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Steven Salaita Tag

Brian Leiter is the pugnacious U. Chicago philosophy and law professor, whose claim to fame is his blog ranking of philosophy departments, and to a much lesser extent, law schools.  We touched on Leiter before with regard to his attacks on Prof. Glenn Reynolds and other "right-wing" law professor bloggers with whom Leiter politically disagrees. An interesting side-light is that Leiter has been one of the most vocal supporters of Steven Salaita, the anti-Israel professor whose anti-Israel, and arguably anti-Semitic, tweets caused the University of Illinois Board of Trustees to deny him a tenured position. Among other things, Leiter wrote a blog post at Huffington Post that got a lot of attention because Leiter declared that UI-UC had repealed the First Amendment.   There are important issues that a court may have to sort out, but to proclaim the university's concerns a repeal of the First Amendment is pure hyperbole. In a further post at his own blog, Leiter opined that Salaita had a strong "promissory estoppel" claim, because some unnamed professors told him so at lunch. I guess the legal argument in court would go something like this: Your Honor, you must ignore the contingent provision in the offer requiring Board approval because that's what some people told Brian Leiter at lunch. Leiter announced on his blog that he was boycotting UI-UC:

You need no better proof of how the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement poisons everything it touches than the story of how anti-Israel activists turned a once-respected medical journal, The Lancet, into a BDS platform. Just like Ohio University student senate president Megan Marzec hijacked the purpose of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to bash Israel, so too a handful anti-Israel physicians, including the notorious Dr. Mads Gilbert, corrupted the purpose of Lancet by publishing an anti-Israel screed in the journal. That was bad enough, and caused substantial protest against the biased politicization of a medical journal . Then, NGO Monitor, a group that investigates the anti-Israel Non-Governmental Organization industry, uncovered that two of the physicians involved peddled anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and circulated a David Duke video. The Telegraph in Britain reports:

It's a good thing we still have scientists who refuse to accept settled science and scientific consensus, and keep on digging and questioning prevailing wisdoms. It seems that many of such scientists are in Israel, perhaps because politicized scientific conformity is not as prized in the "start-up nation" as it is in Euorpe and the U.S. One example from Israel we reported on previously was Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded scientific denier:
Israeli scientist Daniel Shechtman won the 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday for his discovery of quasicrystals, a mosaic-like chemical structure that researchers previously thought was impossible. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Shechtman’s discovery in 1982 fundamentally changed the way chemists look at solid matter. It initially faced strong objections from the scientific community, and even got him kicked out of his research group in the United States.
Now another, from AFP via Times of Israel, Sweeteners boost diabetes risk, Israeli study finds:

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees just voted on the recommendation of a tenured position for Steven Salaita. The issue became highly controversial when UI at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis Wise first declined to forward the recommendation to the Board. Salaita's tweets about Jews, Israel and Gaza caused a wide-ranging debate on social media and among academics. Our prior posts are under the Steven Salaita Tag. After weeks of protest and threats of a lawsuit, the recommendation was forwarded for vote today. There were several editorials from major Illinois publications in the past week supporting Wise and arguing that Salaita's tweets crossed a line, including the Urbana News-Gazette, Chicago Tribune, and Chicago Sun Times. The Tribune Editorial Board wrote:
Salaita was dumped because his tweets crossed the line from caustic commentary to hate speech. Some of his remarks come uncomfortably and irresponsibly close to endorsing violence against individuals or groups of people. Some are racist. At the very least, they would create a hostile environment in which others must work or study.

I have noted before the disturbing trend of anti-Israel Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) supporters blaming Israel and/or Zionism for the recent outbursts of anti-Semitism around the world. I first noted the issue in connection with a tweet from Professor Steven Salaita, where he tweeted that "By eagerly conflating Jewishness and Israel, Zionists are partly responsible when people say antisemitic shit in response to Israeli terror." [Salaita's tweets became a big issue, although that tweet has not receive a lot of attention.] In that post, I noted that Salaita was far from alone. There has been a trend to use the "Zionism causes anti-Semitism" verbiage as a way of deflecting the grossly anti-Semitic BDS-led protests seen around the world under the guise of protesting the Gaza conflict. Fast forward to last week at Cornell, when Students for Justice in Palestine held what was to be a mobilization rally on campus related to Gaza. Casey Breznick is Editor-in-Chief of the conservative Cornell Review undergraduate journal. Casey also writes for Legal Insurrection (posts here) and College Insurrection (posts here), sustaining our long history of providing conservative Cornell undergraduates with a platform.

Prior to a few minutes ago, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had not commented publicly about the reasoning behind the decision not to complete the hiring process for Professor Steven Salaita. There was a lot of protest, including a petition and academic boycotts, meant to pressure the university into changing its mind.  That does not appear to be happening, from the latest news report. That, of course, does not preclude some sort of financial settlement, which might take into account that Salaita resigned his prior tenured position at Virginia Tech before learning his contingent offer from UI-UC would not be approved. The Urbana-Champaign News-Gazette now reports that Chancellor Phyllis Wise has sent a campus-wide email:
In her first public statement about Professor Steven Salaita, University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise said her decision to not forward his appointment to trustees for formal approval was not influenced by his criticism of Israel. The university, she said, cannot tolerate “personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them.” “We have a particular duty to our students to ensure that they live in a community of scholarship that challenges their assumptions about the world but that also respects their rights as individuals. A Jewish student, a Palestinian student, or any student of any faith or background must feel confident that personal views can be expressed and that philosophical disagreements with a faculty member can be debated in a civil, thoughtful and mutually respectful manner. Most important, every student must know that every instructor recognizes and values that student as a human being. If we have lost that, we have lost much more than our standing as a world-class institution of higher education,” Wise sent in a mass e-mail to the campus community Friday afternoon.
(Update) In addition, later in the afternoon, the Board of Trustees, the Chancellors of the Chicago and Springfield campuses, numerous university senior officials, and the President of the Faculty Senates, issues a statement supporting the decision. The full Chancellor email, as reprinted by the News-Gazette, is as follows (added -- original email here):

