Reading Salaita in Illinois—by Way of Cary Nelson (part 1)

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
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Cary Nelson with a handful of offensive tweets from Steven Salaita (photo: Don Lavagne)

Cary Nelson with a handful of offensive tweets from Steven Salaita (photo: Don Lavange)

Ever since the news broke on Aug. 6 that Steven Salaita’s faculty appointment at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) had been terminated due to tweets critical of Israel, the most prominent expert voice—indeed, the only expert mainstream voice—to emerge in support of the university’s decision has been UIUC English professor Cary Nelson.

Nelson’s reputation as an advocate of academic freedom, having lectured and written at length on the subject and having served as the president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), has made him the go-to voice on the Salaita affair in reports featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, CNN, HuffPost Live, and elsewhere.

But last January, I wrote a lengthy study of Cary Nelson’s stance toward academic boycotts and Palestine/Israel, calling into question his ability to professionally assess issues of academic freedom when the region is involved.

As a follow-up to that piece, I shall demonstrate that Nelson’s authority to speak about Salaita’s termination is compromised on several counts:

  1. Nelson’s history of direct political opposition to Salaita, specifically on the issue of Israel and BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions).
  2. Nelson’s undisclosed communications with the instigator of the attacks against Salaita—William Jacobson of the Legal Insurrection blog—specifically on the issue of Salaita.
  3. Nelson’s membership, and even leadership, in organizations that seek to “strengthen[] the pro-Israel movement on campus,” “advocate on behalf of the State of Israel,” and counter “the far left’s attacks on Israel.”
  4. Nelson’s now-contradictory stances on academic freedom that have even compelled the AAUP to distance itself from his comments.
  5. Nelson’s unfamiliarity with Twitter, which has led him to make embarrassingly ill-informed accusations.
  6. Nelson’s refusal to acknowledge the existence of any interpretation of Salaita’s tweets other than his own, leading to a refusal to argue for his interpretation.
  7. Nelson’s failure to disclose—and even his refusal to disclose at times—the conflicts of interest detailed above before offering a supposedly professional opinion on the matter.

This study is broken into two parts. Here in Part One, I focus on the accusations and misinterpretations made by Nelson against Salaita’s tweets. Tomorrow, in Part Two, I will situate Cary Nelson’s role in the larger anti-BDS campaign for which Salaita is being targeted.

Part One is broken into several sections:

In the course of this study, I sought a phone interview with Cary Nelson to give him the opportunity to respond to the issues I present below. He declined my request, so I emailed him a list of nine questions. Of those nine, Nelson responded to seven, from which I quote where appropriate.

• • •

In response to the initial Inside Higher Ed article that broke the story of Salaita’s termination, Cary Nelson submitted a comment to clarify what he found objectionable with Salaita’s tweets. Nelson’s comment stated the following:

[Inside Higher Ed] is interpreting my comments about Salaita to embody issues of “collegiality and civility.” I did not use those terms in anything I wrote about him and would not do so. Indeed I think it would be trivializing his social media presence to characterize it as uncollegial.

When Salaita tweets “If you’re defending Israel right now you’re an awful human being” he issues a judgment about his future students that would justify them believing they would be academically at risk in expressing pro-Israeli views in class.

When he gives us this definition—“Zionists: transforming ‘anti-Semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948” he crosses a line into hate speech.

When he retweets a suggestion that a well-known American reporter should be met with “the point of a shiv” he crosses a line into inciting violence.

Nelson repeated these claims in subequent outlets, and so I take them to be representative of Nelson’s criticisms of Salaita’s tweets.

Below, I examine what Cary Nelson suggests to be the four most damning tweets made by Steven Salaita, using Nelson’s own criteria:

  • One tweet which Nelson claims is anti-Semitic
  • Two tweets which Nelson claims are incitement to violence
  • One tweet which Nelson claims creates an unsafe environment for students to excel academically(!)

The remaining tweets cited by Nelson are ones that he refers to as “sophomoric” and “bombastic.” As Nelson insists that “collegiality and civility” are not the issue here, I will skip them.

One caveat before proceeding: According to conventional understandings of academic freedom in the US, none of these tweets could be held against Salaita even if Nelson’s interpretations of them were true.

But by challenging Nelson’s interpetations of the tweets, I seek to demonstrate that Nelson is deliberately misleading the public and that the tweets would not be objectionable even by Nelson’s own standards. I also seek to rectify Nelson’s unwarranted attacks on Salaita’s charcter. Yet at no point below do I suggest that Nelson’s standards are legitimate or that the tweets could have violated academic freedom.

Tweet 1: Salaita’s “anti-Semitism”

Let’s examine what is allegedly the most offensive tweet—the one which Salaita’s detractors claim to be an endorsement of anti-Semitism as something “honorable”:

Despite the attempts of Nelson and others to spin this as apologetics for anti-Semitism, many people, such as political commentator Marc Lamont Hill and CUNY professor Corey Robin, have interpreted the tweet to mean just the opposite. In order to make the best assessment of this tweet, we must recognize it as part of a series of tweets that Salaita had sent within a narrow time period. Two minutes before the tweet in question, Salaita tweeted the following:

Here, Salaita criticizes the tendency of Israel supporters to label critics of Israel as anti-Semitic. Salaita believes that a “person of conscience” has no choice but to endure being labeled anti-Semitic if that is a consequence of “deplor[ing] colonization, land theft, and child murder.”

It is only then—within two minutes—that he follows up the tweet with the one that Nelson and others single out:

That is, the term “anti-Semitism” has been distorted by Zionists into a label hurled against those engaged in  something as “honorable” as “deplor[ing] colonization, land theft, and child murder.”

Three hours later, Michael Hessel-Mial, a self-proclaimed “Jewish anti-Zionist” expresses uncertainty or concern over the meaning of Salaita’s original tweet:

Salaita responds to Hessel-Mial by clarifying that “the discourses of Zionism … cheapen anti-Semitism by likening it to principled stands against state violence”:

That is, if it was unclear before, Salaita’s use of the word “honorable” was not referring to the idea of anti-Jewish oppression (the traditional meaning of anti-Semitism) but instead to “principled stands against state violence,” which were now being inappropriately labeled—and hence “cheapened”—by Zionists as “anti-Semitism.”

Hessel-Mial tags Salaita’s response as a “favorite” and replies that he “can get behind that.” Salaita immediately follows up with another tweet, again addressed to Hessel-Mial:

Taken in the full context, one cannot possibly construe that Salaita was endorsing anti-Semitism.

