Salaita Wants War


Cross posted on the AAUP Listserv


Last night I went to hear Steven Salaita’s talk.  He was invited to speak after Phyllis Wise, the former UW Provost and now Chancellor of the University of Illinois, overturned an offer by her school to hire Salaita for his expertise in the sociology of the conquest of Native Americans by Europeans and Americans.  Like most other academics I was outraged by Wise’s actions and believed the action  came because the Jewish community had protested Salaita’s public stand in support of the Palestinian side of that conflict.   I read some of the attacks on the man and while Salaita is intemperate, nothing I read justified Wise’s actions.   
As a supporter of free speech, I went to hear what this man had to say. 
 What I heard was horrid.  I got to his talk near the end so I can only discuss the Q and A.  However, that was terrible … he acted like a demagogue .. a warhawk who exulted in people dying for his cause.  He presented NO rational case for any answer to the conflict, instead he demonized Jews.  He not only justified terrorism against Jews and Israelis, he dismissed as irrelevant the Amnesty International criticism of Hamas for using children as human shields.
Salaita has  a mantra “Zionism is not Judaism.”  Fair enough, but depicting every Zionist as a bigot is not different from depicting Jews who have fought for our survival as Nazis.    Although Salaita is very smooth, the effect of what he said was that the only Jews he respected were the radicals who want “Palestine” cleansed of Jews.  Salaita’s use of Gandhi was typical of most of what I heard.  He took the Mahatma out of context to portray the Great Man as an opponent of Israel. To do this, Salaita used a quote out of context, making Gandhi create an image that everyone hates Israel, that Israel is Nazi-like pariah.  Salaita did the same sort of thing every time someone asked a substantive (and remarkably polite) question.
The saddest thing for me  was Salaita’s  response to questions where rational answers are needed to bring peace.  He lied (I doubt he is ignorant) about the lack of a peace movement among the Palestinians, somehow presented Gaza as Israel’s fault (it was created by Egypt), referred to Palestine (a Roman and then Turkish name for a part of Syria) as the “ancestral homeland of the Palestinians” (most of whose ancestors migrated into “Palestine” after the Zionists started creating jobs there)  and dissed the  peace movements .. PEACE NOW .. because they are Jewish.
This was a warlike talk (at least the Q&A)  as bad as anything I have heard from the Tea Party.  This man wants war as badly as Ted Cruz … another well spoken demagogue.
My interest in the man has little to do with his stand on Israel.  I support free speech and have a very  low opinion of Wise.  My comparison to Ted Cruz is intentional.  Mr. Cruz is a Cuban American.  He has a strong academic record including earning a Rhodes Scholarship.  If Steven Salaita is worthy of becoming a tenured university professor, is Ted Cruz worthy of that too?
 However, after last night, I now wonder if the work Salaita was hired for .,. work on the indigenous Americans (Native Americans)  … is any better?  I suspect not.

0 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Roger Rabbit #

    Academic work requires objectivity, which in turn requires calm thinking. Not everyone has the temperament to be a professor, just as some people shouldn’t be police officers.

  2. theaveeditor #

    It is not just calmness. It is a devotion to fact and reason. “Reasonable” people can disagree, but arguing from your own set of facts ought not to be tolerated on any campus.

  3. 3

    Sorry you had to learn the hard way what some of us knew all along. Salaita is nothing more than a vicious anti-Semite.

  4. theaveeditor #

    Gary. Nothing to be sorry abut.
    I have no reason to think that Salaita is an antisemite. I suspect he is, as he says, antagonistic to the Jewish state and I also suggest we all remember the inclusion of Ruskies, Krauts and Slant Eyes among our stereotypical opponents in past conflicts. I also read an awful lot of similar bigotry by Jews toward Palestinians.

    That phenomenon .. racism, bigotry is awful but it is worse when toi comes from a professor under tenure review . IF this performance represents Saliata’s academic approach. as it was advertised to do, then why wasn’t his tenure referred back to experts for review rather than his being fired? Wise certainly made it appear that Salaita was fired for exercising protected speech.