Another Lesson from Illinois: Beware Tenured Radicals

By Robert Warrior, Director of American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

As the one-year anniversary of the debacle over the aborted appointment of Steven Salaita at Illinois approached, Inside Higher Education published an op-ed by former AAUP president Cary Nelson spelling out the lessons he contends we can all learn from the this now infamous episode. He places the blame for it on my colleagues and I in the American Indian Studies Program at Illinois for having recommended the appointment in the first place, and I began formulating this response right away. Then the Illinois chancellor and provost resigned, with an embarrassing trove of email messages they had schemed to keep secret released between resignations. As such, I found myself distracted from my response.

As is the case with much of what he has written about the Illinois debacle and the Salaita appointment, Nelson’s IHE anniversary op-ed relies on fabrications, speculation, and half-truths. So, when a moment came in which I could catch my breath, I returned to my response and asked IHE to publish it. The editor declined, saying he had already published enough pieces about Salaita. Fortunately, the editors of the Academe blog have provided this opportunity that Inside Higher Ed refused to me.

Nelson’s basic argument in IHE is that my colleagues and I in American Indian Studies created the whole mess because we lacked the scholarly competence to have recommended Salaita’s appointment in the first place. Nelson uses more space to detail this argument in an essay coming out soon in the AAUP’s Journal of Academic Freedom, and I have responded to that essay as well. In both cases, my hope is to show how Nelson has used this and other weak arguments to divert attention away from the gross violations of academic freedom and shared governance at the center of this still-festering crisis.

Nelson presents his diversion as a cautionary tale, the lesson of which is that “the whole academic hiring process disintegrates when a program or department attempts to initiate a faculty hire outside of its areas of competence.” More than incompetent, he paints my colleagues and I as hardcore ideologues more interested in advancing our political goals than paying attention to academic standards, championing someone unqualified for an appointment in our field. Further, he says, we took advantage of “an understandable inclination” of our dean and other administrators “not to challenge the American Indian Studies Program” in adopting the focus on global indigeneity that created the opening through which we recommended Salaita’s hire. Together, this led us (back to incompetence) to equate Palestinians with Indigenous peoples such as American Indians while casting Israelis as European colonizers.

Whatever else Nelson’s cautionary tale may be, it certainly isn’t true, nor is it based on any credible facts. So, I have a cautionary tale of my own: beware a self-proclaimed “tenured radical” like Nelson who ignores facts, makes up others, and willfully and unfairly sullies scholarly reputations in the service of advancing the goals of his political agenda.

On the issue of Salaita’s qualifications as a scholar of American Indian studies, Nelson never mentions the fact that Salaita earned his PhD in English with a concentration in American Indian literatures at the University of Oklahoma. Nelson has repeatedly pointed out in other pieces that I was a member of Salaita’s dissertation committee at Oklahoma, where I used to teach. He has never pointed out, however, that Salaita’s primary adviser at Oklahoma, Alan Velie, was the first professor anywhere to teach an American Indian literature course back in the early 1970s and through his publications and professional work helped establish the legitimacy of Native literary studies. OU’s concentration in Native literature is the only one of its kind in the US, and one of the few graduate programs that offers doctoral level training and credentialing in any field of Native American studies.

Nelson also leaves out the fact that I was not a member of the search committee that identified Salaita for its short list or its finalists, nor was I privy to any but the most rudimentary of their deliberations, including their recommendation of whom we should recruit. I did not know what the committee’s recommendation was until they presented it to the AIS faculty.

Salaita’s scholarly work has, it’s true, focused on topics other than the ground-breaking comparative work on Native American, Palestinian, and Palestinian American literatures he did for his doctoral program and his second of six books. Nevertheless, he has maintained a professional profile, through journal articles and conference presentations, that includes Native literary studies across the span of his career. Further, the comparative work of his training at Oklahoma clearly informs all of his work, especially in regard to issues of indigeneity that arise in his scholarship. Likewise, Salaita’s public intellectual work has often taken up Native American issues along with or as a touchstone to Palestinian and Arab American issues.