However, plucking this tweet from its context and embedding it in an article that describes Salaita and his tweets as “inflammatory,” “loathsome,” “sophomoric,” “irresponsible,” “bombastic,” “anti-Semitic,” “vehemen[t],” “outrageous,” and “crosses the line into anti-Semitism”—as Cary Nelson’s article in Inside Higher Ed does—in the context of a job termination that implies that Salaita had done something wrong—an unaware audience may be prepped to accept the tweet to be what Nelson and other opponents of Salaita want it to be—an unadulterated endorsement of anti-Semitism—rather than what it is: much ado about nothing.

I quoted to Nelson the additional tweets and asked him whether it was appropriate to isolate one tweet and interpret it to mean the opposite of what it was clearly meant to convey. His response:

My main context for his tweets—and I believe it’s the key one—are his published writings, both in print and on line.

Yet neither in print nor online does Salaita make any endorsements for anti-Semitism. In fact he does the opposite (for an example in print, see Israel’s Dead Soul, pp. 15–16). If it is true that Nelson has carefully examined Salaita’s tweeting record, surely he must have seen the tweets reproduced above, as well as the following tweets sent in the same time period, which profess a universalist respect for all peoples:

Salaita has also taken on anti-Semitism, as when the rapper Macklemore wore a disguise that resembled anti-Semitic tropes:

The existence of these tweets, which Nelson refuses to acknowledge, contradict his claim to Ali Abunimah that “The total effect [of Salaita’s tweets] seems to me to cross a line.”

I asked Nelson why he didn’t take such tweets into account. As I expressed it to him:

Rather than one tweet invalidating another, don’t these tweet[s], taken as a whole, contextualize one another? And if so, isn’t it misleading to cherry-pick individual tweets, thus taking them out of context?

Nelson did not respond. However, in response to a separate question I posed, which I will detail later, Nelson claimed that “Tweets are not just elements of a conversation; they are also coherent individual statements.”

Thus Nelson, a professor of English, not only demands that tweets become part of an academic’s “professional profile,” but he arbitrarily demands that each individual 140-character tweet stand on its own as a “coherent individual statement[]”—rather than be considered in the context of other tweets or of events that may have transpired at the time of the tweet—despite the fact that elsewhere Nelson faults Salaita’s tweets for their “total effect.”

By Nelson’s strictures, the only way a tweet may be interpreted is by itself and in its most literal sense. (As I shall demonstrate later, Nelson violates his own strictures when it suits him.)

This idea that “tweets are not just elements of a conversation” but are “coherent individual statements” also contradicts Nelson’s earlier assertion that he had found “context for [Salaita’s] tweets” in “his published writings, both in print and on line.”

“Honorable”

Subsequently, having been misled by critics such as Nelson, liberal Zionist commentator Mira Sucharov tweeted me and others to condemn what she believed to be Salaita’s praise of anti-Semitism as something “honorable”:

Sucharov’s obsession with the word “honorable” compelled me to look at how else Salaita has employed that term.

Example #1:

In this tweet, Salaita says that “FIFA is an honorable organization” in order to say that FIFA is not an honorable organization. To achieve this effect, he employs a special device known in Twitter jargon as “irony.” Example #2:

Here we must rely on street smarts to discern that Salaita does not quote the leader of the Sand Creek massacre approvingly.

However, if one were to cite this tweet in an article that suggested that Salaita was fired because of bigoted tweets and calls for violence, then one could mistakenly assume that Salaita was actually sending the tweet as a threat.

Both examples demonstrate that one cannot always interpret tweets literally and that they can be easily taken out of context—and I profess amazement at having to spell it out.

Tweet 2: Jeffrey Goldberg’s “shiv”

Let’s turn to the second of Salaita’s “bad” tweets, which was not a tweet by Salaita himself but a “retweet” from someone else:

In his comment in Inside Higher Ed, Cary Nelson describes the tweet—and slightly misquotes it—as follows:

When [Salaita] retweets a suggestion that a well-known American reporter should be met with “the point of a shiv” he crosses a line into inciting violence.

Two days later, in his own article in Inside Higher Ed, Nelson writes:

Academic freedom protects [Salaita] from university reprisals for his extramural speech, unless he appears to be inciting violence, which one retweeted remark that a well-known American reporter wrote a story that “should have ended at the pointy end of a shiv” appears to do.

First we must tackle the issue of “retweeting,” which is someone reposting someone else’s tweet. There are many reasons why someone might retweet, perhaps the most common of which are:

  • To post a tweet that one agrees with.
  • To post a tweet that one disagrees with.
  • To post a tweet that one wants to draw attention to, but is not necessarily an endorsement of the tweet.
  • To post a tweet that one intends to respond to.

Thus it is irresponsible to claim that a retweet is the equivalent of one’s own tweet.

Moreover, a retweeter’s interpretation of a tweet may differ from the original tweeter’s intention. Because there are so many possibilities, we would have to ask Salaita himself what he meant by retweeting the tweet rather than condemn him for it. In his absence, however, we can play the worst-case scenario to demonstrate that the even the worst case is not as bad as Nelson claims.

First, Nelson refuses to identify Jeffrey Goldberg as the subject of the tweet, referring to him merely as “a well-known American reporter.” Yet Goldberg’s identity is key to the meaning of the tweet, as the tweet refers to a “shiv,” which is prison lingo for a blade. During the first intifada, Goldberg served as an Israeli prison guard, the story of which he recounted in his book Prisoners—and thus “shiv” is a reference to Goldberg’s prison-guard stint.

However, comparing Nelson’s two statements above and an additional statement he gave to CBS, it seems that even he is unclear whether the “shiv” would have been intended for Goldberg or for a story that Goldberg wrote:

1. a well-known American reporter should be met with “the point of a shiv” [Aug. 6]

2. a well-known American reporter wrote a story that “should have ended at the pointy end of a shiv” [Aug.8]

3. [Goldberg’s] articles should be met on the point of a shiv [quoted on Aug. 7—all emphases mine]

This leaves one to ask how taking a knife to an article constitutes “incitement to violence.”

Again, taking the worst-case scenario, let’s assume the shiv was meant for Goldberg himself and not for his articles. Goldberg served as an Israeli prison guard more than twenty tears ago, and the tweet refers to the past (“should have ended”), not the present or the future.

Thus even if we take the tweet literally, it can only be construed as “inciting violence” if incitement could be performed retroactively. Taking these factors into account, we can measure the degrees of separation from an actual incitement to violence:

  • Time: Historical—over twenty years ago
  • Level of intent: A wish (“should have”)
  • Target: Inconclusive—an Israeli prison guard, the story of the Israeli prison guard, or
  • Agent: The person whom Salaita was retweeting from.

