Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics


I was just reading about the case of Steven Salaita, who had his offer of a tenured professorship of American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois withdrawn because of some fairly ferocious anti-Israel tweets that he perpetrated. Now, I strongly support his right to write whatever he wants, particularly in his free time in a non-academic forum, as long as it does not cross the line into outright personal abuse or overt racism, sexism, etc.

Nonetheless, I feel obliged to point out that the content of these tweets would not encourage me to believe that their author is a clear and careful thinker. In particular, there was this one:

Zionists: transforming ‘anti-Semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.

For someone in a field with a significant historical component this is particularly embarrassing. For substantial portions of respectable society anti-semitism was considered perfectly honourable, until the Nazis embarrassed everyone by taking it too far. So maybe there was a period of about 3 years when anti-semitism was “horrible”. Then it went back to being honourable. But it’s all the fault of the Zionists.

Actually, there need not be any gap at all, since some of the atrocities of Jewish fighters in Palestinians are at least as bad as the current attack on Gaza. So he might have made an even better tweet:

Zionists: preventing ‘anti-Semitism’ from being horrible after 1945.

I’m guessing he wouldn’t have felt comfortable with that one, though.

But I’m still writing to the University of Illinois chancellor to protest against this firing. I am appalled by the weaselly excuses of former AAUP president Cary Nelson (who proudly drapes that emeritus title about himself while undermining the AAUP’s principles), that this is striking a blow for “civility”, and that Salaita was fomenting violence.

Comments on: "When did anti-semitism become “horrible”?" (2)

  1. […] get you trapped in contradictions. With regard to l’affaire Salaita, which I commented on here. Much more information from Corey Robin here and here, including links for various […]

  2. […] of Steven Salaita at the University of Illinois, which I have commented on here and here. Defenders of the university’s decision say that he had no right to have his academic […]

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