In a recent Facebook post, Steven Salaita shared his plans for leaving the academe. "My immediate plan is to write and give talks," he wrote. "Despite applying to positions on four continents, I was unable to find an academic job, so I no longer count myself among the professoriate... A number of colleagues have attempted to recruit me, but their efforts always get shut down by management." To recall, Salaita was offered in 2013 a tenured position in the Department of Native American Studies at Illinois University in Urbana-Champaigne but the University withdrew its offer in response to the string of Twitter messages by Salaita in the summer of 2014.
After being turned down by University of Illinois, Salaita was offered a visiting position at the American University in Beirut, but ran into some problems and now he is back in the U.S.
Salaita is also fond of Zionist conspiracies, writing, "Zionists have worked overtime to incriminate me, but they’ve never found anything incriminating—not from a lack of diligence, but because there’s nothing to find but plainspoken disdain for settler colonization." Salaita explains his disdain to Israel in his book Israel's Dead Soul (2011). "There is no false advertising in the title: I have no affinity for Israel or Zionism and I wanted to make that clear... my belief that Zionist settler colonization is unsustainable."
Salaita's anti-Israel stance has evidently began in his upbringing as he stated in his 2003 PhD thesis, "I was raised in Appalachia by Arab immigrants who nurtured my childhood interest in the Middle East, Palestine particularly. My entire life has thus been dedicated to Palestinian politics and activism, and nothing has occupied my thoughts more than Israeli brutality and the way it is described so euphemistically in the United States, if even it is mentioned at all. For the majority of my life. Native America was nothing but an abstract backdrop to the old leftist politics I have since outgrown. I knew, as most Americans do, that the United States was constructed on other peoples’ lands, and that terrible domestic atrocities occurred in America’s past."
Armed with this missionary vision, Salaita went to graduate school at the University of Oklahoma. In his doctoral work, Salaita states his goal "to contribute to a culture working hard outside the Academy to eliminate colonialism.... in a way that might satisfy academics as well as any reader interested in issues of justice for Indigenous peoples, especially if they are concerned with formulating resistant strategies or incorporating theoretical models into public debate." As a good missionary that he was, he wrote, "Since entering doctoral school at the University of Oklahoma three years ago with a clear vision of my dissertation topic— a comparative analysis of Native Americans and Palestinians, with attention to how politics influence literary production".
Although Salaita managed to secure a position after graduation in Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, his true passion was anti-Israel activity and his egregious social media "production" bordering on the anti-Semitic caught up with him at the University of Illinois.
Still, as Salaita stated, he is now starting a new career as a freelance writer and speaker. This should not be too difficult as there are many venues in which bashing of Israel is fashionable. For instance, he will speak in the upcoming conference "Freedom of Speech and Higher Education: The Case of the Academic Boycott of Israel" in Trinity College Dublin on 11-12 September 2017, as a keynote speaker. The invitation reads, "Steven Salaita. Author of Uncivil Rites: Palestine and the Limits of Academic Freedom, Steven was denied a Professorship in University of Illinois due to his views on Israel/Palestine and will speak on “Freedom to boycott: BDS and the modern University”."
There is little doubt that from now on he would present himself as a martyr for the cause of academic freedom. Salaita's progression from missionary to martyr is probably a fitting epitaph for his career.
Steven Salaita, Whose Revoked Job Offer Inflamed Higher Ed, Says He’s Leaving Academe
Steven G. Salaita, the long-embattled professor known for a rescinded job offer and an ensuing fracas at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says he’s leaving the profession.
In a Facebook post dated Saturday, Mr. Salaita announced that despite looking for employment on four continents, he had failed to find an academic job.
“A number of colleagues have attempted to recruit me, but their efforts always get shut down by management,” he wrote in the post, which has been shared by more than a thousand people. “In turn, I often feel like I’m reliving the UIUC fiasco, which isn’t conducive to the kind of mood I prefer to inhabit. I’m easygoing, but I refuse to tolerate the indignities of a blacklist.”
Mr. Salaita is currently listed as a visiting professor and holder of the Edward Said Chair of American Studies at the American University of Beirut. He said in the post that he planned to write and lecture.