One would need to sidestep all these factors in order to conclude that Steven Salaita was even remotely inciting violence through a retweet of someone else who expressed a wish for Goldberg—or Goldberg’s story or articles—to have ended with a “shiv” over twenty years ago.

Tweet 3: Settlers “going missing”

Whereas the first and second tweets might be bad if they truly meant what Salaita’s detractors claim they mean (praise for anti-Semitism and a “horrible veiled threat”), this third “bad tweet” is so silly that I considered excluding it—except that I would then be accused of ignoring an inconvenient tweet, so here goes:

Nelson describes the tweet as such:

His June 19 response to the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers—“You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing”—also invokes a violent response to the occupation, since “go missing” refers to kidnapping.

Is expressing a “wish” that all West Bank settlers “go missing” truly “invok[ing] a violent response”—and more importantly, does it even matter?

After all, if Salaita had expressed a “wish” that the Israeli military eliminate Hamas, would it have caused as much consternation for Nelson? If a professor tweets in support of one war or another, would that not be “invok[ing] a violent response” in Nelson’s eyes, and would that be wrong? (This is not a hypothetical musing, as shall be seen in the section below on Cary Nelson’s support for Benny Morris.)

And once we ask these questions, is it not becoming clearer that citing this tweet as a potential threat is a stretch, and that it is a desperate attempt to find an excuse to shun Salaita?

At the very least, the appearance of this tweet as a late addenedum to the list of “hateful tweets” prepared by William Jacobson (whom Nelson had been communicating with) suggests that Nelson was not even aware of the tweet until someone pointed it out to him after Salaita’s firing. Thus one might suspect the tweet is being cited as retroactive justification for the firing.

Once again, Nelson commands only one possible interpretation for this tweet. Whereas before Nelson demanded that Salaita’s tweets be taken literally, here Nelson demands extrapolation: One must read “go missing” as a euphemism for kidnapping and nothing else.

But if “‘go missing’ refers to kidnapping,” why didn’t Salaita just write “kidnap”? After all, he prefaced his statement with the warning that it was “unrefined” and described the settlers with the expletive “fucking.” Why then, after all the build-up, would he resort to a euphemism?

Moreover, if Salaita had actually wished for the West Bank settlers to be kidnapped, would Nelson find it any worse than a wish for settlers to “drop dead” or “go jump off a cliff”?

By demonstrating the unlikelihood of Nelson’s reading, have I conclusively established Salaita’s intent? No, but neither does Nelson—an English professor—who imposes only one possible interpetation, which, even if correct, does not approach anywhere near a death threat or praise for anti-Semitism.

On strict legal grounds, it should be noted that Nelson’s two “incitement to violence” tweets do not pass the test for imminent lawless action established in Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), which requires the offending speech to be “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action,” and “likely to incite or produce such action.”

Tweet 4: Value judgment against supporters of Israel’s war on Gaza

The final “bad tweet” under consideration is this:

As the tweet was sent on July 9, the “right now” most likely refers to Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip. This is how Nelson describes the problem:

When Salaita tweets “If you’re defending Israel right now you’re an awful human being” he issues a judgment about his future students that would justify them believing they would be academically at risk in expressing pro-Israeli views in class …

First, Salaita had already indicated that he had no problem debating the issue of Palestine/Israel with those he disagreed with, and that he even “sometimes enjoy the arguments”:

Admittedly he draws the line on justifying the killing of children, but that is a low bar to overcome.

More importantly, however, Cary Nelson’s criticism of the tweet abandons academic freedom altogether in favor of keeping students “safe” from fears of what a teacher might be engaged in outside of the classroom.

The argument is spurious. After all, would a professor who frequently tweets contempt for Republicans instill unnecessary fear in students who might believe they would be penalized for expressing pro-Republican views?

In fact, it is telling that Nelson does not even pay any attention to Salaita’s tweets against Republicans:

I asked Nelson if Salaita’s anti-Republican tweets would pose a problem for Republican students. His response:

This is too speculative and general. Each case is different. But I could easily find anti-Arab tweets objectionable.

The problem with this answer is that it offers no guidelines with which to apply Nelson’s revised ideas of academic freedom. If “each case is different,” and if there are no guidelines, then one has no means to judge whether a social media comment that is addressed to a vague “You” somewhere out there in the Twitterverse will make a student too uncomfortable to function academically—that is, except by Nelson’s own personal judgment.

And according to Nelson’s personal judgment, we only have two examples to go by: Steven Salaita’s tweet and a claim that Nelson “could easily find anti-Arab tweets objectionable.”

But even the “anti-Arab tweet” test is not guaranteed, as can be seen in the case of Benny Morris.

Nelson’s defense of an “ethnic cleansing” advocate

Benny Morris

Benny Morris supports ethnic cleansing but not on Twitter.

In his book No University Is an Island: Saving Academic Freedom, Nelson offered an anecdote about how the Israeli ultranationalist historian Benny Morris had been rejected from consideration for a faculty position:

On yet another major research university campus, a faculty member was severely chastised and financially penalized for arguing on behalf of Israeli scholar (and admittedly polemical public intellectual) Benny Morris for a position in a Middle East studies department and against the less widely published pro-Palestinian scholar whom the search committee had recommended.

Nelson found the rejection of Morris unfair, stating that

While Morris’s increasing conservatism is not in doubt … neither is his status as a major historian in question … His appointment would be a coup for any university.

I mentioned this story in my previous piece on Nelson, and I pointed out that “increasing conservatism” was an understatement: Morris had publicly endorsed “ethnic cleansing”—both of Arabs from the land of Palestine, and of Native peoples from the Americas—on the grounds that “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs … There are times the overall, final good justifies terrible, cruel deeds.”

Later, in his book One State, Two States, Morris made the fatuous claim that Muslim Arabs possessed an alien “mindset” that made them more likely than Jews to commit crimes, including rape—and he attempted to ground this claim on a clearly skewed interpretation of Israeli police statistics.

Unlike Salaita, Morris publicly embraced ethnic chauvinism and ethnic cleansing, and he based his racism on poor scholarship. Citing these examples, I asked Nelson how he could justify Salaita’s firing for reasons that would be more compelling in the case of Benny Morris, whom Nelson had defended.

Nelson’s response was, in its entirety: “I admire Benny Morris’ books.”

