UPDATED: Soon-to-be UI prof's Mideast posts drawing ire

UPDATED: Soon-to-be UI prof's Mideast posts drawing ire

UPDATE: According to a blog post on Inside Higher Ed, Steven Salaita won't be teaching at the University of Illinois.

Campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler on Wednesday morning said she would not comment on Salaita's employment status, saying "it's a personnel matter."

Thoughts? Let our Tom Kacich know here

CHAMPAIGN — An incoming University of Illinois professor has drawn the ire of a conservative website after posting angry commentary on Twitter about Israel's ground invasion of the Gaza Strip in recent days.

Steven Salaita, an English professor at Virginia Tech who plans to join the UI faculty next month, has been outspoken in support of Palestinians in essays and on social media. Some of his recent tweets prompted a columnist with the Daily Caller to condemn him and the UI, for hiring him.

"(Expletive) you, #Israel. And while I'm at it, (expletive) you, too, PA, Sisi, Arab monarchs, Obama, UK, EU, Canada, US Senate, corporate media, and ISIS," he tweeted Sunday.

About the Israeli prime minister, he tweeted: "At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised? #Gaza"

And, "Zionists, take responsibility: if your dream of an ethnocratic Israel is worth the murder of children, just (expletive) own it already. #Gaza"

Salaita will start employment with the UI on Aug. 16.

He is the author of books on several different topics, from Arab-American fiction to "Israel's Dead Soul," a criticism of Zionism.

He will be an associate professor and will teach American Indian Studies courses, according to campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler. His salary will be $81,000.

"Faculty have a wide range of scholarly and political views, and we recognize the freedom-of-speech rights of all of our employees," Kaler said in response to the tweets.

Salaita was unavailable for comment Monday.

"As I'm in the middle of moving, I'm a bit preoccupied at the moment," he responded electronically to The News-Gazette's request for an interview.

In some of his tweets, he explains his anger: "If my tweets are astringent it's because I'm angry. I am deeply sad when children are killed. I get angry when people justify their murder."

Also, "While Israel bombs children in #Gaza, Zionists are busy trying to get #BDS activists fired," he said, referring to the boycott, disinvestment and sanctions movement that he supports.

Last December, Chancellor Phyllis Wise said the university opposes the boycott of Israeli academic institutions and values academic freedom as one of its core principles, stressing "the critical importance of the ability of faculty to pursue learning, discovery and engagement without regard to political considerations."

"Our institution opposes any efforts to limit the ability of our faculty to work with scholars from other institutions around the world, and we encourage such connections, as collaboration is one of our core values in the pursuit of knowledge," she wrote.

Salaita has been no stranger to controversy. While at Virginia Tech, he wrote an essay for Salon.com about the overuse of the phrase "support the troops."

In a follow-up essay in Salon about the backlash he received from that piece, Salaita wrote, "The first rule for any serious writer is to agitate the contentious and embrace the disreputable."

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Font of Wisdom wrote on July 22, 2014 at 8:07 am

Oh boy!  Another witch hunt against the only employer with good jobs in the area.  Another way to rile up the yokels and get some eyes on this dying local rag.  Another way to go after them thar smarty-pants perfessers with their fancy book-learnin' and personal opinions.  Don't you have a rodeo or a county fair to cover instead of this foolishness?

45solte wrote on July 22, 2014 at 8:07 am

To reduce the current conflict to 'Israel killing children' is so limited. F the US? Then go find an elitist job in a country you don't hate, even if it's one that doesn't protect your freedom of (hate) speech. Sadly, you are in good company in the academy with your hatred of Israel and of the US. 


jlc wrote on July 22, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Why is this always the first reaction? "Don't like how we do things, go and live somewhere else!" Never mind wanting to make the world a better place or raise awareness of how our country isn't always perfect. What a sad attitude.

45solte wrote on July 22, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Raising awareness... http://hotair.com/archives/2014/07/21/police-protect-jewish-students-from-pro-palestinian-mob-in-boston/ , indeed.