The professor became well known in academe in 2014, amid a controversy at the University of Illinois’s flagship campus. He was initially offered a tenured position there, but the university’s administration later rescinded the offer after critical comments Mr. Salaita had made about Israel came to light and drew fire online. He filed two lawsuits against the university over its decision about the job offer, and eventually settled the cases for $600,000.
Mr. Salaita did not immediately return requests for comment.
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22 July at 19:23 ·
A few thoughts on leaving academe:
Next week, I will depart Beirut and return to the DC area. I’m grateful to the students and friends who made our time in Lebanon so rewarding. We’ll remember this period with great fondness. My son grew from a toddler into a little boy in Beirut. His first memories are registered at AUB.
Despite applying to positions on four continents, I was unable to find an academic job, so I no longer count myself among the professoriate. A number of colleagues have attempted to recruit me, but their efforts always get shut down by management. In turn, I often feel like I’m reliving the UIUC fiasco, which isn’t conducive to the kind of mood I prefer to inhabit. I’m easygoing, but I refuse to tolerate the indignities of a blacklist.
My immediate plan is to write and give talks. I’m still young and energetic. I don’t intend to slosh around in self-pity. Whatever I end up doing, I will maintain the spirit of noncompliance that defined my time in academe. If you take any lesson from my ouster, please don’t let it be fear or caution. Docility is a gift to those who profit from injustice. Academe can no longer afford this luxury.
People still ask if I would go back in time and change anything. I would not. If my behavior were dishonorable, then I might have something to regret. I condemned a brutal ethnocratic state. On this count, I will die unapologetic. And insofar as we are forced to contemplate life in binaries, I prefer unemployment to subservience. My heart is with those who struggle for dignity amid terrible oppression. I spare no loyalty to a bourgeois industry that rewards self-importance and conformity.
Despite every node of my disposition screaming at me not to say what I’m about to say, I again surrender to my lesser judgment: I leave academe feeling that, no matter my copious shortcomings, I managed to remain a decent human being. Zionists have worked overtime to incriminate me, but they’ve never found anything incriminating—not from a lack of diligence, but because there’s nothing to find but plainspoken disdain for settler colonization. I haven’t always been a good professor—I’m disorganized and forgetful and reclusive and unresponsive and an easy grader—but I’ve never compromised my ethics or sold out colleagues and students in order to ingratiate myself to power.
Thank you for entertaining my self-indulgence. If my words sound incompatible with the demands of nuance and discretion that predominate in academic culture, then it’s because I’m no longer of the culture and thus unconstrained by its emphasis on disinterest and diplomacy. I can speak according to the whims of my conscience. This is what happens when you manage to survive a punishment. You become free.
Author of "Israel's Dead Soul" lectures at AUB
A lecture was held on the occupied Palestinian territory referred to as “Israel,” organized by AUB and the Center for American Studies and Research (CASAR) on Thursday, 24 November. CASAR invited Steven Salaita, Associate Professor in English at Virginia Tech, to talk about his recent book, “Israel’s Dead Soul.” After a few friendly introductory words by Alexander Lubin, director of CASAR, the conference began.
The main thesis of “Israel’s Dead Soul” is that Zionism has failed. Salaita defines Zionism, which emerged from nineteenth century Europe, as ,“the belief that Jews have the right to a state in historical Palestine”. He rejects Zionism for two reasons: firstly, this ideology causes a, “segregation,” based on, “biological determination.” Secondly, the lecturer generally supports movements of self-determination, including the Palestinian one. In addition, he considers Israeli ideology to be on the “side of capitalist and colonialist powers,” and that it is “ethnically inhuman and destructive politically… for humans in general.”
The second main argument that Steven Salaita made is that there should be a distinction between Israel and Jewish culture. He rejects the attempts of the Israeli government to represent the Jewish identity. For example, he analyzed the celebration of Jewish culture in around 80 American campuses. He observed that there is no apparent difference between Israel and Jewish culture. Indeed, Israel is at the center of these heavily politicized celebrations, as speeches by famous Zionist speakers and the attempt to create “a romantic notion of Levantine” illustrate. A consequence of inventing an Israeli soul synonymous with the Jewish identity is that being against Israel can be considered “anti-Semitic” in the United States, according to Salaita.