It should be noted that this response was expressed to me by Nelson immediately following his claim that he “could easily find anti-Arab tweets objectionable.”

Nelson’s unfamiliarity with Twitter

Throughout his comments on Salaita’s tweets, there is an impression that Cary Nelson is clueless about Twitter as a medium for social interaction—perhaps willfully so. Thus I posed the question to Nelson:

Am I correct in assuming you don’t have a Twitter account yourself? I ask because just reading tweets, without participating in the medium itself, does not give one a clear idea of how this form of online communication works. Thus someone who is not on Twitter is less likely to understand the nature and context of tweets—both how they are formulated and how they are read by others on Twitter.

Nelson responded:

I do not have a twitter account. But I have visited [Salaita]’s twitter page 3 times. Tweets are not just elements of a conversation; they are also coherent individual statements.

One hopes that Nelson is aware that a 140-character limit does impose barriers to “coherent individual statements.” It is not uncommon for tweeters to express an idea through a series of tweets, as Salaita has done in some of the examples I provided earlier. Moreover any regular Twitter user will attest to the prevalence of unintentional misinterpretation as a result of Twitter’s technical limitations. Twitter is not a medium responsive to nuance.

However, to truly appreciate Nelson’s unfamiliarity with Twitter, one can examine a recent video interview of Nelson by Marc Lamont Hill on HuffPost Live, wherein Nelson accuses Salaita’s Twitter usage of being

obsessive. So sometimes he tweets several times a day. He’s been doing it for months …

To me “uncivil” isn’t enough [to merit penalty]. People have the right to vent and be uncivil sometimes, and I’ll defend faculty members for being uncivil … Part of what’s at stake is the obsessive-compulsive character of this activity and the relentless character of it. [My emphases]

This leads to an amusing exchange between Hill and Nelson:

HILL: You talk about the “obsessiveness” of it … Looking at his Twitter page … it doesn’t seem to me that he tweets any more often than the average person.

NELSON: That’s because over the weekend, he eliminated almost all of his tweets.

HILL: But even what he has left. I mean, nine, ten-thousand tweets over the course of a few years doesn’t strike me as—even if it were twice that. I mean, I tweet ten, twenty times a day. I’m not sure I’d call it obsessive…

NELSON: Are you telling me you have a full-time job and you can still do that?

HILL: Yeah, I work here [at HuffPost Live] and I’m a full-time faculty member, and I still manage to do it … “Compulsive” might also strike me as an unfair characterization.

NELSON: Maybe. I mean, I’m making a value judgment and, you know, that’s my impression. But, you know, I’m not gonna, you know, guarantee that I’m correct. But when I say he’s obsessive, it’s the repeated tweeting at great length over the Arab–Israeli conflict—with repeated profanity, with a high degree of anger, with tweets that cross a line into unacceptable discourse.

First, Nelson’s claim that Salaita had “eliminated almost all of his tweets”—which he declared with some smugness on the video—is untrue. I compared Salaita’s current Twitter page to archived versions and could find no discernible difference in quantity. Moreover, all of Salaita’s tweets that Nelson cites are still visible on his account.

Cary Nelson to Marc Lamont Hill: “Over the weekend, [Salaita] eliminated almost all of his tweets.”

Cary Nelson to Marc Lamont Hill: “Over the weekend, [Salaita] eliminated almost all of his tweets.”

I asked Nelson to explain how he concluded that Salaita had gone on a tweet-deleting spree, and I also asked him if he knew of any tweets that Salaita had deleted. Nelson did not answer.

Second, Nelson sought to criticize Salaita’s “obsessive-compulsive character” by nothing that he “sometimes … tweets several times a day,” unaware that that is typical Twitter practice.

Marc Lamont Hill to an incredulous Cary Nelson: “I tweet ten, twenty times a day. I’m not sure I’d call it obsessive.”

Marc Lamont Hill to an incredulous Cary Nelson: “I tweet ten, twenty times a day. I’m not sure I’d call it obsessive.”

Third, after expressing surprise that Hill tweets ten to twenty times a day, Nelson adjusts his argument:

when I say he’s obsessive, it’s the repeated tweeting at great length over the Arab–Israeli conflict—with repeated profanity, with a high degree of anger, with tweets that cross a line into unacceptable discourse.

So here, the obsessiveness relates to a claim of incivility, though earlier Nelson stated that incivility was not the issue. Recall the comment Nelson made in Inside Higher Ed:

Actually, [Inside Higher Ed] is interpreting my comments about Salaita to embody issues of “collegiality and civility.” I did not use those terms in anything I wrote about him and would not do so. Indeed I think it would be trivializing his social media presence to characterize it as uncollegial.

Conclusion to Part One

Though Nelson claims Salaita had “crossed a line” into hate speech and incitement to violence, I have demonstrated that those claims are baseless. By evoking “profanity” and “a high degree of anger,” Nelson actually hoped to blur the line between incivility and hate speech in the absence of identifiable hate speech.

When Inside Higher Ed emailed Cary Nelson for comments on the Salaita termination, Nelson “emailed back two answers,” he told me, “both of which they published in their entirety in their news story.” Nelson’s quotes in Inside Higher Ed consisted of about seven sentences, wherein he managed to cram in the following descriptors of Salaita’s tweets to justify UIUC’s decision:

venomous
obsessively driven
over-the-top
loathsome and foul-mouthed
hostility to Israel
extremist and uncivil
hostility to Israel (used twice)

And yet Nelson would later claim that he was not talking about “collegiality and civility.” When put to the test, Nelson failed to identify an instance of hate speech except for a tweet that was actually critical of anti-Semitism. He failed to find incitement to violence. He failed to offer consistent guidelines for “student-safe” tweeting.

What he has managed to do, however, is attack Salaita’s character by publicly accusing Salaita of disseminating hatred and bigotry. Such claims, however unsubstaniated, have a permanance on the internet. Regardless of whether Salaita finds justice, he may be forever branded as the hate-filled anti-Semitic professor.

Nelson can alleviate some of the harm by publicly apologizing and admitting that Salaita never considered anti-Semitism to be honorable. Yet Nelson refused to acknowledge it when I brought it up with him, as well as when Marc Lamont Hill brought it up.

Moreover, the controversy surrounding Salaita’s terminationcoupled with Nelson’s selective dissemination of tweets out of context but coupled with descriptors such as “inflammatory,” “loathsome,” “sophomoric,” “irresponsible,” “bombastic,” “anti-Semitic,” “vehemen[t],” and “outrageous”—have fostered a false impression that such tweets constitute the whole of Steven Salaita’s Twitter presence.

