Following the firing of Steven Salaita from his position at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), a group of Jewish faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community members from UIUC issued a letter to Chancellor Phyllis Wise and the Board of Trustees. This letter, like many other letters issued to the Chancellor and the Board in the wake of this conflict, opposed the administration’s decision not to approve Salaita’s hire. This particular letter specifically rejected the administration’s position that Salaita was fired in order to protect students from anti-Semitism. The letter condemned the conflation of critique of Israel with anti-Semitism and insisted that such conflations minimize the voices of those who resist real and violent prejudice. Ultimately, the letter was the first step towards creating a Jewish front in the battle to reinstate Professor Salaita.
Despite great effort to the contrary, on September 11th the Board of Trustees, UI President Robert Easter and Chancellor Wise voted not to appoint Salaita to the position of Professor with the American Indian Studies Department at UIUC. As a result, many have redoubled their efforts toward the ultimate goal of Salaita’s reinstatement, both within UIUC and outside.
Now, the Jewish students, faculty and staff of UIUC who stand in solidarity with Steven Salaita seek support in reemphasizing and strengthening their message to the university administration. On Thursday, September 25th, there will be a Rosh Hashanah Tashlich service for Palestine and Professor Salaita. In this service, an adapted script from Jewish Voice for Peace will be used that takes as it’s focus the casting off of both personal and collective sins, particularly that of the ongoing Israeli occupation of and violence in Palestine, and the collective sin of the silencing and firing of Professor Salaita. All are welcome to join the event in Champaign, or on Facebook to virtually extend support.
On September 20th, the following addendum was added to the original University of Illinois Jewish Community Letter in Support of Our Professor Steven Salaita:
**Addendum added 9/20/2014, after the 102nd signature**
Given the recent decision on September 11th of the Board of Trustees not to approve Professor Salaita’s hire, and given the continued effort to control the conversation over Israel and Palestine by wielding accusations of anti-Semitism, we are now expanding the original message of this letter. We are also adding President Robert Easter to our list of recipients (see the recent news of his direct involvement in the firing of Professor Salaita: http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/email-contradicts-univ-illinois-presidents-statement-salaita-firing). The implications of the board’s decision reach far beyond the UIUC campus into a larger context of corrupt U.S. academic institutional support for Israel. Therefore, we invite all Jews who agree with the original spirit of this letter to sign below. We invite all Jews to stand with us in our continued opposition to the administration’s claim that it’s actions protect us. We invite all Jews to join us in our continued pledge to ensure that others do not conflate Judaism and Zionism or anti-Semitism with critique of the Israeli state. We invite all Jews to organize with us in support of our Professor Steven Salaita.
If you are Jewish and you with to add to the voices of the Jewish students, faculty, stuff, alumni and community members of UIUC in support of Salaita, you are invited to sign the letter here.