I signed the petition below yesterday by sending my name to Matthew at: email@example.com. Is it part of an academic contract that one must not tweet...?
about the Israeli regime's slaughter in Gaza?
Salaita's scholarship focuses on Palestinians and Native Americans.
Here is a note from Sara Roy:
"Professor Matthew Abraham is circulating the attached letter in support of Steven Salaita. If you choose to sign (other signatories are listed), please write directly to Matthew at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Sara Roy
Senior Research Scholar
Center for Middle Eastern Studies
38 Kirkland Street
Cambridge, MA 02138"
Here is the letter:
Chancellor Phyllis Wise
Office of the Chancellor
Swanlund Administration Building
601 E. John Street
Champaign, IL 61820
August 7th, 2014
Dear Chancellor Wise:
We, the undersigned, write to express deep concern and bewilderment about the University of Illinois's decision to revoke its offer of a tenured position in the American Indian Studies Program to Professor Steven Salaita. UIUC's decision to withdraw an employment contract to Professor Salaita, after clearly extending a good-faith offer to him to join the faculty, is highly unusual and cause for great worry among those who value academic freedom, free speech, and fundamental due process. We are following up on Illinois’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure’s expression of concern about this case. As the Illinois Committee A noted, “In the absence of due process, particularly if a contract was signed, any institutional action to reverse an offer of appointment would be a grave violation of academic due process.”
As scholars committed to advancing critical and open perspectives on the Israel-Palestine conflict, we are alarmed that parties external to the university have forced UIUC to take the drastic and unfortunate step of withdrawing Salaita’s appointment. It is a matter of public record that the Simon Wiesenthal Center, for example, had direct communication with President Easter about Salaita’s appointment. As reported in Inside Higher Education, UIUC’s administration withdrew Salaita’s job offer out of concern for the “incivility” and aggressive tone of several of Salaita’s Twitter messages about the Israeli military’s recent actions in Gaza. Drawing upon its formal report, “Academic Freedom and Electronic Communications, the National AAUP’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure declared today, “While Professor Salaita's scholarship does appear to deal with the topic of Palestine, his posts were arguably not intended as scholarly statements but as expressions of personal viewpoint. Whether one finds these views attractive or repulsive is irrelevant to the right of a faculty member to express them.”
The Israeli military’s targeting of Palestinian civilians in Gaza has been condemned by major human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, as well as leading international law experts including John Dugard and Richard Falk. Salaita’s tweets are part of a global outpouring of dismay and anger about Israeli actions directed against Palestinian civilians, and these sentiments are shared by leading experts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including Jewish-Israeli scholars.
UIUC’s reevaluation of Professor Salaita’s suitability for a position at UIUC, after a faculty committee found him to be acceptable, is very arbitrary and highlights that political pressure tainted the appointment process. The AAUP 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure makes clear that a faculty member possesses a fundamental right to extramural utterance: “When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline.” We should not forget why John Dewey, Arthur Lovejoy, and Edwin Seligman, the founders of the AAUP, sought to protect academic freedom—to ensure that academics could act as a check on the tyranny of public opinion.
Furthermore, academics are free to address issues of public concern, as are all American citizens. Indeed, Dewey, Lovejoy, and Seligman recognized that university boards had become the major threats to academic freedom. The 1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure states:
Lay governing boards are competent to judge concerning charges of habitual neglect of assigned duties, on the part of individual teachers, and concerning charges of grave moral delinquency. But in matters of opinion, and of the utterance of opinion, such boards cannot intervene without destroying, to the extent of their intervention, the essential nature of a university—without converting it from a place dedicated to openness of mind, in which the conclusions expressed are the tested conclusions of trained scholars, into a place barred against the access of new light, and precommitted to the opinions or prejudices of men who have not been set apart or expressly trained for the scholar’s duties.
UIUC’s decision to revoke Professor Salaita’s tenured appointment is part of a series of outside interventions that have affected appointments and tenure decisions across the country after 9/11 and which have increased in intensity since. Furthermore, Illinois’s decision is taking us back to the post-9/11 hysteria, which victimized so many people, and sacrificed academic freedom. UIUC's administration must resist this latest infringement of academic freedom, as well as the obstruction of its own academic appointment process. If it does not do so, it is undermining its academic mission and destroying the conditions of possibility for unfettered expression and critical thought.