Contrary to Nelson’s findings, what I found in Salaita’s twitter timeline is no less colorful than most other twitter timelines, with wit:

cooking tips:

a surprisingly endearing conversation about his son’s penis:

and a willingness to engage with people outside the confines of Twitter:

Having established that Steven Salaita’s twitter history is not what Cary Nelson projects it to be, we can proceed to investigate the real reasons behind the campaign against Salaita, which will be discussed tomorrow in Part Two.

37 Responses

  1. Philip Munger
    August 13, 2014, 4:24 pm

    Ironies abound as this esteemed professor of poetry and poetics gets more than a dose of poetic justice for what is increasingly looking like his egregious, intentional tort against Prof. Salaita. I hope Prof. Michael Dorf reads Phan Nguyen’s article here. Dorf’s defense of Salaita is the best I’ve yet read, and Phan’s dissection of Prof. Nelson’s perfidy is something that must be making Prof. Cary Nelson’s colleagues squirm at the thought of having to look this creep in the eyes at the next faculty luncheon.

    If there is a Benny Morris award for American scholars, surely Nelson warrants getting it. And if there is a Marcy Wheeler award for cogent deconstruction of a liar’s defenses, Phan deserves it for this piece. Can’t wait for part 2.

    If I were Nelson, I’d be lawyering up about now.

    Michael Dorf’s article with interview:

    link to verdict.justia.com

  2. Oscar
    August 13, 2014, 5:10 pm

    BRILLIANT. This should be sent to Robert Warrior, the head of the Native American studies department, who is working at U of I to reinstate Prof. Salaita. Cary Nelson had an agenda and admitted he was targeting Salaita.

  3. David Green
    August 13, 2014, 6:17 pm

    Actually, at the May 13 AAUP meeting at U of I discussing ASA/BDS, Nelson expressed the hope that the settlers would return inside the green line. Not sure if that could be construed as “gone missing.”

  4. Nurit Baytch
    August 13, 2014, 7:41 pm

    “Go missing” isn’t a euphemism. It means disappearing under suspicious circumstances: it can mean kidnapped AND/OR killed. As Salaita wished for all West Bank settlers to “go missing” in the aftermath of the kidnapping (and what later proved to be the murder) of three Israeli teens, it is clear he meant “go missing” like those three Israeli teens. Had he said, “I wish all the West Bank settlers would go back to Israel [proper],” that would be another matter entirely.

    Given the context, wording, and the fact that he himself acknowledged he was being “unrefined,” the most reasonable interpretation is that Salaita was wishing for the kidnapping of all West Bank settlers. In fact, as the teens had been missing for a week at the time Salaita wrote his tweet, many already suspected by that time that the teens were likely dead, so an even darker interpretation is possible. Saying “go missing” encompasses both possibilities, and frankly, I think it’s being charitable to characterize the tweet as merely wishing for the kidnapping of Israeli settlers.

    Furthermore, Abbas has previously declared that he intended for there to be no Israelis (i.e. Jews) in the West Bank following a peace settlement:
    link to timesofisrael.com
    Since Salaita is an “expert” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, surely he knows that dreaming of a Judenrein West Bank is well within acceptable discourse, and thus, one need not be “unrefined” to express such a wish.

    I thought Cary Nelson said he hadn’t contacted UIUC about Salaita prior to his de-hiring/firing…? If so, the “go missing” tweet isn’t a retroactive justification if Nelson hadn’t petitioned UIUC to revoke Salaita’s offer in the first place. I simply remarked on the “go missing” tweet on Twitter when I heard about the scandal, at which point Jacobson added it to his blog post (which should indicate there wasn’t some grand conspiracy here). If UIUC revoked Salaita’s offer on the basis of his tweets, why are you assuming they hadn’t seen that tweet? I imagine that if someone had petitioned UIUC to rescind Salaita’s offer on the basis of his tweets, they’d actually review all of his recent tweets and not rely on someone’s screenshots.

    • Nurit Baytch
      August 13, 2014, 11:04 pm

      Just to confirm, Cary Nelson previously stated, “Although I was not involved in the process and did not communicate my views to the administration, I want to say why I believe the decision not to offer him a job was the right one.”
      link to insidehighered.com

      So Nguyen’s allegation that Nelson cited the “go missing” tweet as a retroactive justification for Salaita’s “firing” is false.

      Also, the fact that Salaita condemned some acts of anti-Semitism does not absolve him of the charge of anti-Semitism. After all, Mondoweiss has criticized the ADL for “pushing anti-Muslim bigotry.” Surely Mondoweiss would agree that ADL’s denunciation of some Islamophobic groups does not absolve the ADL of the charge of Islamophobia:
      link to adl.org

      Or here’s another example: Refaat Alareer, whose work Mondoweiss has published, thinks that he combats anti-Semitism by teaching students to see the humanity in fictional Jewish characters who are anti-Semitic caricatures:
      link to middleeasteye.net
      And yet Alareer (@ThisIsGaza) has declared that most Jews are evil:
      link to twitter.com
      link to mondoweiss.net

      • Phan Nguyen
        August 14, 2014, 5:59 pm

        Nurit: When I wrote that “this third ‘bad tweet’ is so silly that I considered excluding it—except that I would then be accused of ignoring an inconvenient tweet,” I had you in mind.

        You write:

        “Go missing” isn’t a euphemism. It means disappearing under suspicious circumstances: it can mean kidnapped AND/OR killed.

        If it’s not a euphemism, then “go missing” means go missing. Anything else is reading more than what’s there.

        Beyond that, you’re treating a wish as if it were reality, and thus you argue, “Well, in real life, you can’t just ‘go missing.’ You have to go somewhere. Therefore they’ve been kidnapped!”

        The only problem is this: In a wish, you can just “go missing.” You don’t have to go anywhere because IT’S. NOT. REAL.

        If I wish for a million dollars, I am not suggesting that I steal from someone, print more money, or exploit people and resources. It’s merely a wish. Some stuffy party pooper can then argue, “But if you have a million dollars, it has to come from somewhere!” That’s what makes them a stuffy party pooper.

        Just to confirm, Cary Nelson previously stated, “Although I was not involved in the process and did not communicate my views to the administration, I want to say why I believe the decision not to offer him a job was the right one.”

        I never said otherwise.

        Also, the fact that Salaita condemned some acts of anti-Semitism does not absolve him of the charge of anti-Semitism.

        The fact that you can’t see that this is a circular argument means there is nothing more to say.