Having said that, I should also point out that Nelson is incorrect in stating that Salaita’s “main job would have been to teach ‘comparative indigeneity’” focused on “Native Americans and Palestinians.” We hoped eventually to find appropriate ways for Salaita to teach courses reflecting all of his broad interests, especially Arab American studies, but no one should miss this fact: though AIS has had some of the most highly-respected leaders in Native American and Indigenous studies on its faculty, Salaita was our first and still only hire of someone with an actual graduate-level credential in American Indian or Indigenous studies. He can, in fact, teach nearly every course in our curriculum. The two courses he was kept from teaching in the fall of 2014 were “Introduction to American Indian Studies” and “Indigenous Intellectuals.”

Second, American Indian Studies at Illinois has no programmatic history of highlighting Palestine or the Middle East, nor do the faculty members who participated in this search have a shared set of positions on Palestinian issues that would have provided the basis for us to make a political rather than academic choice in the search. Three of the six core faculty members from the time of that search, including me, have endorsed the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, but the other three, and also the three affiliated faculty members (all full professors) who participated in the deliberations, have no public record of political advocacy on Palestinian issues.

Further, our program has never hosted an event or a speaker on Israel or Palestine. In the five years of faculty meetings in my term as director of American Indian Studies at Illinois leading up to the recommendation of Salaita, Palestine was never an agenda item, nor did we ever discuss Palestine except perhaps in the context of LeAnne Howe’s year on a Fulbright fellowship in Jordan. I can’t decide which is more offensive, Nelson’s assumption that my colleagues and I are uncritical ideologues who walk in lockstep with each other, or that he writes under the assumption that his readers will accept his baseless characterizations of us at face value.

Neither of those assumptions is as ludicrous as this final one. Salaita’s appointment, according to Nelson, is one which reveals “doubts about whether either the position being searched for or the candidate being proposed is illegitimate.” Nelson contends that our program’s focus on comparative Indigenous studies had not “received sufficiently critical review” for us to be searching for someone working in that field and that Salaita lacks the qualifications to have been a legitimate candidate for such a position even if we had known what we were doing. The result was that our faculty “acted out of political solidarity and proposed an appointment that was more political than academic.” We managed to pull this off, Nelson suggests, because our dean, provost, and chancellor were hesitant to challenge us. Whatever the reason, what’s clear to Nelson is that our search was not “properly conducted.”

Nelson’s accusation that my colleagues and I are not competent to conduct a search in comparative Indigenous studies runs counter to all available evidence. In this piece and others, Nelson suggests our program had only recently embraced Indigenous studies beyond the US before this search. Yet, in January 2012 two scholars joined us who focus on Pacific Native studies to a faculty that at that point had only four members. Those appointments were the result of increasing engagement and embrace of global Indigenous studies that included postdoctoral fellows whose work focuses outside the US, a two-year initiative focused in large part on comparative indigeneity in the Americas, symposiums that have featured scholars from Aotearoa/New Zealand, Australia, and the Pacific, and a steady stream of lectures and other events focused on global issues of indigeneity (I can report as an eyewitness that Nelson attended, back in 2008, at least one of those events). So, global indigeneity was the opposite of new to us when we were considering Salaita’s appointment. It was, rather, constitutive of what gave our program international prominence (and many would argue preeminence).

American Indian Studies, in fact, was well on the way to gaining the status of the Department of Indigenous Studies before this debacle put those plans on hold. Discussion of this change in name and status began in earnest in 2010 and has continued ever since. Our graduate program, which was approved in 2009, focuses on global indigeneity and is, in fact, a graduate minor in American Indian and Indigenous Studies. So, focusing on global indigeneity was neither novel nor illegitimate when Salaita became a candidate in our search.

The suggestion that we managed to evolve into our commitment to global indigeneity without serious scrutiny and review is, frankly, ridiculous. Proposing the graduate minor, opening our postdoctoral program to scholars from outside the US (the main source of those we’ve recruited who do comparative Indigenous studies), advertising positions that specified global indigeneity among potential specialties, and then recommending faculty appointments of scholars who do Indigenous studies focused outside North America, exposed us to strenuous critical review at each step.