We call upon UIUC in the strongest terms to reverse its decision immediately and reinstate Professor Salaita, a decision which will reclaim UIUC's place among the nation’s pre-eminent public universities.
1. Matthew Abraham, Associate Professor of English, Univ. of Arizona
2. A’sad Abukhail, Professor of Political Science, California State Univ.—Stanislaus
3. Sanjam Aluwalia, Associate Professor of History and Women and Gender Studies, Northern Arizona University
4. Talal Asad, Professor of Anthropology, City Univ. of New York
5. Timothy Brennan, Samuel Russell Chair in the Humanities, Professor of Cultural Studies & Comparative Literature and English, Univ. of Minnesota—Twin Cities
6. Antoinette Burton, University of Illinois
7. Daniel Boyarin, Univ. of California—Berkeley
8. Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor, Univ. of California—Berkeley
9. Ward Churchill, Scholar/Author
10. Juan Cole, Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History, University of Michigan
11. Brian Connolly, Associate Professor of History, Univ. of South Florida
12. Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kervorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature, Columbia University
13. Natalie Zemon Davis, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History emeritus, Princeton University
14. Samera Esmeir, Associate Professor of Rhetoric, Univ. of California—Berkeley
15. Grant Farred, Professor of English, Cornell University
16. Keya Ganguly, Professor of Cultural Studies & Comparative
Literature, University of Minnesota—Twin Cities
17. Neville Hoad, Associate Professor of English, University of Texas—Austin
18. Sanjay Joshi, Department of History, Northern Arizona University
19. Suvir Kaul, A.M. Rosenthal Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania
20. Bruce Levine, James G. Randall Distinguished Professor of History, University of Illinois—Urbana Champaign
21. Ania Loomba, Catherine Bryson Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania
22. Joseph Massad, Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History, Columbia University
23. Faranak Miraftab, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign
24. Aamir Mufti, Professor of Comparative Literature, University of California—Los Angeles
25. Chantal Nadeau, Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies, University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign
26. Claire Potter, New School for Social Research
27. Sara Roy, Senior Research Scholar, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University
28. Jose Quiroga, Professor of Comparative Literature, Emory University
29. Natsu Taylor Saito, Professor of Law, Georgia State University College of Law
30. Dana Sajdi, Associate Professor of History, Boston College
31. Joan Scott, Institute for Advanced Study
32. Gayatri Spivak, University Professor, Columbia University
33. Zohreh T. Sullivan, Professor Emerita of English and African Studies, Univ. of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign
Cc: President Robert Easter
Professor Robert Warrior
Mike Schwartz at SUNY Stonybrook sent around the following apt note:
"Thanks to Peter Lamphere for alerting me to this latest case of an academic political purge. Steven Salaita, a tenured associate professor at Virginia Tech, was offered and accepted a job at U of Illinois (Urbana) to start next month. Having resigned the VT job, and in the midst of moving, he was told that the offer was rescinded (or that he was fired). The reason was his pungent tweets about the Israeli attacks on Gaza.
I am attaching the relevant Inside Higher Education article describing the firing, as well as a couple of commentaries by other scholars. Much of the controversy hinges around the statements by Cary Nelson, a UI professor and former head of the AAUP, who has been publicly supported the firing on the basis that Salaita’s tweets were “loathsome and foulmouthed.” (The focus on Nelson is mostly a result of the fact that the UI administration, like so many other university administrations, has refused to discuss or defend their loathsome action.) As the coverage shows, the real opposition to Salaita derives from his (very well respected) scholarship on Palestine that is, needless to say, critical of Israel.
Let’s be clear here. This is not the equivalent of Yale refusing an appointment to Juan Cole because of his pro-Palestinian views, because Cole had a secure (and better) job at Michigan. Salaita had a tenured job at Va Tech and he resigned to take the UI job. Now he has no job, so his economic and scholarly future is in jeopardy. This could become the equivalent of the McCarthy era purges, where people were banished from their profession because of their political views.
