The Personnel is Political

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees today voted 8-1 not to reinstate Steven Salaita.

Trustee James Montgomery, who last Friday publicly broached his misgivings about the university’s decision to hirefire Salaita, was the sole vote on behalf of Salaita. Though Montgomery had originally signed a statement supporting Chancellor Wise, he said, “I’m just someone who has the humility to be able to say that I think I made a mistake and I don’t mind saying it.” Here is his eloquent testimony.


Needless to say, the vote today sucks, and there is no use sugar-coating it. While it’s testament to the movement we’ve mounted that the Board was forced to publicly confront this issue, and that we managed to persuade one trustee to change his mind (from reports I’ve heard, other trustees did as well, but they are student trustees who have no voting power), our power and our principles proved in the end not to be enough to match the donors’ purse strings.

So it looks like a legal remedy will now be pursued. I’m using the passive voice because I have no idea what Salaita and his lawyers are planning, though the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is representing Salaita, did put out a statement after the Board vote. And the ever charming Chair of the Board of Trustees had this to say:

“I assume the attorneys will reach out and work something out or understand their position more clearly. We are not looking to be held up. We want to be fair but we don’t want to be pushovers,” board Chairman Christopher Kennedy said after the meeting. “Either they will sue or we will settle. It is hard to predict what another party will do. … Am I going to give you my playbook on a negotiating matter?”

The legal route is one path, an important path, but it’s not the only path, and more important, it’s not our path. That is, the path of all of us who have spoken out on this case.

Our path is not legal; it is political. It’s not about lawyers, it’s not about courtrooms. It’s about principles and movements, words on the web, bodies on the ground, and voices in the street. It is about power. How we deploy that power, I don’t know. That we will deploy that power, I am sure. Now is the time to think creatively and collectively.

In the meantime, I wanted to take note of a comment Chancellor Wise made in an interview to the Chronicle of Higher Education:

People are mixing up this individual personnel issue with the whole question of freedom of speech and academic freedom.

It’s a telling statement, revealing an archipelago of assumption that I’ve been tackling in all my work since my first book. In Wise’s world, freedom of speech stands on one side, employment on the other, and never the twain shall meet. It’s almost as if, to her mind, we’re making a category error when we speak of both in the same breath.

And it’s not just Wise who thinks this way. About two weeks ago on Twitter, I heard a similar remark from a young progressive journalist (I won’t link to the comment because I don’t want to draw negative attention or criticism to this person, who went on to express a willingness to rethink her position). Rights and repression are one thing, employment sanctions another. The philosopher Gerald Dworkin voiced an attenuated version of that argument, too.

Yet as I’ve argued on this and other blogs countless times, employment sanctions are in fact one of the most common methods of political repression in this country. Remember that anecdote Tocqueville reported in his journals, about how he asked a doctor in Baltimore why in a country that had so much formal religious freedom there was such a compulsion toward orthodoxy. Without hesitating, the doctor said it was all about the making and breaking of private careers.

If a minister, known for his piety, should declare that in his opinion a certain man was an unbeliever, the man’s career would almost certainly be broken. Another example: A doctor is skilful, but has no faith in the Christian religion. However, thanks to his abilities, he obtains a fine practice. No sooner is he introduced into the house than a zealous Christian, a minister or someone else, comes to see the father of the house and says: look out for this man. He will perhaps cure your children, but he will seduce your daughters, or your wife, he is an unbeliever. There, on the other hand, is Mr. So-and-So. As good a doctor as this man, he is at the same time religious. Believe me, trust the health of your family to him. Such counsel is almost always followed.

The state needn’t punish men and women for their heresies; the private sector will do it for them. That’s why during the McCarthy years so few people went to jail. Two hundred tops. Because it was in the workplace that Torquemada found his territory: some twenty to forty percent of employees, monitored, investigated, or otherwise subject to surveillance for their beliefs. The ruling elites in this country have always understood what Hamilton wrote in Federalist 79:

In the general course of human nature, a power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will.

Which brings us back to Steven Salaita. As I argued on Labor Day, it’s easy to see his case as simply one of academic freedom or the rights of tenured professors. It is that, but it’s more. It’s about the use of employment sanctions for political ends, the peculiarities and particularities of Fear, American Style, which do not apply only to Steven Salaita. They apply to all at-will employees, to that terra incognita of private governance that is the American workplace. Salaita is but the latest in a long line of victims.

While the pro-Israel forces show no compunction about using the weapons of state to enforce their orthodoxies, the sphere of employment, particularly in the academy, where one most often hears views critical of Israel, will become increasingly the scene of the censor. It already has: as I said the other day, my first battle over Israel/Palestine was to defend an adjunct in my department who had been fired for his (mistakenly construed) views on Israel/Palestine.

The issue is not simply Israel/Palestine; it’s the growing assault on fundamental rights and the increasing push toward precarity that has become the experience of workers everywhere.

If we’re going to fight this in the academy, we’re going to have to fight it the way every worker has ever had to fight: not only in courts of law, but also in the streets; not just with the help of lawyers, but also with help of each other; not simply with our smarts, but also with our feet. With unions, strikes, boycotts—the entire repertoire of collective action and militancy that gave this country whatever minimal (and ever fading) semblance of decency it has managed to achieve.


  1. Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant September 11, 2014 at 5:42 pm | #

    Don’t mourn.


    I write this as an active (and activist) union member.

  2. joeff September 11, 2014 at 5:47 pm | #

    Kennedy practically invited Salaita to name his price (…”fair but not pushovers.”).
    PS–I like to think RFK would be ashamed of his son.

    • David Green September 11, 2014 at 5:58 pm | #

      Right, RFK would have simply put out a hit on him.

      • joeff September 11, 2014 at 6:04 pm | #

        On Salaita or Chris K?

    • Scott Lemieux September 11, 2014 at 9:46 pm | #

      OTOH, the RFK who was a McCarthy goon in the late 50s would have been all too proud of his soon.

    • jonnybutter September 11, 2014 at 9:47 pm | #

      Why would you think that? Or rather, I know why you would *like* to think it, but why *would* you (by implication) do so? Just curious.

      I think at the moment this Board face is part bluff, and part real. The board wants you to believe they don’t care about what these liberal arts groups think, with their boycotts and all that, but I bet they also might be prepared to really *not* care, if it came to that. I think people like this – and they are all over the country in public institutions – are willing to piss away their institution’s long term value if it’s a big enough one-time power grab for them. Look at it from their squalid point of view: you get rid of the fucking hippies, you build a bunch of buildings, etc. Take value out of the institution. Be a rich big shot who can point to a lot of buildings, and retire. If you are cynical as hell, what’s not to like?

      The political exemplar of our time is surely Evan Bayh rather than Birch Bayh; Mitt Romney, not George; George W not George HW., Andrew, not Mario (well, not Mario either). Cynical as hell. Easy to imagine the possibility of these fathers being at least privately ashamed of the sons they raised. Less sure what the elder Kennedy would think. He cultivated a ‘tough’ and combative image and was not ashamed of it. I’ll assume his son is also not the slightest bit ashamed of it.

      *I* would like to think that the elder Kennedy would have at least thought twice about doing something so pointlessly stupid: our having, 25+ years ago, started down this road of hollowing out the US’s great public education system for ephemeral short term personal gain, and to mollify the authoritarian cohort. But I guess we’ll never know

  3. David Green September 11, 2014 at 5:56 pm | #

    At the U of I, where I work (but am not faculty), we have exposed (if most didn’t already know) a rift between the “hard sciences” and liberal arts. But as far as dissidents (or even 1st Amendment advocates), the liberal arts include few from economics, sociology, and political science. So we are left with history, English, ethnic/area/gender studies. Illinois is somewhat unique in that it values its “prestige” in terms of science/technology/agriculture, but aspires to the same prestige in the liberal arts and social sciences, so as to not feel too inferior to Wisconsin and Michigan, etc. Illinois doesn’t want to be seen as Virginia Tech–oops! In this state, however, the University of Chicago and Northwestern largely hold sway in the humanities and social sciences, and the U of I is “downstate” rather than near a major urban area. Administration wants the historians, etc. to be illustrious on the one hand and politically quiescent on the other hand. It will be interesting to see what choices are made by principled but embattled individuals in this mostly right-wing or apathetic campus and community, individually but more important collectively. It’s not only about the faculty of course, but some critical mass of firm commitment from them will be needed, I would think. We ask too much of students to lead this effort, even though they largely are.

    • an observer, not an academic September 11, 2014 at 7:36 pm | #

      U of I is the flagship state university. No it is not UChicago or Northwestern, but neither is UNC like Duke. As one who was raised in the Chicago area, I know U of I has had a very good reputation as a school where children can get a good and somewhat affordable education. If that is no longer true, then that is a shame. And I wonder, if that is true, why that is so.

      This situation was botched horribly by U of I administration. It is absurd to ask someone to quit and move upon the hope that the one remaining approval will happen. They will pay a hefty sum to Salaita to resolve this. That’s a shame for the state, which is in an economic shambles anyway.