Why Nelson became a darling of Phyllis Wise, our seemingly corrupt and now disgraced former chancellor and her rabidly anti-union, anti-AAUP cronies is something he, of course, will have to answer for. What’s important for me to say is that he is both wrong and wrong-headed in his besmirching of my colleagues in American Indian Studies. He is free to spend his retirement doing whatever he likes, of course, including trying to convince people that he is right about Salaita even though AAUP officers, executive staff, and members along with growing numbers of leaders on the Illinois campus put him in a diminishing minority that is still seeking to justify the fruits of Wise’s flawed leadership. Whatever he chooses, I want him to stop trumping up charges against American Indian Studies faculty in service of his political allegiances. More than anything, I hope the number of those who take Cary Nelson seriously continues to decline, diminish, and dwindle.

31 thoughts on “Another Lesson from Illinois: Beware Tenured Radicals

  1. “Further, he says, we took advantage of “an understandable inclination” of our dean and other administrators “not to challenge the American Indian Studies Program” in adopting the focus on global indigeneity that created the opening through which we recommended Salaita’s hire.” This is just plain old bigotry.

  2. Unfortunately for us, but mostly for him, facts won’t shut Cary Nelson up, because it seems that he is convinced that he alone knows what’s best for all of us — native scholars, the AAUP, the courts. Expect that he will only double down. Personally, I think he is the worst of all the players who are responsible for this debacle because, of that lot, he is the one who should know that the relationship of politics and scholarship is to be negotiated and balanced not disavowed, and that there different ways, according to different histories and structures of oppression, of approaching the matter. But to seize this most serious of academic transgression for the opportunity and attention it provides him, and then (take a year) to build some utterly baseless argument that we (all of us!) are driven only by ideology rather than critical concerns for our fields is pretty sorry.

  3. I actually had some rather interesting conversations with Nelson months ago when some of the facts about the FOIAs were breaking.

    At least as far as his “Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel” goes, I feel he’s raised some important points, qualifications of at least some pro-BDS people among those points.

    On the other hand, creating a generalized apparatus of criticism (external estimations of qualifications and the ability of a department to evaluate them) as a way of then employing it to attack individual instances that you just don’t like … that’s not very principled. Warrior quotes Nelson as saying “the whole academic hiring process disintegrates when a program or department attempts to initiate a faculty hire outside of its areas of competence.” This is clearly pitched as a general principle, one that — in theory — could be applied in an even-handed manner across disciplines, one that — again in theory — could be applied without bias.

    Well yes, but theory isn’t fact. It’s like the (so-called0 Kirkpatrick Doctrine, the authoritarian versus totalitarian regimes, where the former are bad but capable of change, while the latter are unchangeably bad. Fine, but in practice why was it that the regimes we supported were uniformly “authoritarian” while the ones the Russians supported were always “totalitarian?” Was that really good planning on our part, or was it that we picked the label we wanted for the regimes we wanted to support.

    It’s the same thing with Nelson’s statements about departments acting outside “their expertise.” It certainly is a point to argue (expertise), but when it comes down to it, departmental “expertise” is determined by what the department is allowed to do via hiring structure. Maybe this isn’t the strongest affirmative defense of Salaita’s hiring, but basically the department was allowed to hire him, and the hiring was approved, end of story. That’s how shared-governance works after all.

    If Nelson wants to impose an “expertise” principle, how does that work? Does university management decide the confines of the expertise? If cell and molecular biology wants to hire a microbiologist doing some gene sequencing, is that within their expertise? Who decides? If FAA wants to hire a metallurgist who happens to have extensively dabbled in bronze restorations, is that within their “expertise,” or should they be prohibited from doing the hire?

    I suppose one test of Nelson’s even-handedness is whether he offers up examples of people who he dislikes who he thinks were still fairly hired by their department, i.e., the hire was fairly within the department’s expertise. Does he argue that Salaita could have appropriately been appointed by the Palestinian studies department, not that I recall UIUC having such a department?

    Again, it feels like Kirkpatrick all over again. what Nelson wants is reasonable, what everyone else wants is not. A nice argument to make, but only if you’re Nelson.

  4. Let me preface this by saying that I like Cary Nelson quite a bit. That said, I think he is wrong to bring departmental hiring decisions or policies into the Salaita situation. Whether or not Salaita belongs in a Native American Studies department has to be up to members of that department and their decision supported–whether one would personally make a different one or not–out of respect to the idea of shared governance. In other words, I agree with Professor Warrior. All of that, however, becomes something of a red herring when we look at the central question: Was Salaita actually hired? Let me be simplistic and, probably, naive and ignorant of the details: By all outward appearances, he was hired. His firing, then, whether he was tenured or not, broke a contract without any sort of due process. That’s what should be the central focus of our concern. I wish Nelson could see that.

