Zionist attacks on academics

Steven Salaita was offered a tenured post at the University of Illinois in late 2013 and was scheduled to take it up in August 2014. 

However, in July 2014, Salaita posted many tweets critical of the Zionist killing spree in Gaza in which over 2,000 people died. A cherry-picked selection of these were brought to the attention of the University by the press and Zionist groups. 

The first attacks came from William Jacobson a law professor at Cornell University who works closely with Zionist groups such as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA). 

Within days the Zionist Champaign-Urbana Jewish Federation, which states that among its purposes is supporting the development of the Israeli regime, had joined the attack. 

Rapidly the university became the focus of a mass Zionist campaign and it received hundreds of letters from university alumni, students, parents of students, and members of Champaign-Urbana's pro-Israel community as well as pressure from several large and small donors threatening to remove funding in the future. 

Emails that Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise exchanged on the case, which were later published, though heavily redacted, reportedly show that she was more concerned about a donor who is on the board of the Jewish Federation and Hillel, two Zionist organizations than she was about the views of academic officials who report to her.’

Hillel is the campus organization claiming to represent Jewish students, but which is in fact formally Zionist. Of course, accusations of anti-Semitism were bandied about by the Zionists. But Salaita is not in the least bit racist against Jews. In the end, because of this, they had to find something else to sack him for. 

Salaita explained: If there’s no serious moral or political argument in response to criticism of Israel, then condemn the speaker for various failures of tone and appropriateness. A word becomes more relevant than an array of war crimes. Salaita later won a court case against the university, which also found that Chancellor Phyllis Wise was involved in tampering with evidence in the case by trying to conceal email messages and she immediately resigned. A settlement was reached in November 2015 which awarded Salaita $600,000 and an additional $275,000 to cover his legal expenses.

He did not, however, get his job back. What does the case tell us about the wider climate? First, as Salaita himself unflinchingly put it: Zionist smear campaigns aim to make you destitute. Despite subsequent job offers also withdrawn he was unable to secure another job at a university and he now drives a school bus in Washington DC. 

He remains, however, an active critic of Zionism. Salaita has published a guide on how to handle a Zionist defamation campaign. His Twitter followers have gone from about 2,000 before his sacking to 10,000 in late 2014, rocketing up to more than 55,000 today. He has published several books since the incident in Illinois, and his spirit remains strong.

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