      Yes, we have freedom to speak our mind in America. It is a shame when we wallow at length in the slime pits of Internet trolls in terms of language and argumentation. Academics can do better. Wondering how American we’d be if Jefferson, Hamilton et. al. had loudly and repeatedly screamed “Fuck George!” in those printed tracts of theirs…

      • Edward September 11, 2014 at 8:03 pm | #

        ” Wondering how American we’d be if Jefferson, Hamilton et. al. had loudly and repeatedly screamed “Fuck George!” in those printed tracts of theirs…”

        Actually, as I understand it, political discourse was quite rough in those days. I am more worried about the lies and propaganda we are constantly being told by our government and the press these days.

      • Boethius September 12, 2014 at 6:46 am | #

        “U of I is the flagship state university. No it is not UChicago or Northwestern, but neither is UNC like Duke. As one who was raised in the Chicago area, I know U of I has had a very good reputation as a school where children can get a good and somewhat affordable education. If that is no longer true, then that is a shame. And I wonder, if that is true, why that is so.”

        This is exactly right. When push comes to shove incivility is a pretty weak reed to justify what the UIUC administration has done. It’s the hackery that burns.

        The students in the universities, undergraduates especially, are in a difficult but salvageable situation. They need universities to prepare them for the world after graduation (assuming they graduate, or even if they don’t). The Salaitas on the faculty give them debt bondage and no education.

        This doesn’t solve all the problems of the academy of course, but at least for today we can take one small step for real education and against hackery.

        • Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant September 12, 2014 at 9:55 am | #

          “The Salaitas on the faculty give them debt bondage and no education.”


          Professors do not charge tuition at universities, and they don’t issue student loans.

          Professors profess. Their salaries, which have been falling for decades, are not — NOT — the source of rising tuition rates. Part of the reason is the refusal of the government to support higher education thanks to cut backs. Add to that the shrinking presence of unionized labor force in higher ed, in and out of the professoriate, the strategy of using part-time/contingent teaching staff to keep labor costs down and workers in a constant state of economic uncertainty.

          The turn to loans to cover the costs of tuition invites universities to raise their tuition rates in order to get their hands on that money.

          Jeebus Christ, do I really have to remind you of that??

      • Boethius September 12, 2014 at 1:54 pm | #

        “Professors profess. Their salaries, which have been falling for decades, are not — NOT — the source of rising tuition rates. Part of the reason is the refusal of the government to support higher education thanks to cut backs.”

        No, no no. The problem with the cost of higher education is just that, the cost. Who pays the cost is a secondary problem to that, whether it’s the students, parents, loans, or the government.

        Because there is so little accountability in academia, there is a powerful tendency for political maneuvering and cronyism to build a strong institutional presence there on behalf of whoever is willing to spend the time and energy, in this case the professional enthusiasts of cultural alienation. So, in this case we can at least be grateful that for one day at least, the hacks lost.

  4. Margaret Somers September 11, 2014 at 6:15 pm | #

    An extraordinary commentary, Corey.

  5. RJB September 11, 2014 at 6:17 pm | #

    Has an ironic philosophical conundrum been created? What will/what should be, the stance of the many who have refused association with the U of I because of this controversy, honorably I think, towards the person next chosen to fill the position that has been denied to Salaita?

    • Scribe September 11, 2014 at 6:41 pm | #

      This won’t be an issue for a long time. Given the notoriety of this case it’s unlikely that the administration will approve a replacement search anytime in the near future.

      Keep in mind that even after Salaita was hired, the department was already down one tenured professor. Now they’re down two.

      Fall is when hiring decisions are confirmed for the upcoming academic year. The department was not authorized to hire a replacement this year, so it will be at least two years before there’s another hire. Depending on the retaliatory inclinations of the administration – it could be even longer.

    • Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant September 11, 2014 at 6:49 pm | #

      Interesting question.

      Scenarios: 1) No one will take the job because its “condition” is now radioactive; 2) The job itself will be eliminated and the likely planned courses will be cancelled; 3) If the job is filled, no student will take the class and it will recall Schopenhauer’s lectures that became legendary because they were [allegedly — does anyone know that to be true?] given in an empty classroom; 4) Professor Abraham Foxman will teach the glorious history of the Great State of Israel with an endowment from AIPAC.

  6. sadbillionaire September 11, 2014 at 6:48 pm | #

    Profound, necessary commentary for a pathetic day in the history of American civil liberties.

  7. Susan Davis September 11, 2014 at 6:49 pm | #

    Thanks Corey. It’s not fun to be the bull’s eye campus for an academic freedom fight. But we are, and we’ll fight. We unionized our full-time non-tenure track colleagues last year, and we think we can show our tenure track colleagues that only a union can give them protection from an administration that thinks it can and should monitor our speech 24/7. Because that’s what Wise et all have said they’ll do.

    • aravistarkheena September 12, 2014 at 2:51 pm | #

      Is this an academic freedom fight?

      Suppose that another professor, who took the opposite view of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict from that of Dr. Salaita, had repeatedly called publicly for the murder of pro-Palestinian opinion writers and journalists and celebrated the killing of children in Gaza. And suppose that professor had been called on the carpet for these public comments and fired.

      Would you be defending him on the basis of academic freedom?

      • Ligurio September 13, 2014 at 11:43 pm | #

        You’ve de facto admitted below that Salaita does NOT call for the murder of Goldberg in his tweet. You might want to update your comment here to reflect as much.

  8. js. September 11, 2014 at 7:17 pm | #

    Very sad. But excellent piece; thanks. And I do hope the boycott continues and UI continues to feel its repercussions.

  9. Edward September 11, 2014 at 7:49 pm | #

    I applaud James Montgomery for changing his position but I am puzzled by his comments. At the beginning of his remarks he seems to be asserting there is a free speech problem. Toward the end, however, he states there is no such problem but rather a governance problem of giving academics a say in these decisions. I think he is trying to find a face saving way for the board and chancellor to reverse their decision.

  10. Robin Messing September 11, 2014 at 8:15 pm | #

    It is possible–not likely, but possible–that this could be a good thing in the long run IF Salaita’s lawyers don’t settle for just going after the university and its trustees. IF they can go after the donor(s) who threatened to withhold money if the university didn’t fire Salaita then this could have a deterrent effect on other donors looking to buy a Board of Trustees. Now, as I’ve said before, I’m no lawyer. And I don’t have all the facts. So it is conceivable that contrary to appearances, the trustees were not swayed by financial considerations. But IF the facts support a case of tortious interference of contract, I hope Salaita’s lawyers go for it, and I hope the judge awards punitive damages. A win in such a highly visible case will make others think twice before trying to stomp on the free speech rights of others by, in effect, bribing their employers.

  11. Rich Puchalsky September 11, 2014 at 9:44 pm | #

    Some time, after this has all been settled, we should compare the political impact of Salaita sending rude, uncivil Tweets with what would have been gained if he had been polite. My guess is that polite Tweets would have remained politely unheard, while his uncivil ones — we shall see.

    • University of Florida September 11, 2014 at 10:18 pm | #

      The issue of academic freedom is just one layer in this case (and in the big picture of things, there shouldn’t be an academic freedom for some, and no freedom for others). The real issues in the Salaita case are systemic. This has been a case that has highlighted the existent brutal censorships of people’s basic freedoms and rights, albeit masked under the hypocritical pretend layers of democratic processes. If there were any freedom around, with the thousands of faculty in the country, there should have been not 18,000 signing the petition, but at least 100 times more that number. Instead, this topic has not even made it to major University towns local news. Silence reigns in many University towns news. Not too long ago in the dictatorship countries of the European East, a writer or an academic who deviated from the Party line, was routinely ousted, and ruined for life. But there was no pretense. The censorship rules were clear and transparent.

    • #TheAnswerIsInThisRoom September 12, 2014 at 1:51 am | #

      same can be said of Israel. Had Israel’s elected leaders over the decades chosen to act civilly toward and made peace with the population in the territories they occupied, and not inflicted siege, death and oppression, Salaita would never have felt compelled to post tweets critical of Israel’s actions. In the scheme of historical events, I imagine that to any reasonable, moral and just-minded person, Salaita’s tweets (however you wish to interpret them) are inconsequential, whereas Israel’s actions have far greater negative impact.

      • David September 12, 2014 at 11:07 am | #

        Because Prof. Salaita appears to want Israel to disappear, or to be disappeared, I doubt that a pro-Oslo, or even Peace-Now-oriented, Israeli policy, whose absence I (sometimes despairingly) deplore, would have dissuaded him from posting tweets critical of Israel. Perhaps, however, his language would have been less troubling. (Which is not to say that his actual use of troubling language justifies the UI board’s vote.)

      • Edward September 12, 2014 at 2:01 pm | #

        @ David,

        I am not aware of Prof. Salaita calling for Israel to disappear, so you are making a straw man argument. By the way, what about Israel wanting the Palestinians to disappear?

