was “Defining and combating Anti-Semitism“. How controversial can you get?  But apparently that raised some hackles. And had not a deputy dean of the Law School stepped in at the last moment, offering to host the event personally, Cotler-Wunsch’s talk would have been canceled.

Click the screenshot to read:

From the article:

A Jewish student group at Yale Law School pulled out of an event with a centrist Israeli politician, Michal Cotler-Wunsh, after deciding the talk would be too controversial, according to Cotler-Wunsh and two professors with knowledge of the situation.

Yale’s Jewish Law Students Association agreed in February to host Cotler-Wunsh for a lecture on anti-Semitism and human rights, one of several planned stops on a speaking tour organized by the Academic Engagement Network, a pro-Israel advocacy group. But on April 14–one week before Cotler-Wunsh’s talk, which is scheduled for Friday—Yale’s Jewish Law Students Association told the Academic Engagement Network that it would no longer be able to sponsor the event, according to Miriam Elman, the network’s executive director.

The drama follows a string of anti-Semitism controversies at the Ivy League university, which just this month hosted Houria Bouteldja, an anti-Israel activist and outspoken defender of Hamas, on the second night of Passover.  The event’s timing sparked blowback from Jewish students—though not from the Jewish Law Students Association—who said their religious obligations prevented them from organizing a counter-event or from attending the talk to pose questions.

Though the Jewish Law Students Association gave no reason for its about-face, Cotler-Wunsh and two Yale law school professors said they understood that the group succumbed to pressure to call off her lecture.

It is not clear who was applying that pressure, and Morgan Feldenkris, the president of the Jewish Law Students Association, did not respond to a request for comment. The talk would have been canceled but for deputy dean Yair Listokin’s willingness to step in and host the event himself, Elman said. Listokin declined to comment.

Dean Yair Listokin, also a chaired Professor of Law at Yale, saved the day, but I’d still like to know who pressured the Jewish Law Students Association to back away from supporting what was, after all, a pretty uncontroversial talk. Or is fighting anti-Semitism somehow controversial?

And who else could apply that pressure save someone who doesn’t want an Israeli politician—regardless of their views—to speak?  And yet, as the article recounts, Yale has been a venue for a fair bit of anti-Israeli activity:

This is not Yale Law’s first debacle over anti-Semitism or the Jewish state. In 2021, the Yale Law Journal hosted a diversity trainer, Erika Hart, who accused the FBI of artificially inflating the number of anti-Semitic hate crimes. And last year, activists at the law school urged students to boycott a spring break trip to Israel, plastering signs around the school that called Israel an apartheid state, according to sources familiar with the matter. Some of those activists, two sources said, were themselves members of the Jewish Law Students Association.

Here’s a tweet from Cotler-Wunsch as she went to Yale. I can’t find any account of her talk on Friday, not even at the Yale Daily News, but it must have gone on as scheduled. Thanks, Dean Listokin!

h/t: Ginger K., Malgorzata


15 thoughts on “More anti-Semitism in academia: under pressure, Jewish students at Yale Law School pull out of supporting a talk by a centrist Israeli politician

  1. The appartheid label is more applicable to the so-called occupied territories where the natives are restricted to live in areas comparable to homelands in the apartheid state. Perhaps a comparison with the plight of the Native Americans and their reservations is also apt.

      1. Whites were not welcome in the black homelands either. It was a comparison, not a moral judgement. I think the comparison with apartheid makes sense. Gone are the days when the Israel lobby dominated the debate and succeeded in labelling criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism. But peace will not come easy. We all know what will happen if Israel opens up its borders. The next day a bus will blow up in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, killing fifty people or more.

        1. So you’re saying that the Palestinian territories are genuine FAR MORE APARTHEID-ish than Israel, right? Remember, it’s a crime to be gay, an atheist, an apostate, or a Jew in Palestine; you risk your life by doing that. All of these things are not only legal but pervasive in Israel. And of course Palestinian women are far, far more oppressed than Israeli women.

          1. Perhaps, the men in the homelands oppressed women too, but it was apartheid nonetheless. Sadly, the Palestinians don’t have a Mandela and the Israelis don’t have de De Klerk. And the most troublesome people in this process only listen to God, not to reason.