It's not a first reaction as you characterize it and nobody has said the US is perfect. But, I am sick of the 'sad attitude' of those in this country who hate it down to the very core of it's inception, all the while indulging in the freedoms and rights it affords them. If you hate it THAT MUCH, why bother staying? If you want to change it to a country you came from, what's the point of coming to it? If your passions run so deep why not live by your 'astringent' words and go live, with boots on the ground (figure of speech), in a country more in-line with your words? Sure. Debate over the state of a democratic republic is healthy, but, if one's desire is to completely un-do what the country 'is,' surely one can find places to live that are more to their suiting to begin with, no? Depends on what people's goals are, though. That is key. Some people really hate Western civilization and it's not enough just to live away from it. Some live in it, boots on the ground, hoping to destroy it from within. Sheesh, eh?

alabaster jones 71 wrote on July 23, 2014 at 6:07 am
Profile Picture

So, if you don't support Israel, you must also by extension hate the United States "down to the core of its inception" and are trying to destroy it from within?  Alright then.

jlc wrote on July 24, 2014 at 3:07 pm

It's really sad when people assume that because someone criticizes the US and isn't white, they must be from somewhere else. Especially when people are spouting racism under the guise of being pro-American. Talk about disrespecting the rights and freedoms we are afforded.

ialdabaoth wrote on July 22, 2014 at 8:07 am

Props to Salaita for speaking out to condemn the ongoing atrocities against the people of Gaza. All people have the right to resist occupation and apartheid.

yates wrote on July 22, 2014 at 10:07 am

What's with this university? Of all the possible professor possibilities out there you want to hire this guy? Ah hell, a perfect fit for our dying state I guess.

asparagus wrote on July 22, 2014 at 10:07 am

Prof. Salaita should feel free to speak his mind. I don't have a problem with hiring people with "diverse" views as long as their academic product is up to snuff.

Some of Prof. Salaita's tweets are extreme. I just hope that he is more thoughtful in the classroom and will treat people of differing views with respect.

This article is a valid follow on to the Kilgore, Ayers etc... discussions that have occured here and elsewhere. Ideologically, I disagree with all three men (Ayers, Kilgore, and Salaita) on several issues. However, the difference for me in this case is that Salaita did not commit or advocate violence as a solution. 

One more thing, Prof. Salaita's stance re: Israel is not a very controversial one where he is headed. A truly diverse addition to that department would be an individual with views more right of center. Just FYI, Chancellor.

vcponsardin wrote on July 22, 2014 at 11:07 am

I was not aware that the UI must now run all its new faculty hires past the News-Gazette for final approval...

Sid Saltfork wrote on July 22, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Would Professor Salaita face such ire if he wrote pro-Israel comments?

alabaster jones 71 wrote on July 22, 2014 at 6:07 pm
Profile Picture


spangwurfelt wrote on July 22, 2014 at 10:07 pm

He would if he wrote "F--- Palestine" or "F--- Gaza."



45solte wrote on July 22, 2014 at 1:07 pm

He probably wouldn't have been hired into academia if that were the case.

Sid Saltfork wrote on July 22, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Come on; we both know better than that.  Israel is a country, not a religion.  Academics can criticize Russia, China, and even the U.S.  They do not face such ire.  However; he criticized Israel, and drew anger.  More public attention should be paid to why the current situation between Israel, and the Palestians evolved.  It dates as far back as the Balfour decision.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on August 06, 2014 at 10:08 am
Profile Picture

 Israel is a country, not a religion.  


Well, that's certainly debatable. If you have the right heritage (bloodline), you have rights in Israel. If you don't have that bloodline, you don't have those rights. That bloodline is affiliated with a religion, regardless of whether one chooses to practice that religion.


From a 21st century American perspective, borders are settled and nations are geographical entities rather than cultural/ethnic enclaves. But for most other purposes, it's the other way around. That's why there are so many Poles in Poland.