      • aravistarkheena September 12, 2014 at 2:41 pm | #

        You can hardly offer this description of the post-67 scenario between Israel and the Palestinians as uncontroversial fact. This is *one* perspective on the conflict.

        But what does it have to do with Salaita? I am a department head at a large public university. If one of my faculty started publicly calling for the murder of journalists — Salaita called for the murder of Jeffrey Goldberg — and celebrating the murder of teenagers, you can bet he/she would be in a whole lot of hot water, no matter what the reason for his/her outburst.

      • bor September 12, 2014 at 3:42 pm | #

        BDS is calling for Israel to disappear in its present form.

        Salaita is one of the co-founders of the academic arm of the BDS movement.

      • David September 13, 2014 at 10:45 am | #

        Edward writes:

        “I am not aware of Prof. Salaita calling for Israel to disappear, so you are making a straw man argument. By the way, what about Israel wanting the Palestinians to disappear?”

        In 1967, the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza was approximately 950,000.
        In 1997, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the population of the Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, was 2,783,804, and in 2013 it was 4,420,549.
        These data hardly suggest that the State of Israel wanted in any meaningful sense for “the Palestinians to disappear.” (This is NOT to justify the occupation policies of various Israeli governments vis-a-vis Palestinians, the implanting and expansion of settlements, etc.)

        Now, what about Prof. Salaita? In the context of three abducted, missing, and murdered Israeli teenagers, expressing the “wish [that] all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing” supports a conclusion stronger than that he wants Israel to “disappear.” I was trying, however, to use a less bloodthirsty, euphemistic word, albeit one with a certain resonance.

        But let’s be clear: Prof. Salaita’s advocacy of and work to achieve a one-state arrangement, which Noam Chomsky, for example, sees as a break with the “international consensus for a two-state peace settlement (Chomsky prefers no states),,1, should make you aware that Prof. Salaita doesn’t merely not want Israel to exist, he is working to achieve its non-existence.

        Indeed, according to Prof. Salaita, efforts for a one-state–that is, a no more Israel–arrangement “go[] hand-in-hand with BDS as an activist movement.” Prof. Salaita adds: “I feel like the move towards a one-state solution and the move to pressure Israel via boycott are two sides of the same coin.”

        None of this, IMHO, justifies the UI board’s treatment of Prof. Salaita. In substance, I think, he had been hired into a tenured position. Even if his conduct, taken as a whole, has been incompatible with his status as a tenured UI professor (about which I am insufficiently informed), he ought to have been afforded the due process rights of any other tenured UI professor. But defending academic freedom and due process is NOT the same as defending Prof. Salaita’s conduct.

  12. Utpreksha September 11, 2014 at 10:24 pm | #

    As a former international graduate student at UIUC (Bioengineering) it’s disappointing to see what’s unfolding. These events however confirm that my decision to leave UIUC and the United States (Despite the offer of an academic appointment) for my home country was the right one to make. In my country, I can criticize Israeli war crimes without fear of censure or being likened to an anti-Semite. On the other hand It seems that the ‘Land of the free’ is actually not so free in reality.

    It’s telling that James Montgomery is the only trustee to vote differently. As he says:

    “Montgomery recalled being a student at the Urbana campus 55 years ago when the university embraced housing discrimination against African-Americans and noted, “I guess I was almost as vocal as Professor Salaita when I carried my picket signs around this campus.”” [ ]

    As someone who has actually been at the receiving end of racial discrimination, Montgomery knows what it’s like. Unlike, Chris Kennedy who seems to be drunk on power (From what I can see of his patronizing comments about and towards Salaita) and the belief that he can do whatever he wants and get away with it.

    Unfortunately, I don’t see a happy end to this situation for Prof. Salaita. After seeing what’s happened to the likes of Norman Finkelstein, I think power and wealth will continue to hold sway in corporate America.

    • thom prentice phd September 12, 2014 at 11:17 am | #

      Chris Kennedy is the most despicable of the Kennedy children, utterly despicable. His father is rolling in his grave, disturbing the topsoil at Arlington.

      • LFC September 12, 2014 at 12:29 pm | #

        I just quickly looked through the entry on Christopher Kennedy at Wikipedia. It’s true he hasn’t become a public-interest lawyer or activist like his brother Robert F. Kennedy Jr., but he appears to be a businessman with some sense of social responsibility (see the section on Top Box Foods), also pro-environment. Apart from his stance on Salaita, there doesn’t seem to be much in C. Kennedy’s career to date that would cause RFK to react the way you suggest.

  13. bor September 12, 2014 at 1:37 am | #

    It’s fascinating to see the “lessons” learned here because they suggest very little, if any, soul-searching by the author of this piece or the commenters.

    Permit me to pose some alternative thoughts. Before I do, I should mention that while Corey Robin has permitted me to post here, I’ve attempted to present ideas and information that can be verified, argued and demonstrated. Even if your conclusions to the material information and ideas that I provide are different than mine, there is something to debate. I have also not besmirched any groups and haven’t precluded them from the rest of humanity. The responses I’ve received have been mostly shallow, hostile deflections. Even Corey simply dismissed things that I wrote although my search to find evidence of his brief, dismissive argument brought virtually zero evidence to back up his confident, hostile remarks.

    To my thoughts on Salaita and UIUC…

    My first thought is that you might not wish to put the onus of carrying the political weight of this event on Salaita. Short of getting some Saudi funding, he most likely needs to find a way to feed his family and get back on his feet. If instead of doing so, you saddle him with having to maintain a certain public posture instead of settling and pocketing an amount that will probably support the family for a couple of years, if not more, he may end up getting screwed again.

    Second, there appears to be very little soul searching here about what Salaita wrote in various forums and what it means in a larger context. Instead, the conversation has been (mis)directed toward the issue of academic freedom, as if this is a professor who wrote some extraordinarily unconventional theory that broke new ground but his peers or administration have been unable to contain their professional hostility and therefore dismissed him.

    Instead, the accusation are all of a piece regarding the power of donors. Oh sorry, and the horrors of “civility.”

    That isn’t what happened here. The evidence that this isn’t what happened here is that someone with political views similar to Salaita’s headed and continues to head the department that hired him. In fact, there is zero evidence that UIUC has blocked other candidates from being hired on the basis of their political views, their scholarship or any other marker that would indicate that academic freedom is the issue in the Salaita matter.

    There is also very little evidence that donors caused this un-hiring to happen. For example, of the dozens of emails released by the university in the batch of 430, only a handful included letters from donors. Most of the others were students, parents, alumni and outsiders.

    Rather, what differentiates Salaita from the scholars at UIUC who are presently employed there are that 1. he has expressed extremely noxious sentiments about groups of people using a very public platform, and by noxious, I mean statements that are easily construed to mean advocacy for kidnapping and murder as well as statements that demean people whose ideology and politics don’t fall in line with his; and 2. that he did so, very publicly, before he entered his new position.

    Both of these issues, neither of which involves academic research, commentary or teaching of any sort, demonstrate extremely poor judgement on his part, or at least a sense of immature entitlement that is very distant from the spirit of academic freedom for which tenure is provided. They also demonstrate that the person in question has a fundamental disrespect not only toward certain groups but toward his position, tenure itself – which is something that very few careers in this world enable – his college, and his university. After all, if he were truly already an employee, then presumably he is well aware that part of the reason that others are listening to him is because he is a professor at a respected university. Many of the readers on this site, for example, arrived here and are respectful of Robin because of his academic position and work.

    Yet, none of you are discussing this. If you are, it is as if this is tangential when in fact this is the heart of the matter.

    Third, since you aren’t even bothering to discuss the heart of the matter. Instead you are focused on some relatively minor problem regarding extremely assertive anti-Israel activism by faculty (and you know it’s a minor problem because just in the past year two major academic bodies seriously considered academic boycott of Israel and one passed and the other is still iffy) and while the AAUP and many university presidents have spoken out against these boycott resolutions, absolutely nothing has happened to any of the involved professors. Robert Warrior, for example, at the very university that is now so heinous that it is boycotted by thousands of scholars, retained his position and hired a protege who would be at work today if not for his hateful public expressions. Therefore, the claim that this is somehow some big conspiracy against anti-Israel activism is proven wrong by the experience of most such activists.

    The ones who do seem to be punished are those who take their ideas not only to an extreme, but then use public platforms to express extreme hostility to others.

    Why? Well, as both this university and, in the case of DePaul and Finkelstein, that university have indicated, there are situations where the noxious public sentiments do take a toll on both the university community and upon students.

    This, ladies and gentlemen, is the real heart of the matter. And, of course, since you’re busy throwing sand in the eyes with talk about everything EXCEPT for the heart of the matter, you are unlikely to learn anything from this experience.

