Punishing a Professor’s Criticism of Israel

Professor Steven Salaita. (image by Consortium News)

Dennis Bernstein

As bombs rained down on the people of Gaza this past summer, Palestinian-American professor Steven Salaita shared his outrage and horror about the Israeli assault via Twitter. Then, as he prepared to move his family and start his new job as a tenured professor in American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois, Salaita was abruptly un-hired.

Wealthy donors had objected to his tweets and pressured the university to keep him out, part of a broader campaign to silence people advocating for Palestinian rights, as Salaita described in a recent interview on Pacifica’s “Flashpoints” program…

SS: I was set to teach in the American Indian Studies program. I specialize in Native Literatures, Native politics, and Native decolonization and so I got my PhD in Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma, in 2003.

I’ve been working at the intersections of Palestine and North America, and the similarities of the colonial discourses between the two spaces for quite some time. And so that was, I think, what lead the American Indian Studies Program to their interest in me.

DB: Our senior producer for this show, Miguel Gavilan Molina, is indigenous Chicano and he always makes the connection, and in fact, now we’ve got the Israelis securing the borders not only here at the Mexican border, but all the way down between Mexico and Guatemala. I mean, you see the Mexican military, it looks like the Israeli army. … So, you were hired as a tenured professor? Why tenured?

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