Society

Professor Not Sorry For Anti-Israel Tweets That Cost Him Job At University Of Illinois

| by Jared Keever

A college professor who had his job offer from the University of Illinois retracted because of tweets the university deemed anti-Semitic, said recently he is not sorry for the comments made from his Twitter account. 

Steven Salaita, an American-born Palestinian, was due to begin teaching at the Illinois school this fall when the University withdrew its offer of a tenured position in its American Indian studies program, reported the Huffington Post.

On June 20, just after three Israeli teenagers had been abducted and feared murdered in the West Bank, Salaita tweeted, “You may be too refined to say it, but I'm not:  I wish all the (expletive) West Bank settlers would go missing.”

“Zionists: transforming 'anti-Semitism' from something horrible into something honorable since 1948,” read another tweet. 

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University President Robert Easter said those messages and others crossed a line.

“We believe that our classrooms ought to be a place where opinions, regardless of their origin or their perspective, ought to be able to be offered freely and students not feel intimidated or unable to express their opinion and that’s what led us to the decision,” Easter said at the time of the retraction. 

But Salaita said in a news conference last week his comments on Twitter did not reflect the way he conducted himself in class. 

“The way that I have always tweeted sort of has to do with the way things are happening in the moment politically and discursively," Salaita said, according to Fox News.

“The (university) administration's actions threaten the principles of free speech, academic freedom, and critical thought that should be the foundation of any university,” he added.

The school’s decision to withdraw Salaita’s job offer was met with criticism.

The American Association of University Professors' Illinois committee issued a statement at the time of decision.

“Speech that is deemed controversial should be challenged with further speech that may abhor and challenge a statement,” the statement read. “Yet the University of Illinois cannot cancel an appointment based upon Twitter statements that are protected speech in the United States of America.”

Haaretz reported that university Chancellor Phyllis Wise said in August that the Salaita decision had nothing to do with the professor’s position on the conflict between Israel and Palestinians. Instead, she said, it was about “personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them.”

Nearly a dozen of the school’s academic departments have since issued votes of no confidence in Wise. Professors and speakers, scheduled to attend university conferences this year, have reportedly cancelled their attendance in protest.

Easter said the University stands by its decision and is doing so to protect the rights of its students.

“Our concern is, should (Salaita) become a university employee, he would still be protected by his rights of free speech and academic freedom,” he said. “The question is, will he at the same time respect those rights of others in the classroom.”

Sources: Huffington Post, Fox News, Haaretz

Photo Source: Facebook: Steven Salaita