I hope that everyone will at least click on the two petitions just below here and sign them. And add some comments that might get through the think hides of these university administrators who care more about satisfying the political demands of powerful trustees than in protecting scholars and citizens speaking truth to power.
US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation:
This is the press coverage that I know of, so far.
"Out of a Job
OUT OF A JOB
August 6, 2014
Many faculty job offers (which are well-vetted by college officials before they go out) contain language stating that the offer is pending approval by the institution's board of trustees. It's just a formality, since many college bylaws require such approval.
Not so with a job offer made to Steven G. Salaita, who was to have joined the American Indian studies program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this month. The appointment was made public, and Salaita resigned from his position as associate professor of English at Virginia Tech. But he was recently informed by Chancellor Phyllis Wise that the appointment would not go to the university's board, and that he did not have a job to come to in Illinois, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.
The university declined to confirm the blocked appointment, but would not respond to questions about whether Salaita was going to be teaching there. (And as recently as two weeks ago, the university confirmed to reporters that he was coming.) The university also declined to answer questions about how rare it is for such appointments to fall through at this stage.
Salaita did not respond to numerous calls and emails.
The sources familiar with the university's decision say that concern grew over the tone of his comments on Twitter about Israel's policies in Gaza. While many academics at Illinois and elsewhere are deeply critical of Israel, Salaita's tweets have struck some as crossing a line into uncivil behavior.
For instance, there is this tweet: "At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised? #Gaza." Or this one: "By eagerly conflating Jewishness and Israel, Zionists are partly responsible when people say antisemitic shit in response to Israeli terror." Or this one: "Zionists, take responsibility: if your dream of an ethnocratic Israel is worth the murder of children, just fucking own it already."
In recent weeks, bloggers and others have started to draw attention to Salaita's comments on Twitter. But as recently as July 22 (before the job offer was revoked), a university spokeswoman defended Salaita's comments on Twitter and elsewhere. A spokeswoman told The News-Gazette for an article about Salaita that "faculty have a wide range of scholarly and political views, and we recognize the freedom-of-speech rights of all of our employees."
While Salaita has been until very recently very active on Twitter, he stopped posting several days ago, which is unusual for him. He is an active writer beyond Twitter, with op-eds (which of late have identified him as an Illinois professor) and with campaigns on behalf of the movement to organize an academic boycott of Israel. He has also published scholarly books, including Israel's Dead Soul (Temple University Press) and Arab American Literary Fictions, Cultures, and Politics (Palgrave Macmillan).
Salaita's writing last year, while at Virginia Tech, drew fierce attacks (including death threats). In a piece in Salon, he questioned the idea that people should be asked in various ways to "support the troops."
“ 'Support the troops' is the most overused platitude in the United States, but still the most effective for anybody who seeks interpersonal or economic ingratiation," Salaita wrote. "The platitude abounds with significance but lacks the burdens of substance and specificity. It says something apparently apolitical while patrolling for heresy to an inelastic logic. Its only concrete function is to situate users into normative spaces."
While Virginia Tech did not fire him (as many critics urged it to do), some faculty members thought the university -- in pointing out that his views didn't reflect those of the institution -- didn't do enough to defend his academic freedom.
Some who have raised questions about Salaita at Illinois have stressed that they are focused on what they see as incivility and bigotry, not opposition to Israeli or American policies.
Cary Nelson, a longtime English professor at Illinois and a past president of the American Association of University Professors, has defended many professors who hold unpopular views. But he has also in the past said that it was legitimate -- at the point of hiring -- to consider issues of civility and collegiality. In this case, he said, that would lead him to oppose Salaita's appointment.
“I think the chancellor made the right decision," he said via email. "I know of no other senior faculty member tweeting such venomous statements -- and certainly not in such an obsessively driven way. There are scores of over-the-top Salaita tweets. I also do not know of another search committee that had to confront a case where the subject matter of academic publications overlaps with a loathsome and foul-mouthed presence in social media. I doubt if the search committee felt equipped to deal with the implications for the campus and its students. I’m glad the chancellor did what had to be done.”