    • What appearances say he was hired? The only document we have that indicates anything remotely approaching hiring him is a letter of intent that specifically states it does not constitute an offer of employment and that such an offer can only be made by the Board of Trustees.

      His firing, then, whether he was tenured or not, broke a contract without any sort of due process.

      Now you go into total fantasy. Not only was he hired but a contract was in effect? OK. Who signed this contract? When did it go into effect? When did it expire? What was the amount of money to be paid to Salaita? What were his duties in exchange for this money? What penalties are outlined for both parties for failure to perform their respective duties.

      There was no contract. This is just fiction that the AAUP keeps repeating.

      As for breach of contract vs. the AAUP’s position you are actually disagreeing. The AAUP keeps arguing that they intend to censure UIUC until they reinstate (i.e. hire him) not until they pay the breach penalties as outlined by the “contract” which you all can’t point to.

      A guy who was grossly unqualified who made his career trafficking in hate was not hired by the board empowered to hire him. The managers who recommend him for hire, Professor Warrior’s department, threw a fit when their advice was rejected and this created controversy. Welcome to the world. Lower management’s advice gets rejected by middle and upper management all the time.

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  6. Which editor at IHE declined to publish this piece?

    Let us not forget what this says about IHE in such matters of dissident points of view, for IHE has increasingly become a source of censorship of faculty speech concerning academia in America. This censorship manifests itself all the way down into the comment sections of articles where the editors enforce their own prejudices with an iron hand, deleting each and every individual comment with which they do not personally agree.

    IHE, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, as well, have become enforcers of the status quo of their editors’ personal preferences — and, given that both publications depend upon the advertisements placed by university administrators — and IHE was recently acquired by Quad Partners, an investor in for-profit higher education (cf. https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-01-16-inside-higher-ed-bought-by-investor-in-for-profit-colleges) — those editorial opinions are increasingly tending towards congruence with corporatized higher education.

    • Cary Nelson understands an anti-Jewish hate group organizing on campus when he sees it. I deal with anti-Jewish groups and anti-Jewish hate groups all the time. Your personal rhetoric in that linked article is actually worse than what most of them think of Jews. Of course you use secular language:

      So instead of Jews being soulless are incapable of Christ’s saving grace.
      You get ” But for supporters of justice in Palestine, there should be no illusions about “reaching” anyone inclined to be persuaded by Nelson’s rhetorical antics

      In both cases there is a vision of the good which Jews cannot by bases of intrinsic mental defect achieve.

      “Anti-Zionist” organizations have ethnically cleansed most of the planet of its Jewish population and he doesn’t want to see the same process repeat on America’s campuses. That’s what Cary Nelson is about. You disagree and want anti-Zionism to become the dominant paradigm. You claim to believe that you can preach classical anti-Judaism with a few word changes “anti-Zionism” non-stop on colleges and not admit what the likely effects will be.

      • To their credit, most of those now involved with the Program for Jewish Culture and Society at the U of Illinois have walked back the traditional support of the program for the Zionist narrative. That has more to do with the events of the past 10 years or so than with resistance from the SJP or BDS movement. They rightfully see Nelson as an embarrassment. The Youtube video that I addressed in my piece seconds that emotion.

      • BTW, I’m Jewish and non-observant. Nevertheless, I have no wish to see Jewish statism, what Marc Ellis calls Constantinian Judaism, to be the dominate force in Jewish-American life. But it is. FYI, I basically agree with Norman Finkelstein’s support for the two-state solution in accordance with international law. But when people like Nelson express their support for two states, they act by attacking BDS. He is, obviously, in no way involved in the pursuit of justice in Palestine. “Pro-Israel, Pro-Palestine, Pro-Peace” has become the evasion of even the most virulent aspects of Zionism: See http://mondoweiss.net/2014/12/dissecting-predictable-necessary

  7. A Zionist hack covers it. His response to Salitia’s twitter comments on Israel -and its supposed anti-semitism -were either in total bad faith or he is the worst reader of texts in English department history. His every utterance on this topic is in bad faith.

    • Steven Salaita called for the deliberate premeditated murder of six hundred thousand people a full on genocide of a region’s Jewish population. There is no supposed about his anti-Semitism.