    So, fourth, what I would take away from what happened here is something very different than you’re taking away. I’d focus on the issue of respecting the right of all, even if you do dehumanize them with talk of colonialism, ethnic cleansing, apartheid, Rosa Parks, Nazism and whatever else you have in your kit-bag.

    Finally, and fifth, as I’ve commented before, I think it’s great that you are all such huge fans of academic freedom. As the AAUP notes, boycotting Israeli academia undermines academic freedom. I’m sure therefore that you will now all clamor to end the movement toward boycotting Israeli academic institutions in favor of more dialogue. Some good has come from the Salaita affair after all.

    • bored by bor September 12, 2014 at 4:33 am | #

      bor: “I’m sure therefore that you will now all clamor to end the movement toward boycotting Israeli academic institutions in favor of more dialogue.”

      No, exactly the reverse. These events provide additional reason to pursue BDS.

    • Brian September 12, 2014 at 6:39 am | #

      Bor, I think your responses would carry more weight if you told us who you were. And just a thought: comments like “seeking Saudi funding” aren’t legitimate arguments, just attacks. You never seem to respond to challenges to show how and where pro Zionist and pro Israeli scholars are facing emplyment discrimation, have lost jobs and economic security, etc. You can’t name a single case. You just posit rhetoric as an argument with evidence, when you have no evidence at all. “Feeling uncomfortable” in the classroom because people challenge my views or present an alternate experience is also not an argument. Long diatribes are not an argument. Unquestioned loyalty to an ideology is not an argument.

      • louisproyect September 12, 2014 at 8:26 am | #

        Bor is the strangest troll I have run into during my peregrinations across the Internet looking for commentary on Salaita. He writes earnest but utterly unconvincing arguments for academic repression in the hope of what? Changing the opinions of people who not only have their mind made up about Israel but are ready to lie down in the street to be arrested for their beliefs, like Corey Robin. In a way, the only way to explain this behavior is from a psychiatric standpoint, an obsessive-compulsive disorder. If “bor” was seriously interested in changing minds, he would be better off haunting forums that catered to the J Street/Peace Now milieu with the perspective of toughening them up against the Jews for Justice threat. At any rate, I don’t see much point answering him since he is basically a troll.

      • s. wallerstein September 12, 2014 at 9:21 am | #

        Bor has this persecutory, “hit a man when he’s down” (Salaita) streak that is not going to win over many, if any, who participate in this blog.

      • NattyB September 12, 2014 at 9:32 am | #

        You never seem to respond to challenges to show how and where pro Zionist and pro Israeli scholars are facing emplyment discrimation, have lost jobs and economic security, etc.

        Here’s one Israeli scholar who faced employment discrimination, in fact he was fired from his university for suggesting BDS might be in Israel’s best interests:

      • Brian September 12, 2014 at 11:20 am | #

        I think you are trying to prove my case, yes, NattyB? This guy was fired for not being a Zionist.

      • Candide September 12, 2014 at 8:37 pm | #

        Since Steven Salaita is man of the moment, these are Steve’s words regarding trolls: Endless injustice, but finite energy.

        Let bor rant away…

    • Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant September 12, 2014 at 11:01 am | #

      Talk about being a “sore winner”….

      Even in victory, “bor” is incapable of “the principle of charity”.

      The only thing to which “bor”‘s thoughts are an alternaltive is reality. “Bor” writes of his/her generosity toward his/her interlocutors — and then follows it with a string of insults suggesting that said interlocutors suffer some kind of pathology that makes them unheeding of “bor”‘s more than obvious rightness.

      After this comes a string factually false claims and at least one racist innuendo surrounding an openly boastful threat that criticizing Israel will cost you the prospect of employment.

      “Bor” can do his/her poor rendition of a victory lap but that does not mean that we will take heed of him/her. Or that this “victory” will be long lasting or come without serious cost to the University to both its wallet and its prestige.

      It is worth noting that Corey has certainly earned the attention of the most vigorous hasbarist trolling I have ever seen. This means that Corey — and we — matter to someone out there that “bor” is sent to do battle with us here. Heck, I’d even speculate — without a shred of evidence [*ahem — like “bor” — ahem*] — that “bor” is likely not one person but a team of persons tasked to work this blog. I must admit that I am often stunned by the speed with which “bor” can crank out such long screeds in angry reply to any one of us. When I do my longies here, it often takes me days of writing and re-writing. But “bor” can toss them off with a turnaround that leaves me aghast with wonder.

      How is that possible?

      • David Green September 12, 2014 at 12:13 pm | #

        I hope you’ll forgive me for my cynicism about our university’s “prestige.” If this term means anything, it’s compliance with the corporate dictates of the 1%. In real terms, it’s about the football and basketball teams, whose prospects are dismal. As long as that remains the case, there will always be an inferiority complex around here, especially since the bad people have deprived them of their “chief.” By the way, the corporatization of this university is moving along just fine.

        • Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant September 12, 2014 at 12:24 pm | #

          I just took a peek at the link.

          Holy sh!tticus…

          Here is the opening parargraph. My eyes started to burn and I hadda stop reading it:

          “The process of transforming a large institution into a more entrepreneurial organization is no small feat. Our major multinational corporations have discovered this, even as they struggle to become more nimble, more competitive, and more responsive to customer demands and rapidly changing economic realities. So it is with a tier-one research university, which faces unique challenges attributable to its distinct mission, its multiple interested constituencies, and its traditional mode of operation.”

          Wow. Just… just, wow!

          Maybe we were on the wrong side on this, and Salaita may have been saved a fate worse than being a hired troll for the IDF or whatever. Maybe “bor” was doing a little jiu-jitsu on us, with the hope that Salaita would be condemned to the hell of working for a neo-liberal outfit pretending to be a public university or rescued from it because he should get a job at a school that puts academic freedom and education at the top as priorities.

          Did Salaita dodge a bullet?

      • CM September 12, 2014 at 1:20 pm | #

        He may very well have dodged a bullet. At this point there is no end to the UIUC boycott.

        Any boycott of UIUC is also a boycott of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at UIUC–there may be few scientists and engineers willing to boycott a well-funded national supercomputing facility, since this could limit grant funding opportunities as well as the pool of potential scientific collaborators.

    • thom prentice phd September 12, 2014 at 11:16 am | #

      Source for AAUP?

  14. Roquentin September 12, 2014 at 7:44 am | #

    I am cynical enough to think this is just a business decision. It’ll be cheaper and easier to pay off whatever kind of lawsuit Salatia can drum up than to lose the cash the wealthy donors put into their coffers. How much would it take to buy off Salatia and get him to settle out of court? Whatever it is I doubt it’ll match what they’ll lose from the wealthy people who bankroll them. That’s assuming his case is good enough to win. That’ll be a business decision too, and they’ll throw him a few grand if they think it’ll be cheaper than whatever legal fees they’ll incur.

    • thom prentice phd September 12, 2014 at 11:13 am | #

      Not cynical. Reality-based observation. 😉

  15. Jim September 12, 2014 at 7:44 am | #

    Wow, posts like these are why I read this blog every day! What a fantastic synthesis of the challenges we face in the areas of labor, free expression, and national security/empire and assessment of the steps we need to take to overcome them. It’s terrible that Professor Salaita remains de-hired, but posts like these give me hope that we can build a more decent society.

    • University of Florida September 12, 2014 at 10:09 am | #

      I feel the opposite. I think it is very very sad that posts like this are so so rare in a continent of 300 million. There should have been thousands of them…if indeed we were breathing in a free atmosphere. As the Salaita case needs not much pontification, to the person on the street it is very clear what it is about – it is more than academic freedom and it is more than Israel’s influence. It is about the degree of freedom in a society.

  16. thom prentice phd September 12, 2014 at 10:56 am | #

    This pogrom against Professor Salaita reminds me of the pogroms against others, like Ward Churchill and the continuous screeching Right Sector harassment of professors such as Douglas Kellner.

    I see a parallel between these attempted assassinations of independent thinkers in academia and the screechings of


    CIA destabilization campaigns against democratically elected governments (like Ukraine and Venezuela),

    demonization of Russia and Putin, the Tea Party,

    the constantly offended Abraham Foxman of ADL,

    the Christian Supremacists,


    the demonization of Iran,

    now the demonization of ISIS — (actually ISIS self-demonizes and Obama has to start his World War IV somewhere so what better excuse?);

    the Karl Rove/Lee Atwater school of political assassination and dirty tricks,

    the Nixon White House, Bush White Houses, Clinton White House(s) and Obama White House,

    pro-Palestinian organizations,

    pro-Israel BUT IN 1967 BORDERS advocates,

    the attacks on human survival organizations such as anti-Climate Change organizations, the demonization and militaristic crackdown of Occupy Wall Street, organized labor, the infiltration of dissident and pacifist and anarchist and socialist groups which I understand was even undertaken by Britain during the Crimean War…THE CRIMEAN WAR!