And Poland is a great example of this concept, because it existed for centuries without any borders — or indeed any land at all. The same is true of Kurdistan right now.

wayward wrote on July 22, 2014 at 5:07 pm

So basically a professor made some angry (though not threatening or obscene) tweets about a controversial issue and pissed off a conservative website.  Was this a slow newsday at the N-G?  There are all kinds of opinions on Twitter; the only thing that's surprising is how much attention this guy's posts have gotten.

cretis16 wrote on July 23, 2014 at 9:07 am

Welcome...you'll fit right in here. And please enjoy our states vast excess of taxpayer dollars to spend . Take all the quotes from Mr. Hate...and replace the word Israel with Palestine....hmmmmmm. Would he still be a sought after candidate?

Sid Saltfork wrote on July 23, 2014 at 3:07 pm

I am curious why an English professor will be teaching "American Indian" (Native American) Studies courses.  Does the U of I have problems recruiting Native American professors?  Do they boycott the U of I because of the Chief?

thinks wrote on July 27, 2014 at 2:07 am

Professors in contemporary English departments teach any literature that is written in English, including by writers from all U.S. ethnic groups / cultural traditions as well as by writers from across the world (often taught as "world anglophone literature" when produced by writers who come from former British colonies, or as "Commonwealth literature" when produced by writers who come from the Commonwealth of Nations).

Illiniwek222 wrote on July 28, 2014 at 9:07 am

Give it a rest.

Illiniwek222 wrote on July 28, 2014 at 9:07 am

Give it a rest.

Bulldogmojo wrote on July 28, 2014 at 10:07 am

Gaza is an open air prison just like N. Ireland, E. Berlin, Soweto South Africa were and still are to some degree. Apartheid exists all over the world and no one seems to learn from its failure. In this case you have the parties of god trying to kill each other over the belief that a giant mud hut called jerusalem is "Magic". Religion is truly poison

In terms of Zionism let's let Hitchens explain it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2us2iOilc3E

bluegrass wrote on July 28, 2014 at 10:07 pm

Hmmm...  "Religion is truly poison," eh?  So, you're saying Islam is poison?  Is Buddhism poison?  What about Hinduism?  Is that also poison?  

alabaster jones 71 wrote on July 28, 2014 at 11:07 pm
Profile Picture

I don't want to speak for bulldogmojo, but he/she is pretty clearly stating that both Muslims and Jews are foolish for fighting to the death over Jerusalem.

If bulldogmojo is in fact stating that all religions are poison, I would agree with him/her.  I would add all ideologies to that statement, as well.

Most people are too scared to think for themselves, and want other people to tell them how they should think.

bluegrass wrote on July 29, 2014 at 7:07 am

Bulldog does not clearly state what you inferred from his comments.  Bulldog compares Israel to the occupiers of the last century.  Does that sounds like he's placing blame on "both" Muslims and aJews.  

Some are unable to come to terms with the fact that their own culture has given them so much more freedom, security, and wealth than other cultures, so they fall back on their own religion of moral equivalence.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on July 29, 2014 at 10:07 pm
Profile Picture

"Some are unable to come to terms with the fact that their own culture has given them so much more freedom, security, and wealth than other cultures, so they fall back on their own religion of moral equivalence."

Try to stay on topic.  We're talking about religion here, not jingoism.  If you really think that American culture is giving us freedom, security, and wealth these days, you probably aren't following the news very closely.

Bulldogmojo wrote on July 29, 2014 at 3:07 pm

So to clarify let's use some examples of headlines drawn from around the world...

  • Straying From the Middle Way: Extremist Buddhist Monks Target Religious Minorities
  • Time 6-20-2013
  • Is Hindu nationalism behind crackdown on India's Christians?
  • World Magazine 7-29-2014
  • Islamists may be planning imminent attack in Norway
  • The Nation 7-25-2014
  • Pope Francis says about 2% (8,000+) of priests are pedophiles
  • New York Daily news 7-13-2014
  • Hamas threatens 3rd Intifada to answer massive Israeli crackdown
  • RT 6-20-2014
  • "No international pressure will prevent us from acting with all power," ~ Netanyahu
  • BBC 7-11-2014