      If you want to defend free speech then defend free speech. But stop pretending that Salaita is some sort of moral hero when he is a deeply evil man who advocates for and celebrates political murder as long as it is directed towards ethnicities he detests.

  8. @Edward

    The court rejected summary judgement. Using your link, “Taking the facts alleged in the Complaint as true, there is no doubt that the parties’ actions demonstrated their intent to enter into a contract.” That’s a far cry from the judge ruling that those facts are true.

    “A guy who was grossly unqualified who made his career trafficking in hate was not hired by the board empowered to hire him.”

    The Palestinians have a legitimate point of view. They have every right to complain about being kicked out of their homeland, dispossessed, tortured, arbitrarily imprisoned, economically strangled, and having their rights violated.

    Of course the Palestinians have a legitimate point of view objecting to Israeli policy. That has nothing to do with Salaita’s positions however. Salaita isn’t against Israeli policy he is against Israeli’s existence. Salaita doesn’t urge that Israel be reformed but that the society, the nation not just the state be annihilated. He specifically advocates genocide and de-facto enslavement of the population as his preferred means of annihilating the Jewish society. Let’s not pretend he is a policy reformer.

    • @CD-Host,

      I am not sure what you mean by “The court rejected summary judgement.” Mr. Salaita won the case. I am also not sure where your accusations of genocide are coming from. Are you referring to the BDS movement?

      • CD-Host is quite correct, the court ruling was on a legal motion by the defense for summary judgment, which basically is an argument that the claims made by the plaintiff would never survive because they’re facially deficient.

        The court denied the defense motion (UIUC’s motion), stating that there appear to be plenty of arguments that could be made to support the plaintiff (Salaita) in claiming a contract, estoppel etc. This is NOT a judgment in the case, it’s a denial of a motion that, if it had been sustained, would have gotten those claims thrown out.

        The judge certainly did seem to go out of his way to rebut what UIUC has been arguing about their not being a contract, which probably augurs well for Salaita should this go to trial. But again, as CD-Host correctly points out, this is NOT a ruling on the evidence, it’s a ruling on a procedural motion.

      • Prof Salaita didn’t win any case. He won a motion. Andrew’s point below is quite correct. If Salaita had won the case the AAUP would be on much firmer ground. But that hasn’t happened. In particular the people on the board who voted still haven’t testified as to why they voted the way they did. When the case is over the story can be locked down, but at this point the board members could easily walk into court and bring up issues having nothing to do with Twitter.

        As for an advocate for genocide one of the tweets in response to 3 kids being murdered was celebrating it and advocating it on a much broader scale: “I wish all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing” which is advocating the deliberate and premeditated murder of 600,000 people mostly children. That’s genocide.

        That’s not isolated, “This is not a conflict between #Israel and “Hamas.” It’s a struggle by an Indigenous people against a colonial power.” or ““Ever wonder what it would look like if the KKK had F-16s and access to a surplus population of entrapped minorities?” where the colonial power is Jewish inhabitation.

        His books are the same, “Israel’s dead soul”. Playing into the idea that Jews can’t be effectually baptized because their collective soul died when then crucified the savior.

        Again one can make a legitimate free speech claim for Salaita. But to claim that he is anything other than a wannabe psychopath is nonsense.

      • It is true that the judge was determining whether Mr. Salaita’s case could go forward. However, to the extend that the decision has any bearing on the question of whether Mr. Salaita was hired, and not just in a legal context, it supports the affirmative view. CD-Host asks in his original comment, “What appearances say he was hired?”, and the judge’s decision offers an answer to that question. In fact, it probably offers the best case for this view that I have read anywhere.

      • CD-Host,

        The settlers/squatters are controversial. They are living on land stolen from other people. They take water from the Palestinians, they take their farmland and their prosperity. Many commit crimes against the Palestinians with impunity, harassing them, making their lives miserable, and even killing them, under the protection of the Israeli army. It should not come as a surprise that Palestinians such as Steven Salaita want them to “go missing”. I interpret this to mean “get the hell off our land” and not to be a call for the “premeditated murder of 600,000 people”.

        As for the other two statements:

        It’s a struggle by an Indigenous people against a colonial power.” or ““Ever wonder what it would look like if the KKK had F-16s and access to a surplus population of entrapped minorities?”