If reports are true, Steven Salaita's horrific and bizarre Twitter feed cost him a job offer at U. Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As of this moment, the reason behind the denial of a position is not known, but that hasn't stopped Salaita's supporters from portraying the denial as based on Salaita's anti-Israel views. As if there is some new blacklist against anti-Israel views, despite the fact that so many faculty members are anti-Israel and proud to express those views. One thing about Salaita's tweets -- he said how he feels. And how he feels is that Israel should be destroyed ("decolonized" in his lingo). That's what the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement really is all about -- it's struggle until Israel is gone. There are some naive dupes who actually believe that academic boycotts are about changing Israeli policies, but the leadership knows that it's about destroying Israel. The reaction to the denial of an offer to Salaita has been furious. One supporter of the academic boycott of Israel now wants a boycott of UI-Urbana-Champaign. Another professor is refusing to show his film there. The American Association of University Professors has weighed in against the denial, although it admits "a number of facts concerning this case remain unclear." There has been an attempt to portray Salaita as a world-reknowned scholar, but that's an exaggeration. Most of his work was simply devoted to bashing Israel in a now-typical melding of political activism and academics. Whether Salaita's initial selection was political to begin with is being questioned. Much of the organizing has been focused on a Petition for Corrective Action on posted by Rima Merriman: Salaita Petition Rima Merriman

For background on the controversy surrounding Steven Salaita, who was denied a job offer at U. Illinois at Urbana-Champaign allegedly due to his tweets, see my prior posts: No one knows for a fact why his job offer was denied at U. Illinois, but the presumption is that it concerned his bizarre, vulgar and unhinged tweets. His defenders try to portray this as viewpoint discrimination, as if he lost out just because he criticized Israel; at this point that is entirely speculative as to the basis for the university's actions. For more background see arguments for the denial of a job offer, and against the denial of a job offer. [See video discussion here, couldn't be embedded due to formatting problems][new embed code added - thanks to commenter] The whole thing may come down to contract law.

I have argued strenuously against the academic boycott of Israel, led by people like Steven Salaita, on a number of grounds. Not the least of those grounds is that academics who insist on violating the academic freedom of Israelis and those who wish to interact with Israelis do damage to the system in its entirety. That is one of the reasons why the American Association of University Professors, numerous university associations, and over 250 University Presidents issued statements opposing the academic boycott of Israel passed by the American Studies Association in December 2013. There is a related point to how academic boycotts have a negative ripple effect. On what ground do the academic boycotters of Israel claim their own academic freedom if they are so quick to deny it to others? Because they think they are right? What if the people who want to boycott the boycotters believe just as firmly in their own correctness? Now you can see why universities reacted so swiftly in rejecting the academic boycott -- it's easy to start, but hard to stop. As posted earlier, Inside Higher Ed reports that Salaita allegedly was denied an offer at U. Illinois at at Urbana-Champaign because of his tweets. I don't know if that's true, if it was the anti-Israeli views expressed in the tweets, or if it was that the tweets arguably presented Salaita as an unhinged and unstable demagogue who would bring disrepute on his institution and intimidate his students; or any or none of the above. Many of those rushing to Salaita's defense on the ground of academic freedom, however, themselves are among the worst violators of academic freedom through the anti-Israel academic boycott. They would turn away a Dean or representative of an Israeli academic institution, would bar joint programs and research, and even cooperation in journal publications.

The anti-Israel academic boycott movement has been under the radar the past month, but that doesn't mean it hasn't been working to destroy academic freedom where it can. Two small academic groups recently were added to the short list of academic professional organizations boycotting Israel. The Critical Ethnic Studies Association recently endorsed the academic boycott of Israel. This should not be much of a surprise given that when CESA was formed in 2012, one of its first acts was to plan how to help the anti-Israel academic and cultural boycott movement. CESA  previously supported the boycott passed by the American Studies Association.  CESA represents just about everything that has gone wrong with academia, as expressed in its mission statement:
The Critical Ethnic Studies Association (CESA) aims to develop an approach to scholarship, institution building, and activism animated by the spirit of the decolonial, antiracist, and other global liberationist movements that enabled the creation of Ethnic Studies, and which continues to inform its political and intellectual projects. We seek to move away from current critical deadlocks, to counteract institutional marginalization, to revisit the political ideas that precipitated ethnic studies’ founding moment within the US academy, and to create new conversations. Our Vision:
 Ethnic studies scholarship has laid the foundation for analyzing how racism, settler colonialism, immigration, imperialism, and slavery interact in the creation and maintenance of systems of domination, dispossession, criminalization, expropriation, exploitation, and violence that are predicated upon hierarchies of racialized, gendered, sexualized, economized, and nationalized social existence in the United States and beyond. Our vision of Critical Ethnic Studies highlights how systematized oppression is coterminous with the multitude of practices that resist these systems.
The African Literature Association also passed a boycott resolution at its annual meeting in South Africa.  The ALA's mission statement describes its goals as follows:

I tweeted about this yesterday: Now Yair Rosenberg of Tablet Magazine has the video: This is part of a worldwide phenomenon, and puts the lie to the claim that in modern political reality there is any difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.
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