 So yes POISON

israhell wrote on August 06, 2014 at 11:08 am

Well said Bulldogmojo! I believe outspoken religion is poison. The use of religion for political reason is poison. Using religion to discriminate against a group of human beings and to commit atrocities is poison. Using religion to justify land grab is poison. Using religion to deny women their right to abortion is poison. Using religion to discriminate against gays is poison. Religion is a wonderful thing that is and should remain private. Religion is between a man and his god. Use it to sooth your soul and to guide you in life. Do no impose your religion on others. I don't even want to know what religion you are. Treat everyone equally.  Treat people right and you will be treated right. So all the Jews out there, when I say I hate IsraHell, it’s not anti-Semitism, it’s how I feel about the hellish state of Israel and not about Judaism. If you are a Jew and a Zionist, then you and people like you are the reason Israel is an apartheid, terrorist rogue state.

rsp wrote on August 06, 2014 at 10:08 am

I'm sorry to see this. His views were public when they made the job offer so why would they make it? I know why the backed out. They got some publicity and instead of standing up like adults they backed out. They are worried about what will happen when they go to Springfield for funding from those criminals. Why isn't the paper investigating them? Too hard? I know it's easy to read someone's tweets about babies getting killed. Why did they make the job offer?

EdRyan wrote on August 06, 2014 at 10:08 am

Sounds like expensive trouble coming.  Lawyers at 10 paces at dawn.

SaintClarence27 wrote on August 06, 2014 at 2:08 pm

If he's at-will, then no. If he has a contract, it would depend on whether the contract was signed and what the contract actually *says*. 

People talk all the time about suing for getting fired/not getting hired. The reality is that the law only protects against firings for very specific reasons. And you have to prove it.

EdRyan wrote on August 06, 2014 at 4:08 pm

You don't have to prove anything.  All you have to do is convince the other party that it is less costly to settle with you than litigate the issue.

SaintClarence27 wrote on August 07, 2014 at 8:08 am

In this case, however, the judge would throw out the "free speech" case before it even gets to that point. There is no employment protection for free speech.

*In certain government employment, there is (as long as the speech wasn't in the course of employment), but not at the University level.

israhell wrote on August 06, 2014 at 10:08 am

“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.” William Faulkner.

Steven Salaita has my respect and I hope he sues UofI. I hope he settles for millions and doesn't have to work for a university that censors people. It is his freedom of speech to speak up and have an opinion about the genocide Israel has inflicted on the Palestinian civilians in Gaza. 

Go ahead and call it anti-Semitism or whatever crap you want to call it. 

Israel is not a democracy. Israel commits war crimes. Israel violates international law. Israel is an terrorist rogue state. Israel is an apartheid state. Israel stole and continues to steal land from the Palestinians. 

The U.S. government is hypocrite and uses double standards: Russia helps separatists win their freedom and choose who rules them; U.S government imposes sanctions on Russia. Israel steals land from native Palestinians, wipes out complete villages, discriminates against its non-Jewish population in Israel, murders civilians including hundreds of children, creates an unlivable open prison for millions in Gaza; the U.S. supports them fully and continues to arm them. Israel has the right to defend itself and its citizens; but somehow, the Palestinians don't have a right to defend themselves. A bunch of U.S citizens go and fight alongside of IDF and that's fine. One U.S. citizen goes and fights with the resistance and he is a terrorist. 

I am a proud U.S. citizen; I love my country and I condemn my government with all of its corrupt politicians. I will speak up my voice and make a difference. I am not going anywhere; this is my country so don't mention.

If $3 billion of our tax dollars that the U.S. government sends to Israel plus the $2billion+ of private donations U.S. citizens send to Israel every year were spent in the U.S. to improve the infrastructure, education, healthcare or any other sector that needs funding instead of wasting it, we will all benefit. Instead the U.S. is wasting our money and making more enemies.  

I hope I can live to the day Israel is wiped out!


SaintClarence27 wrote on August 06, 2014 at 2:08 pm

My guess: he's not getting a dime.

As for freedom of speech, that does NOT mean freedom from consequences - including losing your job, by the way.