        I don’t see a problem with them. How is Israel not a colonial power? How are the Palestinians not indigenous?

  9. @David

    To their credit, most of those now involved with the Program for Jewish Culture and Society at the U of Illinois have walked back the traditional support of the program for the Zionist narrative.

    Nonsense. Let’s take a look at the Fall 2015 courses

    CWL 320. Literary Responses to the Holocaust
    A focus on the holocaust is a key component of the Zionist narrative as it shows the futility (in Zionist theory) of attempts at assimilation.

    GER 260. The Holocaust in Context
    Centuries of anti-semitism

    3 courses on modern Hebrew. Of course the movement to resurrect Hebrew was an early Zionist movement.

    5 history courses 4 of which are almost explicitly Zionist:
    HIST 135. History of Islamic Middle East
    HIST 337. Middle East Since World War I
    HIST 355. Soviet Jewish History — ends with the mass emigration as the natural outcome
    HIST 433. The History of Jews in the Diaspora — The title is quite Zionist

    Only HIST 281. Constructing Race in America is not explicitly Zionist.

    etc…

    The only course I can see which is even marginally anti-Zionist is:
    YDSH 102. Elementary Yiddish II

    BTW, I’m Jewish and non-observant. Nevertheless, I have no wish to see Jewish statism, what Marc Ellis calls Constantinian Judaism, to be the dominate force in Jewish-American life.

    What does your wishing it or not wishing have to do with whether it is or isn’t the dominate force?

    But it is. FYI, I basically agree with Norman Finkelstein’s support for the two-state solution in accordance with international law. But when people like Nelson express their support for two states, they act by attacking BDS. He is, obviously, in no way involved in the pursuit of justice in Palestine.

    Nelson doesn’t live in Palestine, he lives in America. He’s dealing with an outburst of an anti-Jewish movement in America centered at American Universities and colleges not events in Palestine. UIUC is not in Palestine either. The question was the environment that Salaita intended to create for Jews living in Illinois not actions abroad.

    • Certainly no institutionalized “anti-Zionism” (your phrase) at UIUC/PJCS. But, ironically, instead of the Holocaust being used to promote Zionism, it has become a scholarly refuge from the worst aspects of Really Existing Zionism as personified by Israeli criminality. So let’s talk about the Holocaust, not about Israel, is the way I understand it. Israel has become, at least, an embarrassment. The Salaita affair brought that embarrassment to the fore, combined of course with massacres of small children.

      Hebrew is being taught by Sayad Kashua, a Palestinian Israeli and certainly no Zionist. I doubt that the new woman teaching Yiddish is much of a Zionist either; nor Brett Kaplan, now head of PJCS.

      It’s ludicrous to refer to “an outburst of an anti-Jewish movement in America.” That’s the worst sort of Zionist propaganda. There hasn’t been an “anti-Jewish” sentiment expressed at UIUC during my 17 years here. There has been plenty of Israel Lobbying: http://mondoweiss.net/2012/02/the-israel-lobby-on-campus-in-illinois-a-challenge-for-bds

      • @David

        That’s the worst sort of Zionist propaganda. There hasn’t been an “anti-Jewish” sentiment expressed at UIUC during my 17 years here

        Of course there has. Heck you are at UIUC evidently and your characterization of Judaism/Zionism is “a personification of criminality”. Again that’s worse than what most openly anti-semitic groups would say about Jews. Most of those groups would be far more nuanced in their hatred. It is hard to come up with any analogy to anti-Zionism but a potential one is Charles Coughlin who paid lip service to being opposed to anti-Semitism while engaging in weekly Jew baiting on his radio show.

        The fact is that on your campus Jews have been mocked, intimidated, attacked and threatened. There are regular newspaper reports of anti-Jewish demonstrations at UIUC and while the groups engaging in them are niche it is a growing problem. Steven Salaita is tied to this because he feels the level of anti-Jewish hatred is way too low globally and has dedicated his life to generating more of it. Salaita doesn’t engage in violence directly the same way Coughlin never engaged in violence. But just as Coughlin worked hard to aid the Christian front who organized boycotts of Jewish businesses (the B in BDS) so as to “send the Jews back where they came from” Salaita works hard to organize anti-Jewish boycotts to displace the Jewish colonists of Israel.