    There is a strong pattern here…

    The assassination programs even attack elites like Dan Rather, whose book “Rather Outspoken” really shocks with his detail of the dirty feces-covered fingernails of Viacom and the Bush/Cheney White House all over the smoking guns. CBS became a subsidiary of the White WHite House and still is.

    Truth apparently doesn’t count anywhere anymore and Rather had the Bush White House, had it cold on BOTH Abu Ghraib AND the Bush desertion from his champaign-grade Texas air national guard that was admitted to by former Texas Lt. Governor Ben Barnes. The rigged NY court judges who crashed Rather’s lawsuit against Viacom are poster children of the most despicable, political, financial, psychopaths who occupy public office in the US empire today. Just despicable — and above both law and accountability. The books is worth a read. If THEY can do that to RATHER, then THEY could do it to someone else — like Professor Salaita?

    The University of Texas at Austin still employs professors CAUGHT LYING — OUTRIGHT LYING — in sponsored, published research on, among other things, how standardized testing improves student achievement. STILL EMPLOYED!

    But Professor Salaita, so far, is NOT EMPLOYED and is that way because of dirty double dealing, double crossing, despicable plotting, subversion, scheming, by Wise, Christopher Kennedy (whose father must be turning over in his grave and disturbing the Arlington soil), and the rest of the Regents. Wise, Kennedy and the Regents are truly beholden to AIPAC and the zealots in support of Zionism which won;t return to entirely defensible 1967 borders — border which were defensible in 1948, 1956 and 1967, hello. And if Israel has a right to defend itself, so do the Palestinians. To quote Malcom X, “By Any Means Necessary.” Israel has become a filthy, despicable, oppressive, fascist, apartheid colonial power.

    Why is it that upon discovery of a mistake these days, the elites like the UIllinois Board of Regents and their employee Physllis Wise double down or triple down or quadruple down on a horrible mistake — as Obama is on Iraq, Ukraine, whatever?

    Why can’t people just apologize any more? Just say, “I/we made a mistake, I/we’re sorry we’ll make it right?

    Is that so fucking hard to do?

    • Steve September 12, 2014 at 1:07 pm | #

      Part of being an elite in a ‘meritocracy’ is that you can’t be wrong. I’m sure ms Wise has had a constant upward trajectory of career brilliance which means she’s made the correct decision.

  17. thom prentice phd September 12, 2014 at 11:01 am | #

    I hope professor Salaita sues and refuses to settle with Chris Kennedy, the most despicable of any of the Kennedy children.

    This Board of Regents vote once against is conclusive proof THAT THE SYSTEM DOESN’T WORK — it is fake, phony and ruled by rigid ideologues of the militaristic police state One per Cent and their vast wholly-owned subsidiaries like the Supreme Court, the UIllinois and UTexas Boards of Regents, legislatures, the church, Congress, the corporate and governmental bureaucracies, you name it.

    All they needed to do was say “a mistake was made” (Reagan: “Mistakes Were Made”) and we apologize, we’re sorry and Professor Salaita is re-hired. That simple. That’s all.

    • BORedom comes from a BORing mind.” September 12, 2014 at 1:00 pm | #

      All they needed to do was say “a mistake was made”…

      Reminds me of Dr. Tomas’ plight in the book Unbearable Lightness of Being. The good doctor in communist-era Czechoslovakia had penned an op-ed comparing the morality of the Stalinist-aligned leaders with King Oedipus’ self-inflicted wound upon learning of his crimes. As a result, the doctor was denied his hospital position unless he signed a letter of retraction saying he made a “mistake”.

      All this to say that those in power never make mistakes; “mistakes” are only made by those who threaten power and must therefore be punished for not keeping to the script.

  18. CP September 12, 2014 at 11:04 am | #

    Supporters of Salaita may want to consider putting pressure on the following individuals scheduled to speak at this boycotted institution. Writers like Timothy Noah, a labor reporter, should follow the examples of David J. Blacker and Allen Isaacman by canceling:

  19. bor September 12, 2014 at 11:16 am | #

    Um, thanks y’all for making my point for me.

    As for “charitable” to Salaita, I think it’s interesting that you think that I should be charitable considering the things that he tweets. He’s not a “nice guy” or a “good guy,” he wrote that people should “disappear” in response to the teenagers’ kidnapping. And he bragged about his coarseness in saying this.

    And yet, ironically, I’m being much more fair than those who would push him to spearhead some quixotic fight when I encourage all of you to let him back down and settle so that he may take care of his family.

    As for the person who said that this will drive the struggle for BDS harder, the people who were doing it before will pursue it now just the same. Regardless, you will all have an entire new level of justification to provide for seeking an academic boycott because your movement’s hypocrisy has had a big bright light pointed right at it.

    • thom prentice phd September 12, 2014 at 11:24 am | #

      Several “Is” and “yous” in your post, bore. Is your self-esteem THAT low?

      • bor September 12, 2014 at 1:05 pm | #

        Thom, do you know how much tea I’ve just spilled laughing at a comment about insecurity written by an internet persona that adds their advanced degree to their username?

    • Brian September 12, 2014 at 11:33 am | #

      Depends on your interpretation of what he said and the context *must* be understood — resisting occupying and oppressing populations and forces by the occupied is considered legitimate in most moral and ethical constructions of the world. For example, shooting Nazi occupiers (civilian or armed forces) by the residents of the Warsaw ghetto was considered legitimate, and it should be. So why shouldn’t a Palestinian in the occupied West Bank want his oppressors to disappear or go missing, and Salaita didn’t say this, but I ask: even to attack them as a legitimate form or resistance against their illegitimate presence? After all, Palestinians are “disappeared”, kidnapped, killed and attacked every day. 500 children in the last war — with what justification may I ask? What business do settlers have decrying periodic violence against them when they routinely — and with the support of the IDF — kill, maim, burn and dispossess Palestinians? What business do the parents of these young settlers have in sending them on apartheid roads in occupied territory? Judea and Samaria, my ass. Amazing. This is the only conflict in the world where the occupiers ask the occupied to guarantee their security. The only logic that makes sense is that the Palestinians are considered unpeople and subhuman and are not accorded a legitimate right to resist. That’s just a racist construction, any way you look at it.

      • Ligurio September 12, 2014 at 1:49 pm | #


        This is something “bor” has been doing for a week or so. S/he intentionally misreads tweets in order to bait a response that “defends” the tweets, which defense s/he then characterizes as anti-semitic or insenstive. S/he hopes to engage you in a long back and forth that will go nowhere. That’s “bor’s” job. “bor” knows, but won’t ever admit, that his/her “readings” of the tweets are just obviously wrong to begin with. In this “bor” is rather like Cary Nelson, and once “bor” even aped Nelson’s argument about linguistic “undecidability.”

        But it seems that “bor” has received the new meme from ZHQ: Salaita should settle, Salaita should settle, Salaita should settle.

        Here’s a prediction. First, this course of action will be suggested as the “humane” one for Salaita and his family to adopt. (All of a sudden “bor” cares about Salaita’s family….). However, the longer Salaita goes *without* settling, this “humane” approach will be replaced with a different, uglier approach, in which Salaita will be characterized as venal, selfish, self-important, ‘wounded’, irrational, motivated only by hatred, etc. The attempt will be to focus such attention upon Salaita’s character if and when his case goes to court, that it will not matter what is revealed about the behavior of donors, the trustees, and the chancellor.

        Because, believe me, “bor” and others like him/her are very afraid of what will be revealed, and how whatever is revealed will affect the ability of zionist groups to stifle dissent at universities. Because of this, the donors will pressure UIUC to settle with Salaita just as strongly as they pressured UIUC to terminate him. There’ll be a *lot* of money on the table. Will Salaita do the right thing, and take the money, or will he be selfish, obsessed, and so forth? (That will be the question.)

        By the way, do you notice how “bor” always wants to bring the conversation back around to Salaita? There’s a reason for that. The more we talk about Salaita, the more we encourage the perception that this is all about *him* and his incivility, when it fact it is all about the collusion of zionist donors and their corporate lackeys against the first amendment of the U.S. constitution.

      • bor September 12, 2014 at 2:22 pm | #

        ““bor” and others like him/her are very afraid of what will be revealed”

        Haha. Let me guess, you’ve just completed reading your well-worn copy of the Protocols.

        Go ahead and look closely at what happened at this university for all I care. When I read the 430 emails which were released, I was stunned by how little there was there in the way of implicating anybody. In fact what I read was diametrically opposed to the presentation of what these supposedly vile email exchanges were supposed to be, including on this site. Instead of implicating anyone, they clarified to me that there were real people opposing this appointment.

        As far as I’m concerned, this story should remain in the news for as long as possible because every time it’s in the news, it reveals a great deal about Israel’s opponents and what their demands for “peace and justice” are about. Every day that Salaita stays in the news, people read what one of the leaders of the boycott movement really think and it puts things into very clear relief. Every day that the boycott side complains about academic freedom, it weakens its own case for boycotting Israeli academia. By all means, keep it in the news!