Asked if he feared that the withdrawal of the job offer could represent a scholar being punished for his unpopular political views, Nelson said he did not think that was the case. "If Salaita had limited himself to expressing his hostility to Israel in academic publications subjected to peer review, I believe the appointment would have gone through without difficulty," he said. Nelson added that harsh criticism of Israel is widespread among faculty members. "Salaita’s extremist and uncivil views stand alone. There is nothing ‘unpopular’ on this campus about hostility to Israel.”
Robert Warrior, director of the American Indian studies program at Illinois, said that Salaita was a strong scholar, worthy of joining the faculty at Illinois. (Warrior noted that he was on Salaita's dissertation committee and so has known and admired his work for some time, and that he played no role in winnowing down the pool to finalists.)
In an interview, Warrior declined to discuss his feelings about the university's decision to block the job offer. But he was willing to discuss why he wanted Salaita as a colleague. "Steven is an innovative scholar who works from a rigorous training in Native American studies in doing a broad range of critical work, including what we were most interested in for this search, his work in comparative American Indian-Palestinian-Arab American studies." Warrior said Salaita had been a scholarly leader in such comparative work, starting with his book The Holy Land in Transit: Colonialism and the Quest for Canaan: Middle East Studies Beyond Dominant Paradigms (Syracuse University Press).
In terms of Salaita's political writing on social media and elsewhere, Warrior said, "I think that any public statement that someone makes is fair game for consideration. However, I don't think that everything somebody says is part of their scholarly record. I have plenty of colleagues with whom I disagree politically."
Salaita was to have taught two courses in the fall. Warrior said he had yet to make new plans for the courses in light of the developments of the last week, but that he was committed to offering the courses. "They are still on the books," he said."
ANOTHER PROFESSOR PUNISHED FOR ANTI-ISRAEL VIEWS
Until two weeks ago, Steven Salaita was heading to a job at the University of Illinois as a professor of American Indian Studies. He had already resigned from his position at Virginia Tech; everything seemed sewn up. Now the chancellor of the University of Illinois has overturned Salaita’s appointment and rescinded the offer. Because of Israel.
The sources familiar with the university’s decision say that concern grew over the tone of his comments on Twitter about Israel’s policies in Gaza….
For instance, there is this tweet: “At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised? #Gaza.” Or this one: “By eagerly conflating Jewishness and Israel, Zionists are partly responsible when people say antisemitic shit in response to Israeli terror.” Or this one: “Zionists, take responsibility: if your dream of an ethnocratic Israel is worth the murder of children, just fucking own it already.”
In recent weeks, bloggers and others have started to draw attention to Salaita’s comments on Twitter. But as recently as July 22 (before the job offer was revoked), a university spokeswoman defended Salaita’s comments on Twitter and elsewhere. A spokeswoman told The News-Gazette for an article about Salaita that “faculty have a wide range of scholarly and political views, and we recognize the freedom-of-speech rights of all of our employees.”
I’ve written about a number of these types of cases over the past few years, but few have touched me the way this one has. For three reasons.
First, Steven is a friend on Facebook, and we follow each other on Twitter. I don’t know him personally but I’ve valued his unapologetic defense of the rights of Palestinians. Often he posts articles and information from which I’ve learned quite a bit.
Second, I have no doubt that an easily rattled administrator would find some of my public writings on Israel and Palestine to have crossed a line. If you’re in favor of Salaita being punished, you should be in favor of me being punished. And not just me. On Twitter, many of us—not just on this issue but a variety of issues, and not just on the left, but also on the right—speak in a way that can jar or shock a tender sensibility. We swear, we accuse, we say no, in thunder. That’s the medium. Though I’ve never really thought twice about it, it’s fairly chilling to think that a university official might now be combing through my tweets to see if I had said anything that would warrant me being deemed ineligible for a job. Or worse, since I have tenure, that an administrator might be doing that to any and every potential job candidate.
Third, Cary Nelson, who was once the president of the American Association of University Professors, has weighed in in defense of this decision by the University of Illinois Chancellor.
