Jewish leader decries anti-Semitism

A TV show about Jewish doctors stealing Muslim children’s body parts, a book called “The Torah of Satan,” and a photograph of a kindergartner paying homage to the murderer of Israeli soldiers were among the examples of anti-Semitism discussed by Charles Jacobs, founder and President of the David Project Center for Jewish Leadership, at an event sponsored by Yale Friends of Israel.

Jacobs, whose organization aims to promote understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict, spoke to a group of about 20 undergraduates on Thursday afternoon at the Slifka Center in a lecture entitled “Strategy for a New Time: Israel, World Jewry, and the New Anti-Semitism.”

The talk was part of the Yale Friends of Israel’s larger mission to generate discourse on Middle-Eastern issues on campus, said Harry Etra ’09, the organization’s co-president.

“Our plan is to seek to incorporate social, political and educational programming,” Etra said. “We are a non-partisan organization. If students come to our events and debate and disagree with the speakers, that’s what we want.”

Jacobs’ talk focused on two main issues: Islamic anti-Semitism and the rise of Palestinian sympathizers in the political landscape.

To illustrate how pervasive Islamic anti-Semitism is in the Middle East, Jacobs made a side-by-side photo comparison. One photo, dated October 2000, depicted a murderer of Israeli soldiers raising his bloodied hands through the window of Palestinian Police Headquarters. The other photo, dated June 2002, showed a kindergarten graduation ceremony in Gaza where a little girl imitated the murderer’s gesture.

Jacobs said the Islamic anti-Semitism represented by the photos is a more pervasive threat than most people, even Jewish leaders, fully realize.

“Large Jewish defense organizations missed it,” Jacobs said of the power of Islamic anti-Semitism. “The largest threat is what? Mel Gibson? Pat Robertson? Does Pat Robertson put on a belt and blow people up?”

The University created the Yale Initiative for Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism last month, becoming the first university in North America to establish a research center dedicated to the topic.

Jacobs also touched on “Palestinianism,” a term he coined to describe anti-Israel Palestinian sympathizers on the far left. He is concerned that Jewish leaders do not fully understand the consequences of the current political landscape, he said.

Jacobs, who is also the co-founder and president of the American Anti-Slavery Group, a coalition of abolitionist organizations, said he feels that Israel’s alleged human rights abuse is overemphasized, particularly compared to other rights violations such as the genocide in Sudan.

Jon Goldman ’09, vice president of cultural affairs for Yale Friends of Israel, said he wants a broader on-campus dialogue about the Middle East, one that includes students who do not already deeply committed to the issue.

The Muslim Students Association also hopes to spur discussion by bringing more speakers to campus, said Nadim Mahmud ’08, the MSA’s alumni coordinator. Yale lacks sufficient discussion of Middle East issues, he said.

“It is kind of shameful that such productive talks are so minimally attended,” Mahmud said. “That’s exactly why we need to have more of these things. Awareness is such an important issue.”

Other upcoming events promoting on-campus discussion of Middle East issues include a lecture entitled “Palestinian Politics Under Hamas,” sponsored by the Yale Council on Middle East Studies, and a weekly seminar series sponsored by Yale’s Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy.

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