        And, best of all, if there is some discovery and we learn that “Zionists” influenced a university administration, then perhaps other university administrations will become more sensitive to “Zionist” concerns. As they should, because those concerns are real and troubling. People such as Salaita create significant divisions on campuses.

        I suspect, however, that the people suing and their friends will find very little new or implicating information because in Salaita’s press interview, one of the lawyers explicitly threatened the process of discovery in a lawsuit and it seems the BoT didn’t care one bit.

      • bor September 12, 2014 at 4:03 pm | #

        You sure?

        And, by the way, I support Salaita’s right to write pieces such as that even if, as another professor says, that piece lacked “academic rigor” (a statement I personally believe after reading Salaita’s “Israel’s Dead Soul”). He should certainly not be fired for that type of article.

        However, if I’m an administrator and I wonder whether I should hire someone like this for my campus – with tenure, no less – I would have some serious doubts, especially when I see his other public statements and particularly when I know that he wrote this article at a school that apparently has a large population of military veterans. Some schools seek scholars who are outspoken with their political views, even when they offend many others, and others simply do now wish to have their focus and attention turned to the yelling of a small minority that seeks attention for its agenda.

        • Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant September 12, 2014 at 4:28 pm | #

          Of course that depends on which “small minorities” (and what they yell) you are talking about, right?

        • Donald Pruden, Jr., a/k/a The Enemy Combatant September 15, 2014 at 2:52 pm | #

          Yes, I am sure.

          Damn sure.

          Did you read the article in the link carefully? Or did you just look for something – anything – which could be tossed in to suggest that Salaita was a problem a VT and thus would be one at UIUC as well? You searched and searched, found something with an inviting title, and possibly a few juicily insinuating (seemingly, anyway) quotes, went “Oo!”, and grabbed it fast.

          For those who have not read it, the article to which “bor” links is some reportage by a college newspaper’s online journal observing the responses by some at Virginia Tech to a column published by Salon that Prof. Steven Salaita wrote while employed at VT. While the linked article quotes some who certainly disagree with Salaita, no one there called for his firing. No one complained of bad behavior by Salaita, of intolerance by Salaita, of bullying or hectoring of students by Salaita. No one accused Salaita of poisoning the atmosphere at VT. Indeed, a professor floated the idea of a debate. This means that Salaita would be asked, in a public forum, to review his column with an interlocutor in front of an audience for purposes of discussion. Not discipline, but discussion. At a University.

          Imagine that!

          Let us not deny that a point is made by a couple of folks in the linked article, one of whom is an administrator at VT, that the attention being received by VT following Salaita’s Salon column is not welcomed by some (but that claim is only a comment made in a quote, not a fact established by independent verification). Are you confusing opinions made by some in the article with the thesis of the reportage? Maybe you want the article to do the heavy lifting of permitting a suggestion that a professor should not invite “national scrutiny” to his University – unless he is “patriotic” (whatever that means) or cures cancer?

          And by the way, the linked article does not accuse him of creating “significant” (or ANY) divisions on his campus. At best, the article states that a discussion has been opened up at VT (or are you that as well, “bor”, because “discussion” is “division”?). It does not accuse him of anything, nor does it suggest any guilt at all. At worst, the critique that Salaita invites is the typical critique one hears from more Republican-conservative types, critiques one would expect to hear in a red state like Virginia, and at a school with a large military constituency within a local economy dependent upon the presence of military installations and bases. How seriously should anyone take that, given the present context?

          The linked article closes with these words:

          ‘“I would say that of the negative messages I’ve been receiving, it’s very clear that the vast majority haven’t actually read the article,” he [Salaita] said. “But I’ve gotten a wonderful responses from active military personnel, combat veterans, former students and my colleagues, and then a whole bunch of folks I don’t even know.”

          ‘However, at a university with a large military presence, the impact of the column has been strong.

          “The thing that really hurts the most for us is that you will find few universities in the country that support the nation’s military and veterans as strongly as we do,” Hincker said.

          ‘Major General Randy Fullhart, Commandant of the Corps of Cadets, agrees with the university.

          ‘“I understand and appreciate the expressions of concern raised as a result of a recent post on a commercial web site, of a single faculty member’s opinion, not that of the university,” Fullhart said in an email to the Collegiate Times. “I begin by reminding myself that the oath I took nearly 40 years ago was to support and defend a constitution which guaranteed the right of free speech. That right is given to all, and though there may be times that speech can be hurtful, the alternative of regulated speech would be the greater folly.”

          ‘Though Salaita’s column has had mixed responses, both the university and Salaita agree that the column has sparked a campus-wide discussion.

          ‘“I’m aware that there’s a lot of conversation to take place between him and others,” Hincker said. “Some of the members of our Corps of Cadets and our veterans on campus, whom he called murderers, are really upset. That’s the purpose of the freedom of speech concept in our Constitution as well as on an academic campus: to generate that dialogue, so people don’t feel they can’t speak their mind. To the degree that there’s a meeting of minds, that’s a good thing.”

          ‘Salaita also said the discussion can be beneficial for the Tech community and American society.

          ‘“It’s important for us to always examine our slogans and mythologies,” he said. “That’s what we’re supposed to do in college, and that’s what humanities professors are supposed to do. So, in a sense, I’m really doing my job.”’

          However, “bor” writes that a professor should be circumspect in his/her comments based upon the demographics of the students or staff. “Bor” will deny it, but s/he does believe in “prior restraint.”

          Now, let me throw in the offending column that Salaita actually wrote (“bor”, should you not have thought that I would actually go looking for it?). As I said, it appeared in the online journal Salon, in 2013. I will not comment on it, except to say that is an exercise in careful thinking and humorous self-deprecation. It also shows a father’s solicitousness – I won’t spoil the ending.

          Enjoy (really):

          Here is Salaita’s follow up to that column:

          Here is my own question: What exactly, “bor”, was your point in linking that article? You practically accused Salaita of acting out the “yelling of a small minority that seeks attention for its agenda.” Another accusation made by “bor”, proven yet again to be an utter falsehood.

          Finally, lemme just say that this will be my last entry on this post. This discussion is not over, and the present setback is only temporary. Of that I am also damn sure.

          I also want to thank “bor” – sincerely, no snark – for encouraging/triggering the vigorous nature of the discussion that took place under the present post. I won’t characterize his/her/their(?) comments – that’s been done enough. But it was worth the effort all of us put in to respond, if only because those of us who participate in the discussion – or just read it from the sidelines – understand his/her/their side a little better because of it, without the requirement that any of us be convinced one iota by any of it.

          See ya at the next post (Corey has already entered at least two or three new ones since last week).

          I’m out.

      • bor September 12, 2014 at 4:04 pm | #

        I meant to write:

        “do NOT wish to have”

      • Bor September 12, 2014 at 5:00 pm | #

        “Of course that depends on which “small minorities” (and what they yell) you are talking about, right?”

        Not with respect to what I wrote.

      • thom prentice phd September 12, 2014 at 5:14 pm | #

        You are an administrator? Just what, exactly, do you administrate? And where? What are your qualifications to administer anything? And why do you have so much time for kneejerkoffery on the Internet? Who is paying for that time? Plus define ‘academic rigor”. Cite sourses. Who defines it? You? Are you da king? And when did we get to vote on it?

    • thom prentice phd September 12, 2014 at 5:10 pm | #

      Hey! didja notice the lower case letters (lcl) or had you already pissed I mean spilled your tea all over yourself? Wonder what those lower case letters (lcl) might MEAN?

  20. Citizen September 12, 2014 at 1:03 pm | #


    Two things.

    1. How about writing a short piece encouraging people to send their thanks and appreciation to Trustee James Montgomery.

    2. How do we reach Professor Salaita to offer our words of support and encouragement?


    • BORedom comes from a BORing mind September 12, 2014 at 3:46 pm | #


      folks have been sending Professor Salaita notes of support via twitter: @stevesalaita

      yesterday on twitter

    • Ash September 13, 2014 at 5:45 am | #

      You can message Salaita via FB. He may not reply, but he’ll definitely get the message.

  21. Steve September 12, 2014 at 1:04 pm | #

    Speaking as an unhappy prole, I’m so thankful for your efforts now and in the past to raise awareness of this crucial issue of lack of personal freedoms and even simple human rights in the workplace. If a person has to ask permission to urinate, or drink water, they are in no sense free. Except I suppose in the neoliberal sense of proper submission to market discipline or whatever dogshit they peddle in middle America to rationalize the D/s ritual that is work in this country.

    • aravistarkheena September 12, 2014 at 3:17 pm | #

      Do you really think that a person has a *right* to be employed at a university, irrespective of their conduct?

      And do you really think that being denied such employment is akin to having to “ask permission to urinate” or “drink water”?

      The hyperbole and bad analogies undermine whatever point it is you are trying to make.

      • Ligurio September 12, 2014 at 6:37 pm | #

        Do you really think that using asterisks makes your question any less inane?

