Just before the start of the 2014 academic year, the board of trustees at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign revoked a tenured professorship of renowned American Indian studies professor Steven Salaita. The abrupt termination of employment was in response to Salaita’s public tweets criticizing the Israeli government’s summer assault on Gaza. Enormous public outcry followed the scholar’s firing, with thousands petitioning for his reinstatement, and more than five thousand scholars pledging to boycott UIUC. The case raises significant questions about academic freedom, free speech on campus, and the growing movement for justice in Palestine. In his new book Uncivil Rites, Salaita brings personal reflection and political critique to bear on his high-profile and controversial termination. He deftly positions his case at the intersection of important issues affecting higher education and social justice activism.
Guest – Steven Salaita holds the Edward W. Said Chair of American Studies at the American University of Beirut. The author of six other books, he is a columnist for Electronic Intifada and a member of the Organizing Committee of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI).
A new report, “The Palestine Exception to Free Speech: A Movement Under Attack in the US,” released by Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights, documents for the first time the widespread and growing suppression of Palestinian human rights advocacy in the US. A companion video features students and scholars discussing the backlash they have experienced for engaging in Palestine advocacy.
Palestine Legal, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the civil rights of people in the U.S., responded to nearly 300 incidents over an 18-month period. Eighty-five percent of the incidents—which included baseless legal complaints, administrative disciplinary actions, firings, harassment, and false accusations of terrorism and antisemitism—targeted students and scholars. Driven by a network of Israel advocacy organizations, these efforts target the movement for Palestinian rights in the U.S., which has grown significantly over the last decade.
The report includes case studies and testimony from advocates targeted for their speech. It outlines a notable increase in federal and state legislative efforts to condemn or restrict advocacy for Palestinian human rights, including legislation that conflates criticism of Israeli policy with antisemitism.
Guest – Dima Khalidi is the founder and Director of Palestine Legal and Cooperating Counsel with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). Her work includes providing legal advice to activists, engaging in advocacy to protect their rights to speak out for Palestinian rights, and educating activists and the public about the repression of Palestine advocates. Dima has a JD from DePaul University College of Law with a concentration in International Law, an MA in Comparative Legal Studies from the University of London – School of Oriental and African Studies, and a BA in History and Near Eastern Studies from the University of Michigan.