      • Nurit Baytch
        August 14, 2014, 6:56 pm

        link to collinsdictionary.com
        “to become lost or absent, often under suspicious circumstances; disappear”

        If a person goes missing, it means they “disappear, often under suspicious circumstances,” so the options are
        1. kidnapping
        2. murder
        3. lost in the Bermuda Triangle.
        In particular, Salaita expressed his wish that all West Bank settlers go missing in the aftermath of the kidnapping of the 3 Israeli teens, while acknowledging that he was being “unrefined.” The meaning is abundantly clear. In fact, others have opted for meaning #2. Here’s journalist Max Fisher, who is not a pro-Israel partisan:
        link to twitter.com
        also:
        link to realclearpolitics.com

        Re: what you claim is my circular argument, I was pointing out that the fact that Salaita condemned some acts of anti-Semitism is irrelevant. Explaining to Mondoweiss readers how Salaita’s tweets could be regarded as anti-Semitic would be an exercise in futility, so I’m just going to leave it at that.

      • Nurit Baytch
        August 14, 2014, 7:24 pm

        I forgot to mention: you did imply that Nelson was involved in the de-hiring/firing of Salaita, since you stated: “suggests that Nelson was not even aware of the tweet until someone pointed it out to him after Salaita’s firing. Thus one might suspect the tweet is being cited as retroactive justification for the firing.”

        It’s not a retroactive justification if Nelson never petitioned UIUC to “fire” Salaita. The Simon Wiesenthal Center did urge UIUC to reconsider his appointment, so it stands to reason that if UIUC took action based on SWC’s letter, UIUC would actually review all of Salaita’s recent tweets; hence, Salaita’s “go missing” tweet could have been a factor in their decision.

    • yonah fredman
      August 14, 2014, 12:27 am

      When the discussion is whether a tweet is reason enough to justify a firing, that is above my pay grade, but there is little question that the unrefined suggestion by Salaita was not innocuous, when he said, I wish they would all go missing. Please don’t play games and pretend. Be a judge and not a lawyer.

      • marc b.
        August 14, 2014, 11:47 am

        so says the lawyer. as you admit that you’re unqualified to be a ‘judge’, why comment at all? Salaita’s tweet, the motivation of which is only known to him, refers to persons illegally on another’s land, the comment being issued in the midst of a slaughter committed by the occupiers. if Palestinians invaded my home town, arrested my children, groped my wife at military checkpoints, demolished my home, tore up my tomato patch, confiscated my well, I’d probably hope that they ‘go missing’ too.

      • Nurit Baytch
        August 14, 2014, 5:36 pm

        Salaita posted the “go missing” tweet on June 19th, ~3 weeks before the start of Operation Protective Edge.

      • marc b.
        August 14, 2014, 9:19 pm

        3 weeks. Really? Anything happen in Gaza or the West Bank before protective edge? No. Nothing comes to mind?

      • Nurit Baytch
        August 15, 2014, 4:24 am

        Marc, you tried to justify Salaita’s repugnant tweet by noting that it was “issued in the midst of a slaughter.” Operation Brother’s Keeper was not a “slaughter.”

    • piotr
      August 14, 2014, 2:03 am

      link to latimes.com

      A good article, given a very “mainstream” source.

    • Philip Munger
      August 14, 2014, 3:51 am

      “Go missing” is vague. Unfortunate wording, perhaps, but it can merely mean to be lost or having disappeared. “My iPhone has gone missing.”

      When I was in the Army, soldiers who wished to “go missing” usually hoped to slip out to an off-base bar while on duty. I’ve chastised students for having “gone missing or fishing.”

      I wish 95% of the illegal settlers would “go missing” to a bar in Tel Aviv or in the Long Island suburbs – and stay there. I would welcome them here in Alaska as my next-door neighbor.

      Maybe the last 5% would want to stay and become Jewish citizens in a new, non-hostile environment. Probably not much higher percentage than that would want to stay in a polity where they did not have the upper hand at all time over people they view as different from and subsidiary to themselves.

      • Nurit Baytch
        August 14, 2014, 5:17 am

        Philip, people are not iPhones, so your analogy to the use of “go missing” wrt iPhones does not apply. I’m not familiar with military terminology, but if a civilian is missing, and foul play isn’t suspected, it is typically said, “she is missing” or “she has run away,” not “she has gone missing.” More to the point, Salaita expressed his wish that all the West Bank settlers go missing in the context of the 3 Israeli teens having been kidnapped, so I think the meaning was abundantly clear, esp as Salaita acknowledged he was being unrefined. The phrase “go missing” does not make sense as a descriptor of settlers simply withdrawing from the West Bank. No one described the former Israeli settlers in the Gaza Strip as having “gone missing” when they left Gaza and returned to Israel.

        Piotr, the article you referenced is about academic freedom and does not reference Salaita’s “go missing” tweet, which is Salaita’s most offensive tweet, as far as I’m concerned. It is certainly possible that his call for violence is protected by the principles of academic freedom. I’m not arguing that UIUC made the right decision; I’m disputing the massive whitewashing by Salaita’s defenders, who claim, either out of genuine or willful ignorance, that Salaita was “fired” merely for criticizing Israel. As far as I know, UIUC hasn’t explained why they took the action they apparently did, but if it was based on his tweets, it is clear that Salaita was not merely “critical” of Israel; a call for violence against 350,000 civilians is beyond the pale of appropriate discourse.

    • marc b.
      August 14, 2014, 11:38 am

      Why would anyone take Nelson’s statements at face value? There is no question that he willfully or with gross negligence cherry-picked tweets, blithely ignoring context, and has issued contradictory comments regarding the basis for his objections to Salaita’s appointment. As for your ‘imagination’, there is no evidence to support your contention that critics of Salaita’s appointment were thorough or objective.

    • marc b.
      August 14, 2014, 11:49 am

      Furthermore, Abbas has previously declared that he intended for there to be no Israelis (i.e. Jews) in the West Bank following a peace settlement:

      which is evidence of what? according to international law, they’re not supposed to be there.

      • Nurit Baytch
        August 14, 2014, 5:30 pm

        I was pointing out that wishing for all the settlers in the West Bank to leave is well within acceptable discourse; that is, it is clear that Salaita was not merely wishing for the settlers to leave.

      • marc b.
        August 14, 2014, 9:29 pm

        Hold on there. So you’re suggesting that Salaita harbored ill feelings towards the settlers? It can’t be. I mean, what’d they ever do to anyone?