        And do you really think that nobody sees that you have completely misread Steve’s comment?

        Or do you really *not* know (oops! 🙂 that you are being insufferable?

  22. aravistarkheena September 12, 2014 at 2:37 pm | #

    Salaita celebrated the kidnapping (and subsequent murder) of three Israeli teenagers and proudly called for more such crimes to be committed: “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the (expletive) West Bank settlers would go missing.” He once retweeted a vile suggestion that journalist Jeffrey Goldberg ought to get “the pointy end of a shiv.”

    From the Chicago Tribune


    I must admit to being a little surprised by all the outrage, here. I’ve been in academia for more than 20 years and am currently a department head. If any of the faculty at my large, state university had made public statement after public statement like this, they would have found themselves in a whole world of trouble too.

    Calling for the death of a journalist? Celebrating the murder of teenagers? This is the speech you are defending, under the rubric of “academic freedom”? Seems hard to make sense of.

    • Ligurio September 12, 2014 at 6:21 pm | #

      Your comments are either stupid or despicable, and I’m trying to decide which reading of them would be more charitable.

      On the one hand, you are a department head, so stupidity is quite likely.

      On the other hand, even a department head can probably distinguish between a magazine article and a human person, even if s/he cannot process irony.

      But, please, I’ve got to know. What discipline are you in?

      • aravis September 12, 2014 at 8:34 pm | #

        If you want to have a civil conversation about this subject, I’ll be happy to do so. But to simply call people stupid or despicable is not the intro. to any sort of conversation, and you’ll have to do that on your own.

        It appears that you are more interested in having a kind of cheering circle with all the people that agree with you. I would have thought it more interesting to discuss things with people who *don’t* agree with you, but there it is.

        Incidentally, the only purpose of the ‘*’ is for emphasis, since there is no way to italicize here. Sorry that it aggravated you so much.

    • ROM September 12, 2014 at 7:42 pm | #

      “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the (expletive) West Bank settlers would go missing.”

      You and Bor seem to think this refers to all settlers. This is mistaken. The comment says nothing about non-copulating settlers.

    • thom prentice phd September 13, 2014 at 11:28 am | #

      The Chicago Tribune is a really credible source (DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN, 1948). It is a mere appendage of the multi-appendaged ENN — Empire News Media, the defacto Goebbels incarnate PROPAGANDA MINISTRIES of the US empire. So puh-leaze, gimmeabreak.

      If you are going to trash Salaita with the claim he said he wishes all the West Bank settlers would disappear, the HONEST — ***HONEST!*** thing to do would be to present the Salaita DIRECT QUOTE which you did NOT do. Therefore NOT HONEST. “Not helpful” would be the Buddhist take on it. What you did was to rumormong.

      Anyway, I DO WISH that all the West Bank settlers would DISAPPEAR — back into the Israel of ENTIRELY DEFENSIBLE 1967 BORDERS


      • aravis September 13, 2014 at 11:48 am | #

        Well, if we can no longer cite newspapers like the New York Times, LATimes and Chicago Tribune as news sources, then we really can’t discuss public policy in contexts like this. If you want to deny that Salaita called for the murder of Jefferey Goldberg and celebrated the murder of the three Israeli teenagers, that’s fine. We’ll just have to agree to disagree and see what happens.

    • NattyB September 13, 2014 at 4:36 pm | #

      Of course, he never called for the death of a journalist. Nor, did he celebrate the murder of teenagers. But, let’s just throw mud and let it stick. Oh wait, it did!

      • aravis September 13, 2014 at 4:54 pm | #

        If he wasn’t calling for the death of Jeffrey Goldberg, why did he retweet this?

      • Ligurio September 13, 2014 at 5:37 pm | #

        Are you even serious!? What is the subject of the sentence? (Hint: it’s not Jeffrey Goldberg.)

        Come on, now, you can do it!

        • aravis September 13, 2014 at 5:58 pm | #

          I’m happy to allow readers to determine what “story” refers to, in that sentence. (And given the readers here, I am sure they will agree with you.)

      • Ligurio September 13, 2014 at 9:31 pm | #

        Again. Are you fucking serious?! You seriously want me to believe that “story” does not *really* refer to a story that Goldberg had written, but Goldberg himself?

        You feign a total noncomprehesion of rhetorical tropes in the tweets when it helps you defame Salaita as anti-Semitic; but then you can also mysteriously discern hidden allegorical significance in a tweet whose literal sense is obvious?!

        • aravis September 13, 2014 at 10:13 pm | #

          One doesn’t put a shiv in stories.

          Look, let’s just drop it. We’re not going to agree on this, and you are just too worked up to have a productive conversation with. We’ll just have to see what happens.

      • bor September 13, 2014 at 10:31 pm | #

        Stories do not end up on the pointy end of a shiv. People do. The expression makes no sense in the context of a story, which is why you’ve never heard it used this way before. You have heard of people ending up with the point of a shiv, however, particularly people in prison.

        Guess what Goldberg did as a soldier during his IDF service?

        That’s right, he was a prison guard.

        And Salaita must have known this because it’s a well known fact about Goldberg. The reason this story should have ended on the pointy end of a shiv is simply wishful thinking on the part of the author, retweeted by an agreeable Salaita, that the story would have never been written if a certain something with a shiv had happened to the prison guard who had written it.

        Don’t worry, you can keep pretending that this was just a joke, or a form of speech, or something he retweeted in the heat of the moment, and that he probably didn’t really mean that he wanted Goldberg dead, just like he didn’t really mean that the “fucking” settlers should disappear just like some kidnapped Jewish teenagers, and of course he didn’t really mean that antisemitism should be put in quotes because it’s not real or that it is actually caused by Zionists. He didn’t mean that all Israeli border guards are sexually depraved and seeking to satisfy their lust on Palestinians. He didn’t mean any of it. Not at all. He’s a really nice guy. Apparently he’s just really bad when it comes to expressing himself. Um, wait, doesn’t he teach English at the university level as a tenured professor?

        Why yes, he does.

        • Corey Robin September 13, 2014 at 11:23 pm | #

          “Don’t worry, you can keep pretending that this was just a joke, or a form of speech, or something he retweeted in the heat of the moment, and that he probably didn’t really mean that he wanted Goldberg dead.”

          It is in fact a form of speech. In fact, it’s just speech. It’s a statement. And it was in fact something he retweeted.

          Wanting someone dead is now a fireable offense? So if I said in 2002 I wanted Osama bin Laden dead, I could get fired for that? Or the guards that protected him? Or the prison guards of the Taliban?

          Here’s where you you do that thing where you recalibrate your principles to say, well, I didn’t mean that it’s not okay to want people dead. What I meant was that it’s not okay to want *certain* people dead. It’s okay to want the current and former prison guards of America’s and Israel’s enemies to be dead. It’s not okay to want the current and former prison guards of America and Israel dead. Not because they’re liberal democracies but because they’re Israel and America. We know it’s not because they’re liberal democracies because, well, Israel is not, and, more important, because you’d never be spending this much time calling for someone to be fired if he had said he wished a former prison guard in Argentina or Brazil were dead. (I’m assuming for the sake of the argument that that in fact was what Salaita said.)

          You should understand: it’s fine if that’s your belief. It wouldn’t qualify as a principle or stand up in court (or any intro course in moral philosophy). But law and philosophy aren’t your thing. It would, however, probably help you in arguing your point if you were clearer with yourself. I mean, it’s clear to all of us what you really think, so need to worry on our end. But you’ll probably find you can prosecute your cause more effectively — not with your critics but with your potential allies — if you yourself had a better sense of what it was that you were doing.

      • Ligurio September 13, 2014 at 11:19 pm | #

        Oh no you don’t. You don’t get to play the “we’re just not going to agree” card just at the moment you’ve made a reductio of your own argument. Unless you really do mean to deny the existence of metaphor altogether.

        “One doesn’t put a shiv in stories.”

        Can you skewer an argument?
        Can you be hoist by your own petard?
        Can you kill a conversation?
        Can you make an ass of yourself?

        Please, tell me. I can’t wait to hear your response to the first three questions. (The fourth, I take it, you’ve already answered.)

        • aravis September 13, 2014 at 11:33 pm | #

          I can play whatever card I like. What are you going to do? Come to my house and force me to answer?

          You don’t know how to converse with people. You know how to scream, yell, and bully. And frankly, I have no interest in it.

          Enjoy your cheering squad.

      • Ligurio September 13, 2014 at 11:39 pm | #

        Thrasymachus doesn’t want to play any more?

  23. S Bagchi September 12, 2014 at 5:41 pm | #

    For all those supporting SS, I wonder how all would you have felt if he had said identical things about say, African-Americans. Or, Native Americans. (If you read a quick refresher about what he had said, look at: Would your defense of him have been as spirited? You don’t have to say the answer, you know the answer in your heart of hearts. And if you have to look to recent events for any parallel, you can simply remember the lynching to which Brendan Eich, ex-CEO of Mozilla was subjected just ‘coz he had donated to California’s Proposition 8 campaign. Or look to Donald Sterling and how he was forced to relinquish control of his team for having made some remarks IN PRIVATE. Most liberals are not liberals, they are HYPOCRITES.

