Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Silence and Salaita

I've pretty much said what I wanted to say about the case of Steven Salaita: Yes I think some of his statements were anti-Semitic; and no, that doesn't mean the withdrawal of his job offer isn't a violation of academic freedom. That's my position and I'm sticking to it.

But with the news that Salaita's appointment may in fact be forwarded to the Board, I got curious as to what major Jewish organizations were saying about that matter. After all, we all know that his un-hiring was the result of their devious influence and their reckless desire to squelch all dissent, right? Ready? Here we go:

ADL: Nothing.

AJC: Nothing.

AIPAC: Nothing.

ZOA (surely I can rely on them to be embarrassing): Nothing!

A whole lot of nothing.

Now, this doesn't mean that "pro-Israel" politics had nothing to do with Chancellor Wise's decision. It would hardly surprise me if some donor who considered him or herself to be pro-Israel made a fuss, and Wise thought that bringing Salaita on would be more headaches than it was worth. If that was her reasoning, of course, she gravely miscalculated. But even if she hadn't, the job of a Chancellor is to endure "headaches" such as that. Universities can survive a few loons on their faculty, but they can't survive donors interfering with their academic mission.

In any event, I bring up the silence of various prominent Jewish organizations not because they're owed any cookies -- maybe one thinks that they had an affirmative obligation to intercede on Salaita's behalf (though given that Salaita has queried whether the ADL should be labeled a hate group, it's doubtful whether he'd appreciate their backing). I only mention it because if Salaita's un-hiring stands, it won't be attributable to the "Israel Lobby" unleashing its terrible power. And by contrast if the decision is reversed, then it won't be a crippling blow to the previously indomitable Israel Lobby either. This is a fight that pro-Israel forces, at least in an institutional capacity, did not get involved in.


PG said...

I thought all that sort of work by the Israel Lobby was supposed to be done in secret?

David Schraub said...

How conveniently difficult to falsify.