EdRyan wrote on August 06, 2014 at 4:08 pm

My guess is that he either gets the job or he takes a big payday to the bank.  If you are at the point where you have someone leaving a great tenured position for another tenured position and you pull the rug out from under them for something that has nothing to do with the position then you're looking at paying out some big $$$$.

rsp wrote on August 06, 2014 at 6:08 pm

It's not like they couldn't have known about the tweets before the job offer either. And the job came with tenure. This is embarrassing for the U of I. I would think twice about going there for a job. The guy was in the middle of moving here and they think it won't cost them? Or they just think it will cost them less.

SaintClarence27 wrote on August 07, 2014 at 8:08 am

That's not how the law works.

45solte wrote on August 06, 2014 at 9:08 pm

'I hope I can live to the day Israel is wiped out!'

'Free Palestine' (of Jews), eh?. Talk about genocide. Too bad Hamas (a terrorist organization) cares enough to put civilians in harm's way, as a matter of cowardly and despicable routine. Cheers when rockets are launched from the tops of apartment buildings, hospitals, etc. But, cries of foul when Israel responds back at those launch sites. Don't store your missiles, etc. with kids in schools or fire them from apartment rooftops where people live. But, wait. Then you couldn't twist this into an Israel being heartless thing. It's better to orchestrate deathly collateral damage and manipulate the media (look! Israel is targeting civilians----and not the terrorists hiding behind them) than do all you can to keep civilians safe. And, for such a cause. That of genocide.

israhell wrote on August 07, 2014 at 10:08 am

Free Palestine of Israel; not of Jews. Jews lived alongside Palestinians for centuries before the Zionist movement created Israel and started discriminating against the Palestinian natives robbing them of their land, demolishing their homes, killing them or pushing them away. The very free that remain in Israel and that actually hold Israel citizenships are discriminated against as well. What you call terrorists are other people's freedom fighters. Call them whatever you want, they are the only ones standing up for their people. The whole "using their civilians as human shields" is a bunch of horse crap. Israel solders have repeatedly used Palestinian children as human shields and there are even picture evidence to prove that. Hamas launches their rockets from densely populated residence areas, when you get millions of people crammed into the most densely populated area in the world and blockaded from all corners, where do you want them to launch their rockets from? Israel is using this as an excuse to kill civilians because Israel doesn't have any problem with killing Palestinian civilians. They even have shirts with 1 shot 2 kills depicting a pregnant woman with riffle cross hairs and some of their citizens sit on the hilltop watching and cheering from afar every time Gaze is bombarded. Israel does not represent every Jew on earth; Israel is a government and not a religion. I am against Israel and not against Judaism.

spangwurfelt wrote on August 07, 2014 at 10:08 am

"I hope I can live to the day Israel is wiped out!" Nice one. A helpful reminder that a bug-eyed hatred of Israel doesn't have to be antisemitic to be a bug-eyed hatred.

israhell wrote on August 07, 2014 at 11:08 am

That's right. You can hate a government without hating all of its people or their religion.

spangwurfelt wrote on August 10, 2014 at 8:08 am

Too bad that's pretty clearly not what you're doing here. Your (stupid) nym is "Israhell," not "Israhelli government." Your very nym attacks an entire nation, and that sucks quite a bit of juice out of your pieties. 

wayward wrote on August 06, 2014 at 11:08 am

I can understand why Salaita's tweets would bother people, but still find it concerning that UI would rescind an offer after the person had already accepted it and resigned from his job (especially if tenure was involved).  Seems like that precedent could make people a little nervous about taking job offers from UI.

OldIlliniFan wrote on August 06, 2014 at 7:08 pm

I cannot imagine Prof. Salaita being a faculty member in this university with the responsibility of serving on a committee with a Jew, or serving on a promotion and tenure committee evaluating a Jew, or on a search committee hiring a Jew.  He has already declared his strong bias, and simply cannot be trusted.  It is best that he not come here.

israhell wrote on August 07, 2014 at 11:08 am

He didn't say anything about Jews. What he said was all bout Israel. If you equate Israel to Judaism, then it is your thinking that is flawed. Israel is a state, Judaism is a religion. A Jew may or may not agree with the Israeli government's treadtment of palestinian civilians.