Roundup on U.S. Academe and Middle East Conflict

August 8, 2014

Updates and new developments on tensions on American campuses over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

  • Julio Pino, a historian at Kent State University, has published an open letter to "academic friends of Israel" in which he holds them responsible for recent deaths in Gaza. "I curse you more than the Israelis, for while The Chosen drain the blood of innocents without apologies you hide behind the mask of academic objectivity, nobility of research and the reward of teaching to foreign youth -- in a segregated university, of course. Lest you think this is a personal attack I swear it applies equally to all who engage in collaboration with fascism, and we both know the fate of collaborators. In the same manner, only with more zeal, than you have sworn to the Jewish State I pledge to you, and every friend and stooge of Zionism, Hasta la victoria siempre! Jihad until victory!" Kent State issued a statement condemning the letter. "We condemn the professor’s statement as reprehensible and irresponsible," the university statement says. "At Kent State, we value collegiality and mutual respect. Assailing the public with broad statements of culpability violates these principles."
  • The Joint Council of United Auto Workers 2865, which represents teaching assistants and other student workers at University of California campuses, has announced plans to take a membership vote on backing the boycott of Israel. A statement issued by the council endorses the boycott and calls the "situation in Palestine one of settler-colonialism," and states that Israel "enforces an apartheid system." The Simon Wiesenthal Center issued a letter denouncing the UAW's action. "As Israel now defends herself and fights for her life in the face of thousands of incoming rockets -- something that ANY democratic nation would do -- the very UC tutors and assistants that thousands of Jewish and pro-Israel students rely upon daily now prepare to export their incendiary anti-Semitism to every UC campus," says the letter.
  • The American Association of University Professors has issued a statement on the decision of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to block the hiring of Steven Salaita to teach in the American Indian studies program, apparently because of his anti-Israel tweets. The statement says that "there is good reason to fear that Professor Salaita's academic freedom and possibly that of the Illinois faculty members who recommended hiring him have been violated." Further, the statement says that Cary Nelson, former president of the AAUP, is not speaking for the organization when he has defended the decision made not to hire Salaita.
  • More than 9,000 people have signed a petition to the University of Illinois demanding that it hire Salaita.


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