In his book, Salaita defines Israel as an “ethnocentric state” and analyses the contradictions of this state. Israel pretends to be democratic but by excluding Arabs they are undemocratic. Furthermore, Theodor Herzl promised the liberation of Jews from repression in Central and Eastern Europe; however, to attain this democratic liberation the undemocratic act of colonization was inevitably utilized and perpetrated by the Israeli army – referred to as “the Israeli occupation force” by Salaita to emphasize his point.
Summing up Salaita thoughts: he does not believe that nation states should have a soul, let alone Israel, a country whose history and disputable policies do not give it the right to create a soul. Last but not least, he thinks that no nation can embody a whole population. Some people are excluded from the national identity, like the Arabs are in Israel, he says.
The Unmaking of Israel’s Soul and the Making of Israel’s Dead Soul
Steven Salaita Posted on May 16, 2011
I wrote the following piece about my new book Israel’s Dead Soul at the request of Temple University Press for its blog
I am, of course, often asked about the title. I cannot complain about the inquiries, though. When one chooses to title a book Israel’s Dead Soul, he or she can’t rightly expect polite nodding or painfully feigned interest when that title is uttered.
It is good to give a book a title that provokes reaction, though in this case the reaction has a decent probability of being negative. But I relish the opportunity to discuss Israel’s dead soul, which is why I named my book Israel’s Dead Soul. There needs to be discussion, much more discussion, of the role a mythologized Israel plays in American political and intellectual life.
The best way to understand what I mean by the title is to read the book, but I offer some thoughts on it here. There is no false advertising in the title: I have no affinity for Israel or Zionism, and I wanted to make that clear for anybody picking up the book, no matter his or her politics. The adjective “dead” intimates finality and thus my belief that Zionist settler colonization is unsustainable. The title also illuminates a profound skepticism I have about the propensity of people to imagine nation-states as anthropomorphic entities.
This happens in lots of ways: by referring to nation-states by the pronoun “she,” by conceptualizing their bureaucracies and policing mechanisms as living organisms, and by endowing those nation-states with souls. Nation-states, however, do not exist to do humane things; they are invented replicas of elite societies that steadfastly facilitate their enrichment. I don’t believe that Israel is unique among nation-states in being soulless. All of them share this distinction.
I do believe Israel is unique in the level of anguish its citizens and supporters express about its soul. My book quotes a wide variety of writers and politicians who wring their hands about Israel’s declining soul or the potential Israel has, if its behavior doesn’t improve, to lose its soul altogether. The point is that Israel once stood for something noble and compassionate and that its foolishness or arrogance or shortsightedness has separated it from its better self.
I find this type of reasoning unappealing and unconvincing. It belongs to the same rhetorical tradition we see in the United States, where commentators and politicians lament actions such as torture or extrajudicial killing and implore our leaders to restore the true spirit of America. The founding of the United States, of course, was accompanied by chattel slavery and the dispossession of indigenous peoples. Israel likewise has no noble or compassionate origin: it was founded on the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians and immediately consecrated juridical racism that would exclude Palestinians from the full rights of nationality.
By acknowledging the violence central to the founding of Israel (and other nation-states) we can question the moral commonplaces of jingoism that usually accompany nationalistic celebration. If Israel has a corrupted soul, then it can presumably vanquish corruption and restore its endemic purity. This would be possible, however, only if Israel ceased to exist as an ethnocentric nation-state. Such is the irony of any desire to restore the nation-state to honor. The only way to vanquish the impurities of the nation-state is to vanquish the nation-state.
I reject, in all their manifestations, the ideological vocabularies of exclusionary belonging so fundamental to discourses of Zionism. To mourn Israel’s dilapidated soul is essentially to accommodate the logic of ethnonationalism. In any case, as long as that dilapidated soul belongs to Israel it has no chance of resurrection.
For more information about Israel’s Dead Soul, please click here