    • Ligurio September 12, 2014 at 6:24 pm | #

      Wait! Brendan Eich was hanged by a mob?! Holy Shit! When did this happen?

      • Ligurio September 12, 2014 at 6:24 pm | #

        Are you sure it was for Proposition 8 and not for getting too cozy with a white woman?

      • Ligurio September 12, 2014 at 6:31 pm | #

        I agree with you about Sterling, though. I used to attend NBA games all the time until I noticed how many blacks were in attendance. It was extremely frightening. Two of them walked past my seat once and I pissed my pants!

    • Brian September 12, 2014 at 6:44 pm | #

      Oh so saying something about Native Americans is the same as saying something about Zionist regime that murders a captive population? Ok, got it.

      Also about the 3 teenagers. So now we’re arguing about the age at which it’s legitimate to resist an occupier? Israel prosecutes Palestinians 12 and above. Israel massacres people of all ages. By Israel’s own logic then it’s legitimate to attack an occupier 12 and above because they are an “adult.”

  24. jonnybutter September 12, 2014 at 6:38 pm | #

    I wonder how all would you have felt if he had said identical things about say, African-Americans. Or, Native Americans.

    I see what you mean. All those times Native Americans and African Americans enslaved and committed genocide, I didn’t say a word! What’s wrong with me?

    • Brian September 12, 2014 at 6:47 pm | #

      Oh but don’t you see the people we massacre are unpeople. Even our own historians (Benny Morris) say we should have wiped them all out. Hey btw did Morris lose his job? Just wondering. Because his comments were pretty clearly calling for genocide, much much clearer than anything Salaita even remotely said.

  25. Mike September 12, 2014 at 10:14 pm | #

    Reblogged this on This Got My Attention and commented:
    Well worth your time.

  26. Corey Robin September 13, 2014 at 11:54 pm | #

    Can I just point out that we have now have more than 100 comments of people arguing intently over a set of…tweets. 140-character bleeps of ephemera, the name of which is mean to evoke the small sounds a bird makes. In 50 years, cultural historians — or psychoanalysts (if the planet is still around — are going to have a field day with this. Remember, they’ll say, when a group of otherwise intelligent people drove themselves into a frenzy over tweets? If a man’s life and family hadn’t been ruined over this, I’d say this is all kinda of funny.

    One other thing. Whenever I get involved in one of these fights — this is now my fifth, as I’ve said — there’s always a new wave of pro-Israel trolls that show up in the comments threads. It’s like they’re the latest recruits to the cause. And eventually when the hubbub dies down they leave, off to fight a new front, never to be heard from again. Bor or whoever — they always have these vaguely Eastern European/Central Asian-sounding avatars of anonymity — will eventually go away. They always do. I’d say that I’ll miss him, except that his successor will show up soon enough, with all the same moves. So in case I’m not around when he sloughs off into the sunset, I’ll bid him adieu with this song from Vera Lynn.

    • bor September 14, 2014 at 4:07 am | #


      “Wanting someone dead is now a fireable offense?”

      He wasn’t fired. They did not permit his appointment to proceed.

      “Here’s where you you do that thing where you recalibrate your principles”

      You wish.

      I didn’t recalibrate my principles the other day when you tried to compare the Palestinian exception of running campaigns to destroy Israel throughout North American campuses to a few politicians and maybe a few professors seeking to destroy the Soviet Union or to dismantle Yugoslavia or Iraq. That was you who were seeking to justify the unique way in which Israel has been targeted on campuses – a boycott attempt that literally goes back to the mid-1940s by Arab states nearby the Yishuv, before Israel ever existed as a state! I merely challenged your tenuous claim. After challenging you, by the way, I thought that perhaps I really didn’t know my stuff and went into Google Books to find some evidence regarding your claims and found virtually none. There was plenty of student and faculty activism against US wars but activism to destroy states? Almost nothing. And to compare Yugoslavia and Iraq to Israel on campus is laughable.

      “to say, well, I didn’t mean that it’s not okay to want people dead. What I meant was that it’s not okay to want *certain* people dead.”

      This is going to strike you as odd, but I don’t recall ever wishing anyone dead. I certainly don’t recall saying it about anybody or blogging, tweeting, writing, speaking or mentioning anybody potentially being killed and certainly not a real person. Sue me, but I guess I’m not as feisty (foolish?) as Salaita.

      But you got me, it’s “just’ speech.

      Fine, it’s just speech, but why would any enterprise, organization, body or individual hire someone who would bring this type of speech to a workplace, particularly one that is expected to be a place of teaching? That is the purpose of a university, isn’t it? It’s not to advance your political agenda, it is to research and educate.

      “You should understand: it’s fine if that’s your belief. ”

      It’s not just my belief, it appears to be the belief of thousands who opposed Salaita’s appointment, including the BoT and the Chancellor at UIUC.

      “It would, however, probably help you in arguing your point if you were clearer with yourself. …”

      I’ll tell you what. You don’t have the time and neither do I, but you will find that everything I’ve written is of a piece and consistent at every point.

      “But you’ll probably find you can prosecute your cause more effectively — not with your critics but with your potential allies — if you yourself had a better sense of what it was that you were doing.”

      I think I’m doing fine, but thanks for your concern.

      Unlike you, who believes that he can deduce things about others without really conversing with them and then address them with this sophomoric supercilious act, I don’t feel that I know you well enough to remark one way or another about what you should or shouldn’t do or write. I will say, however, that I hold the political position you’ve taken with respect to Israel in great contempt. The reason I feel this way is that I don’t believe that anybody who truly does what you suggest I do, and that is to be clear with themselves, can, with any seriousness, support the manner in which Israel is singled out and attacked in this world.

      Your movement, just as one example, not only prevents people with opposing views from attending conferences and panels related to Israel, but will often plan and execute stealth activities as well as important votes on the Sabbath. I’ve also seen bait and switch tactics within student board meeting where your movement attempts to change the language of whatever is being voted on into something very different and they do it at the last minute. Not embarrassing enough for you? I suppose not, because you have just spent weeks diligently supporting and protecting a man whose speech has been abhorrent. Your reasoning? “It’s just speech.” “There’s no evidence that he has ever done something negative to a student.” Wow. It’s just speech. Are you careful when you write your books? When you give a lecture? When you write on your blog? Why is that, Corey? After all, it’s just speech.

      “…there’s always a new wave of pro-Israel trolls…”

      “Troll: One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.”

      There is nothing provocative about pointing out the negative aspects of Salaita’s speech or the failings of BDS. There is also nothing disruptive about it. You have your nice little echo chamber here, and it’s so nice when everyone agrees that when somebody comes here and says, “Wait a minute, there’s another angle to this,” the best you can come up with is “troll.”

      Call me whatever makes you feel better about yourself. My comments here have not only been reasonable, they have represented a common sense approach to this entire Salaita matter. It is common sense not to invite the kid who is going to beat up on the other kids and stomp on the cake at the birthday party. It is common sense to cut the coach-dissing player from the team. It is common sense to give up a friendship with someone who always causes a fight when you invite them to join you and your friends on a night out on the town.

      Ah, you say, academe is different, because it’s a place where provocative ideas enhance debate and expand people’s views and understanding. Great, apparently you support trolling. With tenure.

      “they’re the latest recruits to the cause.”

      This is coming from the person who has blogged about Salaita and this matter assiduously. Like you, this matter struck a chord with me.

      “And eventually when the hubbub dies down they leave, off to fight a new front, never to be heard from again.”

      You’re so romantic. I don’t think anybody has ever asked me in the past to stay around in such a pleasant and friendly manner. You’d like me to stick around on your blog a while? Let me think about it. I’m worried about receiving more of these lectures about who I really am.

      “Eastern European/Central Asian-sounding avatars of anonymity”

      You don’t have a clue.

      “— will eventually go away. They always do.”

      Almost certainly. The reason isn’t that you’re not welcoming or that your regulars here aren’t very impressive in constantly bringing out the “hasbara” and Protocols idiocy, it’s that the general content of your blog is not in my sweet spot. It just so happens that we intersected on the Salaita matter.

      “I’d say that I’ll miss him, except that his successor will show up soon enough, with all the same moves.”

      Dude, you’ll miss me. I am unique.

      • ROM September 14, 2014 at 4:56 pm | #

        The conflict is unresolvable and becomes more so the more you write about it.

    • Bor September 14, 2014 at 7:47 pm | #

      Actually, if it were up to people like me, there would be a Palestinian state already.

      Sadly, it’s not up to me.

      • ROM September 15, 2014 at 7:50 am | #

        The epistemic values and motives do not dominate in discourse, and attempts to introduce them have been mocked and ridiculed. The conflict is unresolvable and therefore of little interest.

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