    • talknic
      August 14, 2014, 12:52 pm

      @ Nurit Baytch “Furthermore, Abbas has previously declared that he intended for there to be no Israelis (i.e. Jews) in the West Bank following a peace settlement”

      WOW! Abbas speaks with parenthesis. How does that sound?

      Putting words you’d like to hear in people’s mouths then trying to build an argument based on them, doesn’t cut the mustard here pal!

      • RoHa
        August 14, 2014, 3:53 pm

        Also, the “for” is otioise. It should be “he intended there to be no Israelis in the West Bank”. “Intend” follows the same pattern as “like” and”want”.

        “I want you to get it right.”
        “I would like you to get it right.”
        “I hope you intend to get it right.”

        I bet Abbas gets it right.

      • marc b.
        August 14, 2014, 4:53 pm

        ‘otioise’

        why don’t tuck that in, buddy? you got an extra vowel dangling there. think of the children.

      • RoHa
        August 15, 2014, 3:46 am

        And Phil’s Law strikes again.

        The spell check on iPad didn’t catch that extra i, and I failed to edit.

        But the otiose “for” still seems wrong.

      • lysias
        August 14, 2014, 4:59 pm

        Wow, “otiose” is not a word you see that often in English.

        However, “otiose” is correct here. “For” is unnecessary in the sentence. But that does not mean that it is wrong. Either way, with or without “for”, is correct English.

  5. lproyect
    August 13, 2014, 8:10 pm

    Bravo for Mondoweiss’s coverage of the Steven Salaita affair. This is Internet advocacy at its pinnacle.

  6. piotr
    August 13, 2014, 8:51 pm

    I may surprise a Professor of English literature, but the is a long tradition of using “honorable” ironically.

    Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
    And Brutus is an honourable man.

    Yet Nelson says he was too vicious;
    And Nelson is an honourable man.

  7. aiman
    August 13, 2014, 9:36 pm

    Excellent work! This should put an end to the inquisition against Salaita. And drive home the facts to at least one person here who took an incredibly condescending tone under the auspices of defending Salaita.

    Salaita has done nothing wrong. Nelson should apologise.

  8. MHughes976
    August 14, 2014, 9:24 am

    While I understand that teachers should create an environment where no one feels scared to speak out that should not mean that they make people feel that they can be sure of leaving the discussion without any deep or uncomfortable disturbance to their existing ideas – and of course they should expose themselves to this risk also. Ideas are dangerous, can’t not be.
    That said, I’d try not to use terms like ‘awful person’ – making the holder of the idea, rather than the idea itself, the subject of discussion – face to face or even in electronic communication. However, it’s better in the very end to let arguments be stated in full if that seems necessary, with all their personal implications, than not to let them be stated at all. There are awful people in the world and there are arguments that claim to identify them – we sometimes need to look those arguments in the eye, I suppose. If the price of protesting against the murder of babies is serious discomfort in social situations or classroom situations far away then I suppose that price may have to be paid.
    I don’t trivialise this matter: the entry of personal feeling into what could have been constructive discussion is not a trivial thing. I accept that the ‘J’accuse!’ style of rhetoric can be a little self-satisfied.

  9. eljay
    August 14, 2014, 9:45 am

    “Go missing” sounds like a polite way of saying “f*ck right off (Palestinian land)”, which is the right course of action for Zio-supremacist settlers.

    And if one knowingly defends Zio-supremacism, one is knowingly being a hateful and immoral person. That’s pretty awful.

    At most Salaita can be accused of poor wording, which demands clarification, not termination of employment.

  10. eGuard
    August 14, 2014, 9:55 am

    Nelson’s main argument is that it was cancelled in the hiring process, so before any academic freedom was established. He repeats that it was the chancellor (Phyllis Wise then) who terminated the selection process. (for example, in the HuffPo interview).

    However, in the Chicago Tribune piece Wise is quoted, writing to Salaita: “We believe that an affirmative Board vote approving your appointment is unlikely,” Wise wrote. “We therefore will not be in a position to appoint you to the faculty … Thank you for your interest in and consideration of the University of Illinois.”

    In other words, she says it is the Board who would block the appointment (which is after the hiring process). Fishy.

  11. Marshall
    August 14, 2014, 1:53 pm

    Wait, you’re saying the entire Twitter-based case against Salaita collapses on a thorough investigation?? Knock me down with a feather. (Can’t believe that’s even a relevant objection to be confronted but hey.) I’ll say one thing in favor of Cary Nelson: his tie is ridiculous.

    • Mooser
      August 14, 2014, 3:29 pm

      “Wait, you’re saying the entire Twitter-based case against Salaita collapses on a thorough investigation??”

      Don’t be so sure. We’ve heard from at least one person who insists Salaita signed a social-media agreement with his new employers, and that will be revealed when the time is ripe.

  12. yesspam
    August 14, 2014, 4:05 pm

    Has he got a new job, if not where can we go to set up a post for him?

    • marc b.
      August 14, 2014, 5:14 pm

      hopefully part of his new job is collecting checks from his legal settlement with the University of Illinois and Cary Nelson.

  13. marc b.
    August 14, 2014, 5:19 pm

    News flash: David Gregory has just ‘gone missing’. Someone else takes his place. No word yet if Steven Salaita will be re-fired from his post at UIUC for experiencing brief, intense feelings of satisfaction at news of Gregory’s departure.

  14. hophmi
    August 15, 2014, 12:59 pm

    I’ll response to the entirety of Phan’s analysis.

    Introduction

    “Despite the attempts of Nelson and others to spin this as apologetics for anti-Semitism, many people, such as political commentator Marc Lamont Hill and CUNY professor Corey Robin, have interpreted the tweet to mean just the opposite.”

    So, if Salaita had tweeted out something like “The Congressional Black Caucus: making racism an honorable thing since 1970,” because he felt that they were not militant enough in demanding equal rights for African Americans, would you then go back through his twitter history to explain how he meant something different? How about if he tweeted out: “The Equal Rights Campaign: making homophobia an honorable thing since 1948.” How about: “the al-Saud family. Making Islamophobia honorable since 1920.”

    If your answer isn’t yes, then you’re a giant hypocrite, and you’re certainly not defending academic freedom.

