When ‘Racial Justice’ Means Antisemitism: A Takeover of the Yale Postdoctoral Association
In August of 2021, when most newly-arrived postdoctoral fellows at Yale were busy settling into new apartments and new labs, the “Racial Justice Subcommittee” of the Yale Postdoctoral Association (YPA) published a “Resource on Palestine” on the YPA website, which is an official platform of Yale University.
The statement was issued as a guide for, and in the name of, more than 1,000 postdoctoral fellows at Yale. In the short — and mostly fact-free — statement, one can find many of the usual anti-Israel (and antisemitic) tropes about a “colonial” power and an “apartheid” state that oppresses Palestinians. Why any of this propaganda belongs in a guide for Yale postdocs is not at all clear.
To their great credit, a group of (mostly Israeli) postdocs, knowledgeable about the realities in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, took exception to the “Resource.” They did so using reason and logic, and by drawing on facts and reports and reality — entirely unlike the original screed.
After eight months of patient and often painstaking negotiations with the YPA leadership, these postdocs succeeded in publishing a thoroughly-documented counter-argument on the YPA site (although there is as yet no link from the original to the counter-statement).
But now, the same postdocs who attacked Israel last year are at it again.
There is a vote being conducted right now (July 5-11) for Co-Chair of the YPA. But the vote is once again being held in the summer. The vote is occurring at a time when many new postdocs have not yet arrived at Yale, become acclimated to their new surroundings, or have even acquired valid email addresses.
To make matters worse, a co-author of the divisive and hate-filled “Resource” on the YPA website, Dr. Azmi Ahmad, a postdoc at the Yale School of Medicine, is now one of three candidates for Co-Chair. How he or the YPA can square his statements and candidacy with the Yale values of inclusion, non-discrimination, and civility, is anyone’s guess.
Lest one imagine that Dr. Ahmad’s 2021 statement is only accidentally antisemitic, consider his behavior during the recent screening of a virulently anti-Israel film, “Five Broken Cameras” by the YPA. When an Israeli postdoc asked to be recognized to give his reactions to the film, Ahmad and his friends blocked him from speaking. This cannot be squared with “every point of view is welcome” as proclaimed in their posted “Resource.”
Yale has many principles and procedures to engender a welcoming environment and academic and civil exchange. One is that Yale resources should not be used for private partisan purposes. But Yale has trouble enforcing its own rules.
When the Yale student government publishes an anti-Israel screed in the name of all students, no Yale entity objects. When Yale’s federally-funded Council on Middle East Studies continues to affiliate and pay dues to the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) that calls for a boycott of Israeli academics, Yale does nothing. This institutional inaction aids and abets antisemitism on our campus.
Yale is the home to many earnest, well-meaning people of all faiths and political persuasions. These good people populate its administration, its faculty, and the ranks of its postdocs. Now is the time for the good people of Yale to stand up.
At this juncture, it is Yale postdocs who must stand up to reject the candidacy of Azmi Ahmad. By his statements and actions, Ahmad has proved himself unfit to represent the whole postdoc community.
The YPA is in serious need of reform. Votes must be held in person, only after adequate time is allowed for the rank-and-file to examine and hear from the candidates, and according to proper bylaws that mandate quorums. The YPA Racial Justice Subcommittee has invalidated itself.
But the problem at Yale goes beyond the YPA. The faculty have responsibilities. Departments that currently have anti-Israel statements on their websites (conveniently posted anonymously) that represent partisan views but purport to speak for all affiliated faculty, must take down those statements. Anything less sends a strong message that Jews and Israelis do not belong.
The Yale administration can no longer ignore the growth of antisemitism and anti-Zionism in our midst. Statements of principle are fine, but principles don’t amount to much if Yale-sanctioned organizations intended to serve all can be commandeered to exclude some.
Trafficking in anti-Israel falsehoods, shouting down opposing views, and appropriating official organizations and their websites for partisan propaganda, are all anathema to academic exchange and an environment that welcomes all qualified scholars and professionals.
If left unchecked, these offenses damage the Yale brand and send the message that our great university is not a place for Jews, Israelis, or friends of Israel. We, the Yale faculty who train young scholars and doctors, have an interest in making sure that Yale remains a place for all views and all qualified trainees.
This statement is co-signed by the following Yale faculty members; with the exception of one, they work at Yale Medical School. All signers to this statement train and mentor students and residents and postdoctoral fellows: Anna Bader, MD, Eric Bader, MD, Richard Bronen, MD, Julius Chapiro, MD/PhD, Jaime Gerber, MD, David Leffell, MD, David C. Madoff, MD, Andres Martin, MD, Michael Nathanson, MD/PhD, Arthur Seltzer, MD, Douglas Silin, MD, Irena Tocino, MD, Daniel Prober, PhD, Darryl Zuckerman, MD.