A series of controversial anti-Israel tweets may have cost a professor his job offer at an Illinois university.
Steven Salaita, who was all but set to become a professor in the American Indian studies program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign later this month, was told by the school Chancellor Phyllis Wise that he no longer had a job offer, Inside Higher Ed reported on Wednesday, citing “two sources with knowledge of the situation.”
The outspoken Salaita, a former English professor at Virginia Tech University who has written an opinion article for Al Jazeera America, has been tweeting throughout the month-long Gaza conflict.
In some of the tweets, Salaita sarcastically questions Israel’s claims of self-defense, writing on July 31: "Self-defense? Seriously? It sounds like there are a lot of damn George Zimmermans running around (and running) #Israel."
More recently, he has tweeted other criticisms, including one on August 2 that read: “‘Hamas’ is the biggest red herring in American political discourse since Saddam's "weapons of mass destruction." #Gaza #GazaUnderAttack”
He also tweeted on the same day: "When will the attack on #Gaza end? What is left for #Israel to prove? Who is left for Israel to kill? This is the logic of genocide."
The sources that spoke with Inside Higher Ed said that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s decision to ultimately to go back on Salaita’s hiring was due to growing concern over the tone of his tweets, including some that have been described as “crossing a line into uncivil behavior.”
Moustafa Bayoumi, an English professor at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, disagreed with the characterization of the tweets as being “uncivil” in a letter he wrote to Chancellor Wise, asking her to reconsider the university’s decision.
“What concerns me is the charge of incivility, which is frequently levied at people who take unpopular views. Put another way, allegations of incivility are often smokescreens because those leveling the charge don’t approve of the political views of the person in question. This is especially true in the context of Middle Eastern politics,” Bayoumi wrote in the letter provided to Al Jazeera. "The American university system can thrive only when it is a place for the full and free exchange of ideas."