The media can have terrible tunnel vision, such as when it focused on the question of whether the University of Illinois was right in retracting its job off to Steve Salaita, who used the Anti-Semitism Empowerment Act, aka the Gaza War, to ladle contempt on Israelis and, by proxy, Jews. (Spoiler alert: they were correct).
I resisted the impulse to jump in. Academic squabbles are so bitter, the saying goes, because the stakes are so small. But the more I thought of it, the more I realized that the problem isn't this guy. Oh that it were. The problem is he represents the standard lazy, evil-du-jour activism always popular on college campuses, with a healthy dose of good old-fashioned ivory tower anti-Semitism thrown in. As readers know, I hate playing the anti-Semite card: God knows there are reasons aplenty to criticize Israel and its frequent missteps. But Salaita plunged over the line into hate speech, as so frequently happens, which is not guaranteed speech, but shouting "Fire" in a crowded theater. We've seen this before. The far right tries to put a fig leaf over their hatred by claiming religious freedom. The left, no better, cites academic privilege as a shield for their noxious bigotry. Too bad for Salaita that he didn't wait three months to spout his hate; then he could have just blended into the crowd.
Kudos to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees for yanking back its invitation to would-be professor Steven Salaita, whose Twitter rants during the Gaza war said, in essence, that all Israelis living in the West Bank — different place, but close enough — should die, and that Israel’s existence justifies anti-Semitism.
To be frank, I thought the board would wave him in to avoid a lawsuit and mollify the restive students, many of whom support Salaita, in the rampant ignorance that only half-educated young adults can muster.
A tiny victory. Does anyone believe keeping Salaita off campus is going to squash the blindered myopia and easy hatred he represents? Jeez. Condemning Israel is a classic American college phenomenon, like binge drinking and date rape, and the U of I’s vote Thursday will have about as much effect as administrative acts against those problems.
And no, I’m not saying it’s anti-Semitic to criticize Israel. I can criticize Israel all day long, and do, right here in print, so strongly that the consul in Chicago gives me the cold shoulder because I don’t echo their own simplistic friend-or-foe thinking. Israel is in the grip of right-wing hawks, its religious fanatics exert far too much influence (just like ours!) They were too long viewing the occupied territories as spare land and too slow to see them as the poison pill human-rights disaster they without question are....
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