    1. Native Americans (or Canadians) are not restricted to their reservations (reserves.). In Canada only about half live on reserves. I say “about” because the count depends on what we mean by “indigenous “, ranging from self-identity in an urban lawyer or college professor (sometimes fraudulent) through a spectrum to legally defined “status Indians”, the only ones that Native band councils must, under the Indian Act, allow to live on reserves they administer.

      Status Indians and their businesses are exempt from federal and provincial taxes on all income they earn on a Reserve. They pay no property tax because the Crown owns the land and pays all the municipal-type operating expenses of the Reserve. The Reserves then function as racially restricted tax havens and welfare dependencies, not as concentration camps.

      As Palestinians can in Israel, Indigenous people can be (and are) elected to public office whether or not they live on a Reserve. I’m having a hard time seeing any of this as apartheid.

  2. The territory of Judea and Samaria (called the “West Bank” by Jordan in 1950) is not occupied according to the definition of occupation in international law. It’s territory illegally occupied in an aggressive war by Jordan and then relinquished to Israel in a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan 1994. Moreover, there are the Oslo Agreements between Israel and PLO (representative of Palestinians) creating the first independent Palestinian entity in history—the Palestinian Authority, which rules over 95% of Arab population of the territory. According to these Agreements, the PLO was supposed to curb terrorism. In fact, what it’s doing and has done is to incite terrorism. It even has a special program, Pay-for-Slay, in which Palestinian terrorists or their families get plenty of money for killing Jews. From time to time, the Israeli army has to go into the territory of the Palestinian Authority to prevent a terrorist attack.

    Palestinian Arabs who live under the rule of the Palestinian Authority are not Israeli citizens and cannot freely travel to Israel—just like any other non-citizen of any country in the world. They do not have the right to vote in Israeli election—exactly like a Canadian citizen does not have right to vote in a U.S. election. It’s not Israel’s fault that Palestinians cannot vote in Palestinian elections – there are none. Mahmoud Abbas is now in his 19th year as president (he was elected 19 years ago for a 4-year period).

    It’s worth reminding people that when the Arab population of Judea and Samaria actually was under Israeli military administration (1967-1994), these territories had the fastest economical development in the world. It is when the population got under the rule of Arabs and Palestinian terrorists that the economic troubles begun.

  3. My current thinking is that the pressure was applied because the speaker is an Israeli former government official and not because of the subject of her presentation. To many on the left Israel is an oppressor nation, and government officials (present and past) are culpable by definition. Hence, people associated with Israel are subject to being deplatformed irrespective of the substance. Perhaps more details will emerge in this case.

    Antsemitism? Anti-Israel activism drifts back and forth across the antisemitism line, which is one of the reasons it is such a problem. If the behavior were always pedal-to-the-metal antisemitism, it would be easier to combat. Since the motivations are sometimes ambiguous, people of good will often give people of evil intent a pass.

    While anti-Zionism was many years ago a position held by many reform Jews—and was in no way antisemitic—today one can almost always put an equal sign between the two.

    1. In my grandfather’s time, it was the most pious Jews (and certainly not reform Jews) who opposed Zionism as heretical. Their view was that a state of Israel could not properly be re-established before God sent us the messiah. To this day, some Haredim remain opposed to the existence of Israel, even as they live in it—concentrated in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Meah Shearim. [Anti-Israel activists bring up these pious Jewish nudniks on some occasions to show that they are not exactly anti-semitic.]

      1. Yes. Other Jewish groups opposed Zionism as well, as you point out. One goal among American Reform Jews prior to WWII was to become better accepted into American society, which some thought could be achieved by dropping the idea of returning to the ancient Jewish homeland. (Even at that time, American Jews were dogged by the “dual loyalty” canard.) After WWII the Reform movement quietly accepted the need for a Jewish state, for obvious reasons.

  4. Looks like they don’t get a Golden Cojones award. Perhaps they need to rewatch the Bill Maher video.

  5. It is difficult to reconcile when the oppressed are being oppressed by their own. If the Palestinians did a 180 with careful governance they would probably be living a very high standard. There would be plenty of support to rebuild and more importantly their young would have a future.

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