    1. Even if Salaita’s tweets can be placed in context, so what? The accusation that Zionists label all criticism of Israel antisemitic is a nonsensical straw man that has never been accurate, and the accusation far outpaced the regularity of this happening. A close (and even not so close) examination of the rhetoric here indicates that, in fact, it’s the anti-Israel BDS movement that has worked hard to devalue the meaning of antisemitism by trying to legitimize it as a part of public discourse. This site has devoted itself in part to blaming the Jewish community for the Iraq War, a conspiracy theory that dredges up classical antisemitic tropes. It has promoted anti-Jewish screeds calling neonatal circumcision barbaric and calling for an end to kosher slaughter. It has publicly questioned whether there are too many Jews on the US Supreme Court. It has blamed the Jewish community in advance for the war in Iraq. It is perfectly common to see citations to blatantly antisemitic websites like Veterans Today, where Jews are blamed for the 9/11 attacks, and to neo-Nazi websites like Rense. It has been nearly silence on incidences of antisemitism in Europe; far more voices here have been heard claiming Jews make up these events than heard condemning them. So let’s place Salaita’s tweets in context. The context is the legitimizing of antisemitic discourse within the BDS movement.

    Does it really matter a great deal that Salaita has issued condemnations of certain clearly antisemitic events at times? This is a site where comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is routine, and where people defend these comparisons by claiming that one need not put the Palestinians in gas chambers in order for them to be compared to Nazi Germany. Similarly, Steven Salaita need not be a white-hood wearing KKK member in order to engage in antisemitic activity.

    With regard to your point about Salaita’s use of the word “honorable,” your argument is absurd. When Salaita says that FIFA is an honorable organization, he’s clearly using the word “honorable” sarcastically. When he says that Zionism has made antisemitism honorable, he’s speaking sardonically with regard to Zionism, but not sarcastically with regard to the word “honorable.” In fact, Mira Sucharov’s response was quite right. Just as Geller might say that hating Islam is honorable because of the acts of Muslim fanatics and the relative silence of non-fanatic Muslims, Salaita is saying that hating Jews may be now an honorable position because of the acts of Zionists and the general support those acts draw from other Jews. After all, this is the same man who tweeted that he saw little difference between the Israeli people and their government, and tweeted that supporters of Israel, a group that includes most American Jews, were “awful people.” Perhaps he says so with more comparative regret than Geller would. But that he said it nonetheless is inescapable.

    2. All of us understand that retweets are not endorsements. Nevertheless, that does not mean that retweets are never endorsements, and anyone who has spent time on twitter knows that most tweets that express a political opinion are retweeted by people who agree with that opinion. There is overwhelming evidence, namely, Salaita’s other tweets, to suggest that Salaita retweeted a nasty tweet about Jeffrey Goldberg because he agreed with the sentiment, and not because he disagreed with the sentiment or because he wanted to educate others on the depth of anger in the pro-Palestinian community. In the context of Salaita’s other tweeting during the Gaza War, in which he referred to supporters of Israel as “awful people,” and wished all West Bank settlers would go “missing,” it is very much in line with Salaita’s viewpoint that he should wish that Jeffrey Goldberg, a journalist regularly pillorized by the BDS movement in ad hominem terms, meet the pointy end of a shiv.

    In sum, it is very easy to believe that Salaita wished Jeffrey Goldberg ill because he had repeatedly personalized his hatred of the people who support political viewpoints different from his own. Consequently, Nelson’s interpretation is perfectly reasonable. You can’t cite context to explain away Salaita’s tweets in one instance, and then ignore context in another when it doesn’t serve your purpose.

    3. It’s exactly the same with your reading of Salaita’s tweet regarding the West Bank settlers. You ignore the context in order to massage an alternative reading of the tweet so that you can discard the plain contextual meaning. The man tweeted this right after three Israeli teens were kidnapped. The plainest meaning is that he wishes the same thing to all West Bank settlers. It matters little what Salaita’s intention was. The statement stands on its own because it’s quite clear. If Salaita’s intention was otherwise, then he is at best frighteningly irresponsible, and this level of irresponsible is surely something that institutions should take into account when evaluating the candidacy of an employee for a teaching position.

    4. With regard to Salaita’s responses to others on the subject of the Gaza War: it is the personalized tone, not the intensity. If a professor is constantly tweeting out anti-GOP arguments, we can make a fair assumption that he’s referring to ideas, not to people. But if the person has a record of tweeting out personal attacks on Republicans, such as “If you defend the GOP now, you’re a terrible person” or “The GOP makes hating gun owners honorable,” and he’s being hired because of his work on the American political system, it’s fair to wonder about whether that person can be fair to students who are members of the GOP or may express arguments against gun owners. As I’ve said elsewhere, I might be inclined to sympathize with some of the pro-#Salaita arguments if it could be shown that Salaita keeps his personal opinions out of the classroom and if, as a professor, he does not use his classroom for political organizing or for browbeating students into accepting his political opinions as a requirement for getting good grades.

    5. On Nelson’s report regarding the Morris affair: Your characterization is completely disingenuous, and conveniently omits the details. Nelson reported that an academic was penalized for arguing in favor of hiring Benny Morris over a pro-Palestinian scholar favored by his department in a section of his book that argued that while the line between polemical writing and scholarship drawn in the service of campus collegiality was false, the manner in which colleges were sensitive to and enforced against hostile environments on campus was “Orwellian.” Nelson gave as examples the months-long investigation of a white graduate student who had told a black graduate student that he was upset that a student had used the n-word in class and wanted to find a way to handle the problem; the white graduate student was reported by the black graduate student for creating a hostile environment by telling the black graduate student the story.

    Nelson gave as a second example the story of a faculty member who was severely penalized personally and financially for favoring the hiring of Morris, who is one of the world’s foremost scholars of the Palestinian refugee problem and of Israeli history, over the pro-Palestinian scholar the faculty favored.

    link to books.google.co.uk

    Predictably, you defend the violation of this scholar’s academic freedom because you disagree with his politics; you make a series of political judgments about Morris’s political views that do not come close to constituting a coherent case for why Morris’s politics should serve as a bar to his being hired as a historian, and certainly make no case as to why the academic freedom of a professor should be violated for the act of advocating Morris’s hiring. That’s not to mention your complete failure to mention Morris’s stature as one of the world’s foremost scholars of Palestinian refugee history and Israeli history.

    Because you apply an apologetic standard to Salaita’s tweets that you would not apply to other scholars who tweeted similarly on other political controversial issues, because you use context when it suits you, and discard it when it does not, because you ignore the plain meaning of Salaita’s writing, because you mischaracterize Nelson’s position on Benny Morris and omit basic details of the episode Nelson described, and because you have a long history as a partisan BDS activist who has called for the violation of the academic freedom of Israeli academics many times, the clear conclusion here is that your advocacy of Salaita’s cause is purely political, and not based on your advocacy of academic freedom.

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