“I think the chancellor made the right decision,” he said via email. “I know of no other senior faculty member tweeting such venomous statements — and certainly not in such an obsessively driven way. There are scores of over-the-top Salaita tweets. I also do not know of another search committee that had to confront a case where the subject matter of academic publications overlaps with a loathsome and foul-mouthed presence in social media. I doubt if the search committee felt equipped to deal with the implications for the campus and its students. I’m glad the chancellor did what had to be done.”
Asked if he feared that the withdrawal of the job offer could represent a scholar being punished for his unpopular political views, Nelson said he did not think that was the case. “If Salaita had limited himself to expressing his hostility to Israel in academic publications subjected to peer review, I believe the appointment would have gone through without difficulty,” he said. Nelson added that harsh criticism of Israel is widespread among faculty members. “Salaita’s extremist and uncivil views stand alone. There is nothing ‘unpopular’ on this campus about hostility to Israel.”
Once upon a time I wrote an essay for an anthology Nelson edited on unions in academia. When I was the leader of the grad union drive at Yale, he came to campus and spoke out on our behalf. I thought of him as not only a champion of academic freedom but as an especially acerbic—some might even say uncivil—commentator willing to throw a few elbows at his fellow academics. One time, he even compared a fellow English professor to a vampire bat, and proceeded to make fun of his bodily movements and facial gestures. In an academic publication subject to peer review.
But in recent years Nelson has become an outspoken defender of the State of Israel and a critic of the BDS movement. A man who once called for the boycott of a university now thinks boycotts of universities are a grave threat to academic freedom. A man who serially violates the norms of academic civility—urging fellow academics to “give key administrators no peace. Place chanting pickets outside their homes. Disrupt every meeting they attend with sardonic or inspiring public theater”—now invokes those same norms against a critic of Israel. A man who once wrote that “claims about collegiality are being used to stifle campus debate, to punish faculty, and to silence the free exchange of opinion by the imposition of corporate-style conformity,” now complains about an anti-Zionist professor’s “foul-mouthed presence in social media.” A man who once called the movement against hostile environments and in favor of sensitive speech on campus “Orwellian,” now frets over a student of Salaita’s fearing she “would be academically at risk in expressing pro-Israeli views in class.”
I bring this up not to pick on Nelson, but to ask him, and all of you, a simple question: Should Nelson be deemed ineligible for another job at a university simply because of these statements he has written? Should l be deemed ineligible for another job at a university simply because of some “foul-mouthed,” perhaps even intemperate, tweets that I’m sure I have written?
But I bring up Nelson’s case for another reason. And that is that his hypocrisy is not merely his own. It is a symptom of the effects of Zionism on academic freedom, how pro-Israel forces have consistently attempted to shut down debate on this issue, how they “distort all that is right.” Nelson’s U-Turn demonstrates that we’re heading down a very dangerous road. I strongly urge all of you to put on the brakes.
In the meantime, do something for Steven Salaita. Write a note to University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise (best to email her at both email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org), urging her to rescind her rescission. As always, be polite, but be firm. Don’t assume this is a done deal; in my experience, it often is not. We’ve managed through our efforts, on multiple occasions, to get nervous administrators to walk away from the ledge.
Update (3:30 pm)
Here is a third email to add to your list; it’s actually a direct email to the chancellor. It is email@example.com. Also, when you write your email, please cc Robert Warrior of the American Indian Studies department at the University of Illinois. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Also cc the department:email@example.com.
UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS FIRES PROFESSOR STEVEN SALAITA AFTER GAZA MASSACRE TWEETS
Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Wed, 08/06/2014 - 17:35
A mock-up of Israel’s apartheid wall erected by Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (Benjamin Stone/Flickr)
Steven Salaita was fired from his position as associate professor in the American Indian Studies program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) apparently over views critical of Israel, especially its current massacre in Gaza.
Meanwhile, Cary Nelson, former president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), who has publicly supported the university’s decision to remove Salaita, gave frank comments to The Electronic Intifada revealing the extent of his own pro-Israel views.
