Steven Salaita is a former Virginia Tech professor who accepted a tenure-track position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – an appointment which was later withdrawn by the university after a series of Tweets about Israel, Jews and antisemitism came to light. The Guardian’s report on the row and Salaita’s recent efforts to get his appointment reinstated (Professor fired for Israel criticism urges University of Illinois to reinstate him, Mark Guarino, Sept. 9th) was compromised by serious omissions.
In addition to the troubling implicit suggestion in the article that the impetus behind the decision by the university to withdraw Salaita’s nomination was influenced by threats from wealthy Jewish donors, the Guardian completely ignored the more egregious examples of truly hateful Tweets by Salaita.
The Guardian report described Salaita’s Tweets benignly as “critical of Israel”, and later cited only these two examples:
“Only Israel can murder around 300 children in the span of a few weeks and insist that it is the victim,” said one [Tweet]. “If Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised,” asked another [Tweet].
Later, it quoted Salaita:
At a press conference on Tuesday held at the university YMCA, [Salaita] did not apologise for the tweets, but said that his “messages are no doubt passionate and unfiltered” and “reflect my deep dismay at the deaths of more than 2,000 innocent Palestinians”.
He said he was troubled by the emails, saying that they are “part of a nationwide concerted effort by wealthy and well-organised groups to attack pro-Palestinian students and faculty and silence their speech.”
However, the Guardian didn’t provide the whole picture – and omitted a few especially relevant Tweets by Salaita, such as these:
Jewish Zionists are partly responsible for antisemitism (Tweet)
Antisemitism is now honorable (Tweet)
Israel is partly responsible for the poverty of racial minorities in the US (Tweet)
Genocide charge / Nazi analogy (Tweet)
Another Nazi analogy (Tweet)
A truly fair and honest Guardian report on the row – even one which raised legitimate questions about academic freedom – would have revealed these truly abhorrent Tweets so readers could fairly assess whether such vitriol can be reasonably be characterized as (prt the language used by university officials) “disrespectful and demeaning speech that promotes malice”.
h/t Martin Kramer
- “Scholarship and Politics Don’t Mix!” Say Those Who Mix Scholarship and Politics (commentarymagazine.com)
- Salita and Academic Freedom (Minding The Campus)