The Israeli and Palestinian conflict has been nothing but a cloud of explosions, blood, tears and tragedy for many years. The thousands of civilians dying in hospitals and in the streets of Gaza is nothing new. What is new is the undertone of why these attacks are occurring and the transparency of this conflict is slowly coming to light in Western media.
As I sat and listened to Steven Salaita speak about how his tenured position at the University of Illinois was ripped from underneath him due to tweets, I began to feel disappointment and an overwhelming skepticism about the United States’ involvement with Israel. Not only does the United States give Israel close to 3 billion dollars in military aid per year, but they also support them in global decisions as well. For instance, the Palestinian government asked for an investigation about Israel’s most recent offensive in 2014, as they saw possibilities of war crimes. The United Nations security council was to vote on whether or not they would investigate. The council consisted of 47 members in which 29 agreed, 17 were abstained, and one voted against, which was the United States.
These are just a few reasons why I speculated the Salaita case as being a little fishy to begin with, including the fact that the U.S. has such close relations with Israel, and that just a few tweets were the basis of his termination. Salaita’s tenured position was intended to protect his political beliefs inside and outside of academia. Salaita wrote in the Chicago Tribune that his tweets were taken out of context and casted him as “anti-semitic,” which resulted in upsetting the universities donors.
The question that comes to mind is how would these donors feel if these tweets were about Russia’s involvement in Ukraine? This is another conflict that has taken the lives of many Ukrainians and even U.S. volunteers. On the contrasting side, Russia plays the role of an antagonist towards the U.S. while Israel is a key ally. Would these donors feel as threatened as they did when Salaita criticized Israel?
Whether it’s criticism of Israel, Ukraine, China or any other country, I feel that an educator, especially one of Saliata’s standard, should be able to express his opinions. Steven Salaita has been the author of six books regarding the Middle East, has had tenure at multiple universities, and has had an active role in speaking to the public about these issues. Salaita’s repertoire of credible experiences on this topic is more then enough to prove that he has a voice worth hearing. Creating a forum for his students and for the public is an ideological goal of educators. Educators should have the freedom to express their views because without these types of dialogues we as the public are suffocated due to a lack of diversity. Suffocated from the very thing that allows us to be self-governing and independent people with the freedom to choose what we want to believe in.
I would like to see more people acting as passionately as Steven Salaita did when encountering disturbing news. Our culture has grown progressively insensitive toward the topics of foreign conflicts and human suffering. If it isn’t taking place outside most people’s doorsteps, they are not willing to do what Steven Salaita did and stand up for it so righteously. Steven Salaita should be seen as a pillar of solidarity and his case should be the catalyst of more social change movements.