Nelson acknowledged that he had been monitoring Salaita’s social media use for months.
This indicates Salaita may be the victim of a retaliation campaign. Salaita is the author ofIsrael’s Dead Soul and The Uncultured Wars, Arabs, Muslims and the Poverty of Liberal Thought, as well as a contributor to a number of publications including Salon and The Electronic Intifada.
He was a prominent campaigner for the American Studies Association’s decision to boycott Israeli academic institutions last December.
In May, Salaita wrote a post for The Electronic Intifada called “How to practice BDS in academe.”
Fired not “revoked”
This morning, Inside Higher Ed reported that Salaita had merely had a job offer “revoked.”
Salaita was “recently informed by Chancellor Phyllis Wise that the appointment would not go to the university’s board, and that he did not have a job to come to in Illinois, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation,” Inside Higher Ed said.
“The sources familiar with the university’s decision say that concern grew over the tone of [Salaita’s] comments on Twitter about Israel’s policies in Gaza,” it added.
Neither the university nor Salaita have commented on the matter. Salaita did not respond to requests for comment.
But a source with close knowledge of the situation, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly, disputed Inside Higher Ed’s version. The source told The Electronic Intifada that Salaita had actually been “fired.”
The source said they had seen documentation indicating that Salaita’s appointment had been through all the ordinary procedures for hiring faculty, up to and including the scheduling of new faculty orientation.
Salaita had already resigned from his position as associate professor of English at Virginia Tech, according to Inside Higher Ed. It would not make sense for Salaita to resign from a secure position without already having been fully and properly hired to a new one.
Even though Inside Higher Ed’s sources say the opposite, the publication’s own analysis supports The Electronic Intifada’s reporting that Salaita has actually been fired.
“As recently as two weeks ago, the university confirmed to reporters that he [Salaita] was coming,” Inside Higher Ed reported. “The university also declined to answer questions about how rare it is for such appointments to fall through at this stage.”
Salaita’s exact status at the university is likely to be important to the outcome of his case.
If a job offer was merely “revoked,” as Inside Higher Ed’s sources claim, then Salaita would likely have far fewer protections than if he had already been hired, and then fired.
Opponents of Palestinian rights are already seizing on this distinction to spin and legitimize the decision to remove Salaita for his opinions expressed in public forums.
According to Inside Higher Ed, AAUP past president Cary Nelson, who is also an English professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said that “it was legitimate – at the point of hiring – to consider issues of civility and collegiality. In this case, [Nelson] said, that would lead him to oppose Salaita’s appointment.”
Nelson’s views are important because his former role at AAUP means he is often cited as an authority on academic freedom issues, though his own anti-Palestinian biases are rarely examined.
In a telephone interview with The Electronic Intifada from his Urbana-Champaign home, Nelson went even further, claiming that Salaita’s supposed social media transgressions “are more serious than collegiality and civility.”
Nelson accused Salaita of “incitement to violence” for retweeting a tweet by another Twitter user, stating: “Jeffrey goldberg’s story should have ended at the pointy end of a shiv.”
Goldberg, a former Israeli prison guard who participated in and helped cover up the torture and abuse of Palestinian prisoners, and now a writer for The Atlantic, is one of the most prominent defenders of Israel’s bombardment that has killed more than one in every one thousand Palestinians in Gaza over the last month.
While Salaita is known for an acerbic sense of humor – a likely reason he would have retweeted the tweet – it is an oft-stated norm of Twitter that “a retweet does not equal an endorsement.”
When pressed, Nelson could provide no example of any tweet written by Salaita that “incited violence.”
Nelson acknowledged, however, that he has been closely monitoring Salaita’s Twitter account for months. “There are scores of tweets. I have screen captures,” he said. “The total effect seems to me to cross a line.”
Salaita has “always tweeted in a very volatile and aggressive way,” Nelson asserted, but “recently he’s begun to be much more aggressive.”
Another example Nelson gave was an 8 July tweet by Salaita, at the beginning of Israel’s current massacre in Gaza, stating, “If you’re defending #Israel right now you’re an awful human being.”
