Mondoweiss on how Steven Salaita was fired

The Steven Salaita is yet another example of the power of the Israel Lobby and how they leave no stone unturned in their efforts. Salaita is a professor of Arab descent who was offered a position at the University of Illinois until he made several tweets critical of Israel:

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.”

The job offer was rescinded, and now there is some light shed on how it went down:

Salaita’s hire set off fundraising at U of Illinois, per emails to chancellor

Phyllis Wise, the university’s chancellor, was lobbied by 70 pro-Israel folks, including donors, who were upset by Salaita’s comments on twitter about Gaza. The school’s fundraisers were alarmed and sought a meeting with Wise.

The communications show that Wise was lobbied on the decision not only by pro-Israel students, parents and alumni, but also by the fund-raising arm of the university. The communications also show that the university system president was involved, and that the university was considering the legal ramifications of the case before the action to block the appointment.

Most of the emails have the names of the senders redacted and some are nearly identical, suggesting the use of talking points or shared drafts. Many of the letter writers identify themselves as Jewish and/or sympathetic to Israel, as students, parents or alumni, and as people who say that the tone of Salaita’s comments (especially on Twitter) makes them believe he would be hostile to them and to their views.

“If I happen to register for Mr. Salaita’s course, how could I respectfully engage in conversation and learn material?” asked one email. Another said: “As a Jew, I do not feel comfortable knowing that the University of Illinois allows and supports this sort of behavior. I am currently an incoming senior, and while this is not the first time I have felt anti-Semitism at the University of Illinois, this is by far the most extreme and hurtful case.” …

At least one email the chancellor received was from someone who identified himself as a major donor who said that he would stop giving if Salaita were hired. “Having been a multiple 6 figure donor to Illinois over the years I know our support is ending as we vehemently disagree with the approach this individual espouses. This is doubly unfortunate for the school as we have been blessed in our careers and have accumulated quite a balance sheet over my 35 year career,” the email says.

These emails are indicative of a crisis. Does anyone doubt that concerns about donors played a role in Chancellor Wise’s decision to cashier Salaita, nine months after he was offered and accepted a job at the school? This seems to me another demonstration that we cannot come to terms with the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel till we deal with the role of Zionist funding in our political and public life. This is the factional problem identified by Madison in the Federalist Papers; there is no national interest here.

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