        I know how you can possibly in a principled way distinguish BDS/SJP/Salaita from the Christian Front / Charles Coughlin. Jews in the 1930 organized against the Christian front and then there were Jews analogous to yourself who really did believe in the Jewish-Bolshivick conspiracy. The ideology and most of the rhetoric is the same.

        I get why you don’t consider Salaita or Coughlin to be anti-Semitic since they both deny they are. But most Jews would argue that people who dedicate their lives to stocking anti-Jewish hatred have anti-Jewish sentiment.

        As for the reality of the situation… You can’t talk about the holocaust in a Jewish context without talking about the Jewish response to the holocaust which was European Jews unifying around Zionism for the refugees. There is no distinguishing the two, they are part of the same continuum of events. The answer to the holocaust in a Jewish context is Israel. The same way you can’t talk about Michelson–Morley experiment in Physics outside the context of relativity. The holocaust is understood today as Zionist. Anti-zionism minimizes the holocaust as a special circumstance not a logical outcome of Jewish life. Courses like, “The Holocaust in Context” are Zionist because they understand the Holocaust as arising from the circumstances of European Jewry. You may not understand Zionism well.

        Nor has Israel become an embarrassment to Jews. Jews are no more embarrassed about Zionism because SJPers disagree with it, than Blacks are about their rising station in the south because Dylann Roof was threatened by it. It is time to stop making up reality.

        For example the Hillel at UIUC mentions Israel twice in their mission statement: Hillel’s mission is to enrich the lives of Jewish undergraduate and graduate students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world. Hillel seeks to create a pluralistic, welcoming and inclusive environment for Jewish college students: an environment where students are encouraged to grow intellectually, spiritually and socially. Hillel helps students find their own balance in being distinctively Jewish and universally human. It does this by providing opportunities to pursue tzedek (social justice); helping students to engage with critical Jewish issues in the US, Israel and around the world through experiences in Israel, Eastern Europe and helping to “repair the world” (tikkun olam). Hillel encourages Jewish learning and celebration and provides students with an opportunity to explore culture and the arts. The Hillels of Illinois creates a variety of ways that students can advocate for and support Jews in Israel and around the world. Hillel seeks to inspire every Jewish student to find their own approach to making an enduring commitment to Jewish life. That’s embracing not rejecting Israel and Zionism. You are seeing what you want to see.

        Normal people are willing to over look imperfections in their faith relations. Catholic students are celebrating the Pope’s visit even while being fully aware of elements of Catholic history or even current church policy they disagree with. Pentecostal students may be embarrassed by preachers of their faith exploiting the gullible with prosperity gospel that doesn’t make them embarrassed of Christ. Muslim students may not agree with ISIS that doesn’t make them reject the Qu’ran. Similarly there is no evidence of Jews turning away from Zionism and being embarrassed. Virtually every Jewish institution is aggressively and actively Zionist. Jewish schools hold their annual city parade on or around Israeli independence day and wave the Israeli flag, as the Jewish flag. Mainstream Judaism and even most fringe Judaism today is Zionist. Israel being imperfect doesn’t excuse flagrant Jew baiting.

  10. @Edward

    Steven Salaita was born in West Virginia not Palestine. Salaita is indigenous to America not Palestine. The whole point of the 13th and 14th amendment of our constitution is a rejection of the sort of racial approach to land you are advocating. The neighborhood I live in today is Hispanic. A few decades ago it was black. The Hispanics are not illegitimate colonial occupiers throwing the blacks off their land. So if you want my opinion I’d reject your entire framing of the debate as simply pure racism.

    The Israeli settlers did not steal land. You live in your home based on either a lease or a deed issued by the governing authority. The settlers living in homes have leases issued by governing of that territory.

    As for what Salaita meant. The context as I mentioned was right after a murder. Yes he was calling for the premeditated murder of hundreds of thousands of people. ISIS is perfectly content if the Yazidi leave before they get there, “get the hell off our land” to use your expression. That doesn’t make ISIS’s attitude any less genocidal. What you are mostly saying is you agree the the genocide because you believe in doctrine of racial land entitlement. Which is an opinion you are entitled to. But your agreeing with Salaita that Jews should be subjected to genocide is not the same thing as Salaita having not expressed that opinion.