Nelson claimed that this might mean that students in one of Salaita’s classes who “defended Israel” could face a hostile environment.
But Nelson acknowledged that he knew of no complaints about Salaita’s teaching and that Salaita was not even scheduled to teach classes on Palestine and the Israelis.
Asked if he therefore supported a “pre-emptive firing” based on a Tweet, Nelson again insisted that Salaita had not been “fired,” but merely not hired. Nelson claimed that if Salaita had already been hired, he would defend him.
When asked if he would oppose the hiring of a person who said that “someone who defends Hamas firing rockets towards Tel Aviv is an awful person,” Nelson answered: “No.”
There could be no clearer admission that Nelson’s opposition to Salaita is based on the content of his views, specifically criticism of Israel.
Resistance to Israel is “criminal”
This became clearer when Nelson expanded on his views on Palestine and the Israelis.
Nelson defended Israel’s attack on Gaza as part of its “right to self-defense,” although he stressed that many aspects of the attack were “unethical” and “immoral” and that pictures of children killed by Israel were “horrific.”
When asked whether he would condemn Israel’s bombing of the Islamic University of Gaza, Nelson used cautious language: “It’s very difficult for someone from a distance to judge particular artillery strikes. My personal view is that Israel should have been more careful. From what I know, there are military actions as part of the Gaza incursion that seem regrettable to me and should not have taken place.”
While asserting Israel’s right to bomb Gaza, Nelson denied that Palestinians have any right to armed resistance to the onslaught.
“I don’t know where that right would come from,” he said. “I don’t view Gaza under as under occupation so I don’t see a right to resistance.”
When asked if the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international bodies were incorrect in their view that Israel’s siege of Gaza constitutes “collective punishment” and is therefore a war crime, Nelson insisted he was unable to make legal judgments.
Nelson added that he did not see that the situation in the occupied West Bank “warrants resistance,” either. “I don’t think there’s a right to violent resistance on the West Bank.”
Asked if he thought “all Palestinian military resistance is criminal,” Nelson answered: “Yes. I think that is my view.”
When asked if any of Israel’s actions could be labeled “criminal,” Nelson repeated that many were “immoral” and “unethical,” but that he was not qualified to give legal opinions about Israel’s actions.
Nelson, an outspoken campaigner against the nonviolent, Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS), said that Palestinians should resort to “civil disobedience” in the West Bank such as “blocking roads.”
Israel has shot dead 17 Palestinians just in the last month in the occupied West Bank.
BDS is “political violence”
Nelson reaffirmed his strong opposition to the BDS movement because some of its prominent advocates – he named Omar Barghouti and philosopher Judith Butler – dispute Israel’s “right to exist as a Jewish state.”
“I consider that to be a form of political violence,” Nelson said.
Asked if he called himself a “Zionist,” Nelson answered: “Yes.”
If there were doubts about Nelson’s clear bias against Palestinians and their pursuit of their rights by any means (except of course the most invisible and ineffective), his frank comments to The Electronic Intifada put them to rest.
On 21 July, Salaita was attacked for his Twitter use in the right-wing, anti-Palestinian website The Daily Caller.
It seems clear that with Nelson now publicly leading the charge, Salaita is the latest victim of a nationwide campaign to intimidate into silence anyone on campus who criticizes Israel or supports effective campaigns to secure Palestinian rights.
Call for action
Brooklyn College political science professor Corey Robin has also pointed out that in the past, Nelson himself has criticized how “claims about collegiality are being used to stifle campus debate, to punish faculty, and to silence the free exchange of opinion by the imposition of corporate-style conformity.”
Nelson has also previously supported academic boycotts, though never for Palestinian rights.
But now, Robin says, Nelson’s about-face is “a symptom of the effects of Zionism on academic freedom, how pro-Israel forces have consistently attempted to shut down debate on this issue.”
Robin urges people to write to UIUC Chancellor Phyllis Wise asking her to reverse her decision.
“As always, be polite, but be firm,” Robin writes. “Don’t assume this is a done deal; in my experience, it often is not.”
Supporters have also launched an online petition, which as of this writing, had already gathered more than 1,500 signatures.