Bassam Tibi, an institute scholar and a speaker at the conference that so upset the Yale administration, observes how Hamas specifically draws on the Islamization of anti-Semitism, calling for the eradication of the Jews, rendering the so-called peace process impossible. Such ideas are unpleasant, but demand debate.
Peter Berman, a scholar in anti-Semitism, recounted at a recent Hudson Institute seminar how Islamist anti-Zionism draws on Islamic traditions and recycled 20th century European ideas, which makes the subject difficult for many Europeans to confront.
"Feeling guilty about their own colonial past, about the racism of the European past, all of these issues have in effect disarmed the Europeans intellectually in regard to dealing with the Islamist movement as a doctrine of its own," he said. He sees a similar problem in America, linking anti-Zionism with European anti-Semitism.
It's easy for professors and other intellectuals to talk about the anti-Semitic roots of the Holocaust, because that's in the past and it's history, however unpleasant. Talking about the past requires no courage at all -- it's in the book. But watching an ancient hatred rise as virulent as ever from the ashes of wars in Europe and the Middle East is something too hot for mere professors to handle.
Hamas calls in its charter for the elimination Israel. Paul Berman cites Article 7 of the charter, which quotes the Prophet Muhammad as calling the killing of Jews a religious duty. Berman reminds us that history teaches that political movements proclaiming the intention to kill Jews follow through. Hamas invokes the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, dismissed as an ugly fraud by the civilized world but regarded as fact in parts of the Middle East.
Anti-Semitism can be crude, vulgar and immediately transparent to the observant eye, but it often gets a pass in lofty discussions with appeals to "idealism" in intellectual circles on the left. The Yale administrators succumbed to academic righteousness to kill an institute founded to study a pernicious and resurgent cult of bigotry.
"There is no heart so warm," the scholar Irving Howe once observed, "that it doesn't have a cold spot for the Jews."