    Most Americans are disgusted by these “indigenous rights” views. They are disgusted when Donald Trump advocates throwing millions out of the country because they were “anchor babies” and they are disgusted when Salaita argues for mass murder because Jews who have lived there for generations aren’t indigenous to Palestine while he because he’s the right race is.

  11. @CD-Host,

    Complaining about outsiders invading your country, terrorizing the inhabitants to leave, stealing their land, and setting up Jewish-only settlements is not advocating a “racial approach to land”. It is complaining about an injustice that has been condemned in many UN resolutions. You write that “The settlers living in homes have leases issued by governing of that territory.” That governing authority has about as much legitimacy to issue leases as the Nazi government did in Poland.

    Steven Salaita was born in West Virginia from Palestinian parents. He sees Palestinians as humans and is upset by their murder in Gaza recently.

  12. @Edward

    There are no “outsiders invading their country”. The settlers are mostly children born in the settlements. Those that aren’t children are mostly adults born in Israel. Those that aren’t are people born in Israel for a quarter century. The only way to talk about invaders is to talk in terms of racial land entitlement. Moreover there was never a country of Palestine, it was always a province. I get that the people of Oregon didn’t like the migration of Californians to Oregon but we wouldn’t tolerate native Oregonians bombing Californians who had moved north. Nor would we tolerate talking about the Californians in Oregon the way you talk about Jews in the settlements.

    Everyone sees Palestinians as humans. The question is not whether Palestinians are humans. Never has been. You have a problem with Jews that them moving into a neighborhood is some sort of great injustice. As does Salaita. And that’s why people objected. Change the races in your analogy and it sounds ridiculous or incredibly offensive.

    As for Jewish only housing. It wasn’t Jewish only before the violence. In Jerusalem the housing is mixed and the people complaining about the West Bank still complain. I’m not a big fan about unmixed housing either. I’d like to see a lot more mixing in Israel where it can be done safely. The ultimate solution to housing discrimination is the one we used in the United States: end incentives towards ethnic neighborhoods and where needed make laws to cross between neighborhoods. The solution to housing discrimination should not be genocide.

    As I said in my previous post. You aren’t showing that Salaita is not a hard core racist. You are just agreeing with Salaita that Jews are scum that no decent people, in particular the Palestinians, should have to live with. Sorry you aren’t going to convince me that this position has moral legitimacy. I don’t have a problem with Jews, I don’t have a problem with Jews living in my neighborhood. I don’t have a problem with Jews in my workplace. I don’t have a problem with Jews living in the West Bank.

    That’s not to say I agree with every Israeli law, I don’t agree with every American law either. But if I’m upset by an American law I don’t talk about killing off huge chunks of the American population, rather I lobby the government for a change in policy.

    Salaita is perfectly free to believe that Jews are so intrinsically evil that it is unreasonable to believe in peaceful coexistence with them. What he is not free to do is have that position treated like a normal and non-controversial view in American politics. Salaita is also free to be a political activist who has dedicated his life to introducing college students to anti-Semitism. Salaita is not free to expect having that sort of life-mission won’t be considered in whether he gets hired or not. One of the jobs of executive management is to step in when subordinates err in hiring.

    You want to make a free speech case, fine. You want to talk procedure that gets interesting. You want to talk the moral legitimacy of Salaita you first have to take positions that you would apply to other ethnic groups in other ethnic conflicts.

  13. Just out of curiosity: This appears to be a debate between professors of English and other Humanities, dealing with deep matters. People who are paid to teach my students to write. So let me ask:

    Is the word “dominate” an adjective, or is the right usage “dominant”? Don’t you teach the difference between “there” as in location and “their” as in possession?

    The state of college education in the Humanities in America is truly frightening. I hope some College Principles take note. Or should that be Collage Principals? If you can’t even spell in your own language, how do you expect people to believe that you can reason on complex matters and educate others to do so?

    • Everybody makes typos (and sometimes autocorrect makes them for us), especially in lengthy, quickly-written comments that aren’t edited, and as in most of the internet, authors can’t change their comments later. Actually, the high quality of writing in comments here (see: the rest of the internet) is a heartening sign for the state of college education in the humanities.

  14. Pingback: The 25 Most Read Posts to the Academe Blog in 2015 | The Academe Blog

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