RFK’s son, hasbarist chair of the Trustees at the University of Illinois, on firing Salaita over tweets
Christopher Kennedy is the son of Robert F. Kennedy, assassinated senator and Democratic presidential candidate. Christopher Kennedy is chairman of the University of Illinois’ Board of Trustees, politically appointed by Illinois Democratic Governor Pat Quinn. Kennedy has also acted as a fundraiser for Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates.
Kennedy has been an outspoken defender of his trustee board’s upholding of the decision by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) administration to revoke the appointment of Steven Salaita as a tenured professor of American Indian Studies. Salaita had given up his position at Virginia Tech and moved his family to Illinois to begin his appointment.
Salaita’s appointment was revoked because, according to Bill Van Auken in “The witch-hunting of Steven Salaita and the new McCarthyism”, Salaita “tweeted outraged protests against the slaughter of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.” Van Auken challenges the reaction by the administration to Salaita’s tweets as being an attack on “core democratic rights, including freedom of speech and academic freedom.”
Van Auken explains that a “smear” campaign against Salaita was launched by the political right and the Zionist lobby to call out Salaita as an “anti-Semite” which quickly influenced the university administration and, as Van Auken puts it, “liberal representatives of academia” (such as Kennedy).
The tweet of Salaita’s cited most often was written by him on July 19 as Israel was inflicting murderous violence on Gaza. It stated: “Zionists: transforming ‘antisemitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.” The tweet was one of a series of statements by Salaita and pulled out of context by his critics. Three of Salaita’s subsequent tweets: “My stand is fundamentally one of acknowledging and countering the horror of antisemitism” and “I believe that Jewish and Arab children are equal in the eyes of God” and that he, Salaita, was “in solidarity with many Jews and in disagreement with many Arabs.” Nevertheless, he quickly was targeted by pro-Zionists and right wing ideologues.
Van Auken writes:
Only a grotesque and willful distortion could attribute to Salaita support for anti-Semitism based on these messages. This, of course, is precisely the specialty of the American right and the Zionist lobby, which proceeded to do just that.
The Daily Caller, a right-wing website, began a campaign against Salaita and the Simon Wiesenthal Center quickly demanded that the university rescind Salaita’s appointment, describing him as “nothing more than a baseless anti-Semite.”
Pro-Zionist and right wing prominent wealthy donors to the university began threatening to withhold their funding for the university if the administration did not take action against Salaita.
The administration promptly revoked his appointment.
According to Van Auken, Salaita has since responded that the university’s action was based on “a highly subjective and sprawling standard that can be used to attack faculty who espouse unpopular or unconventional views.”
Christopher Kennedy, on the other hand, maintained that anyone “with an open mind” would regard the decision to uphold the revoking of Salaita’s appointment as “the right thing, ethically and procedurally.” Kennedy condemned Salaita’s tweets: “There can be no place for that in our democracy, and therefore, there will be no place for it in our university.”
No place in our democracy?
No place in academia?
No place at the University of Illinois?
Salaita’s tweeted expressions of outrage over the Israel slaughter war against Gaza brought him profound anti-constitutional punishment and censure.
To add to the Orwellian horror of this anti-constitutional reaction with Salaita being cravenly and wrongly labeled an “anti-Semite”, it is being passionately defended by the son of a beloved historical figure who was considered by many a champion and martyr for REAL liberalism.
Van Auken sees this suppression of free speech as a new McCarthyism. What should have been constitutionally-protected free speech just because it happens to criticize the actions and policies of ISRAEL is stifled and suppressed because of the colossal and inappropriate degree of influence of Israel and its lobbies on Washington, the media, academia and America’s brainwashed and capitalism-driven society in general.
Think of it. Outspoken criticism (TWEETED???? WTF???) of Israel after its stunning and blatant recent war criminality, its latest 50-day ethnic cleansing of Palestinians according to Kennedy “has no place in our democracy” nor “in our university” and deserves to be outlawed and suppressed???
What will be next? NO criticisms and demonstrations of opposition to US imperial wars? No questioning of the “war on (but really “of”) terror” and the lying pretexts to continue it with more and more “predatory” (Van Auken’s word) US military interventions in the Middle East?
Van Auken reminds us of the “apogee of political McCarthyite anti-communist witch-hunting of the 1950s.” Who knew over fifty years later political, social and intellectual (and economically impactful) “anti-Semitism” witch-hunting would be championed not only by pro-Zionists and right wingers but one more so-called progressive like Chris Kennedy and with more free speech suppression guaranteed to come in our bi-partisanly anti-constitutional halls of American power!
The shredding of our Constitution continues seriously and surreally on.
[cross-posted on open salon]