Yale Under Fire for Hosting Antisemitic Speaker on Second Night of Passover

The activist has made highly antagonistic comments about Jews, Israel, and white people, as well as about gays and lesbians.

Nick Allen via Wikimedia Commons
Lillian Goldman law library, Yale Law School. Nick Allen via Wikimedia Commons

Yale is coming under fire for hosting a speech by an activist who’s made a raft of comments called antisemitic and against white people. To add to the controversy, the event took place on the second night of Passover.

The activist, Houria Bouteldja, who’s made highly antagonistic comments about Jews, Israel, and white people, as well as about gays and lesbians, visited Yale on April 6 to deliver a speech as part of the Decolonizing Europe Lecture Series. Her speech was initially promoted by Yale’s diversity, equity, and inclusion program known as “Belonging at Yale,” though a post on the “Belonging at Yale” website was at some point taken down. 

The invitation received major backlash from members and allies of the LGBT and Jewish communities, who claim the guest has publicly voiced negative comments about Jews, white people, and gay people.

Ms. Bouteldja, a French-Algerian political activist, founded the Indigènes de la République, a political party that identifies as “decolonial” and “anti-racist,” but has long been accused of being antisemitic, homophobic, and anti-feminist by French critics. While Ms. Bouteldja left the party in 2012, she remains an advocate for its initial “decolonial” ideas. 

Ms. Bouteldja is a “vicious anti-Semitic and homophobic bigot,” a statement received by the Sun from Executive Director Liora Rez of an antisemitism watchdog organization, StopAntisemitism, says. “No institution should even consider hosting her. StopAntisemitism is horrified Yale provided this known racist a platform to spread her poisonous ideas,” the statement added.

An article published by the Yale Daily News says Ms. Bouteldja has long been accused of antisemitism, particularly for her views that Western governments “impose a hierarchy in which Jews are in some sense better treated,” which generates resentment from non-white people. 

In addition, Ms. Bouteldja said in her book, “Whites, Jews, and Us,” that the “worst” thing is the look in her eyes when she encounters a boy wearing a yarmulke. “That furtive moment when I stop to look at him. The worst thing is the disappearance of my indifference towards you, the possible prelude to my inner ruin,” she wrote.

Ms. Bouteldja has also publicly self-identified with a terrorist who killed seven people in Jewish schools in France, Mohamed Merah. On March 21, 2012, the day before Merah died, “I went to bed as myself and woke up as Mohamed Merah,” Ms. Bouteldja said during a 2012 speech. “Mohammed Merah is me. … Like me, he has been subjected to the incredible Islamophobic political and media campaign that followed the attacks against the twin towers,” she added. 

Ms. Bouteldja was also challenged by the LGBT community after she said the fight for gay marriage is part of a “homonationalist project,” a 2007 concept introduced by a gender studies researcher, Jasbir Puar. The term refers to the alliance between LGBT rights and the capitalist structures to justify racist and xenophobic actions.

“What bothers me,” Ms.Bouteldja said in a 2020 interview, is that the fight for gay marriage is seen as revolutionary when it is part of a homonationalist project. “The defense of completely legitimate causes (and I include here the fight against homophobia) is most of the time to the detriment of the class struggle in general as if a global synthesis between the two was not possible,” she added.

The MacMillan Center of Yale, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, and the Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration sponsored Ms. Bouteldja’s lecture. None of the centers have responded to the Sun’s request for comment.

According to the Yale Daily News, days before the lecture, students from the LGBT and Jewish communities approached the administration to express their dissatisfaction about the timing of Ms. Bouteldja’s visit. “Given the controversial nature of this speaker, it would be highly unfortunate if she were brought in on a holy day of the Jewish calendar,” an email sent by the students to the administrators said. 

In response to the students, the assistant vice president for university life, Pilar Montalvo, stood by the speaker, citing Yale’s free speech policies, according to the Yale Daily News. The email concluded: “Anti-Semitism has no place at this university. There is a great deal of work underway to support the Jewish community on campus.” 

Ms. Montalvo did not respond to a request for comment from the Sun.

According to StopAntiSemitism’s latest antisemitism college report, Yale received an “F” because, it said, Jewish students say that they don’t feel protected or heard by their administrators. A Yale student, Emily Zenner, told the Yale Daily News that she often feels like her voice as a Jewish person is ignored or not taken seriously.

“By scheduling such a controversial guest, and one especially worrying to many Jewish people, during a Jewish holiday, it feels to me as if Yale, once again, completely ignored us,” Ms. Zenner added.

The New York Sun

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