Dr. Charles Asher Small, a Yale University scholar with a background in social theory and human rights work, sounded alarm bells on rising anti-Semitism in the guise of anti-Zionism.
“The new form of anti-Semitism is the delegitimization, the dehumanization of Israel.
“Israel is the new Jew,” he said.
Founder and director of the Yale Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism, Small spoke Nov. 6 at the Leon & Toby Cooperman JCC, Ross Family Campus, in West Orange to a gathering of the Jewish Faculty Network (see sidebar).
His talk covered the implications of radical Islam and rising anti-Semitism on North American university campuses.
He condemned the silence, the lack of response, from students and faculty, particularly on the Left, his own intellectual home. He said colleagues are “acquiescing” to an existential threat from radical Islam.
“We have failed not just the Jewish people, not just Israel, but human rights and notions of democracy,” he said. “And the silence continues.”
Small, who worked on anti-apartheid campaigns for South Africa in his native Canada as a youth, more recently lived in Israel and worked in the West Bank city of Ramallah, trying to deepen relations between Palestinians and Israelis before the Second Intifada in 2000.
In Western countries, there is “almost total ignorance of what radical Islam is,” he said. “I used to ask, ‘Who has read the Hamas charter, who has read fatwas, who has read the sermons coming out of mosques on Friday?” He was usually “disappointed” with the response.
“There’s a tremendous disconnect between Western intellectuals — in Western Europe and in North America — to the ideology, the language, the raison d’etre of radical Islam,” Small said. “We don’t understand the language. We don’t know the language.”
He pointed to the Hamas charter. “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the most pernicious form of genocidal anti-Semitism, is the theme that runs through their constitution,” he said. “In their constitution, they literally call for the killing, for the extermination of Jews.”
He added, “This is going on and what the Western world is doing, by and large, is saying things like, ‘If the settlements were frozen, everything would be okay.’ There’s no critical analysis of the context of the ideology.”
It should not be Jews alone who should be providing this analysis, but the entire human rights community, Small said. “You have a genocidal movement that is genocidal in anti-Semitism; it’s anti-democratic, it’s homophobic, it’s sexist, it’s anti-citizenship.”
He urged the faculty members sitting around the table, who included academics from Seton Hall University and Montclair State University, to serve as examples for students away from friends and family who are feeling embarrassed to defend Israel.
“I think truth is on our side,” said Small. “If we stand up and fight on a scholarly and policy level, I think we can make inroads.”