A Sympathetic Look at Steven Salaita’s New Blog

For prior TTN posts on Steven Salaita, a Palestinian American whose hateful polemical tweeting behavior has shut him out of an academic career, click here and there. The following is from a new Faculty Lounge post by Steven Lubet, a TTN colleague who is a professor of law at Northwestern University: 

Steven Salaita has launched a blog to “host some writing, mainly longform pieces with the occasional polemic.” The first entry details his “transition from professor to school bus driver.” It is extremely well written, quite moving, and very thoughtful. I strongly recommend reading it, and there will be some excerpts – with my commentary – after the jump.

But first, let me make my views clear on Salaita. As I have written several times, his deep animosity toward Israel led him to traffic in anti-Semitic images, especially in the tweets that brought him national notoriety. His books, for the most part, were often more diatribe than scholarship. Even so, as I have also written, he did not deserve the treatment he got at the University of Illinois and afterward, and he should not have been exiled from academics, which included the veto of a job offer at the American University of Beirut (AUB). There are many professors at U.S. universities who are equally ideological and whose work is no better than Salaita’s. Singling him out for banishment was an injustice.

Salaita’s friends and supporters, however, did him no favors by defending his most indefensible tweets, which only served to extend and intensify the controversy. If they had acknowledged anti-Semitism when they saw it, perhaps Salaita would have tempered his own response. As it was, he doubled and tripled down, rather than simply apologize for his bigoted language. He might well have made the whole thing go away at an early stage if he had been willing to step back and concede the obvious – which, of course, would have disappointed his perceived base. He appears to realize that now, to some extent, although it is unfortunately too late.

I feel badly for Salaita, even though I have been one of his strongest critics. Israel-Palestine issues have driven many people to deplorable rhetoric, and the consequences for Salaita have been far too grave.

The first essay on his blog is impressive and well worth reading.

An Honest Living” is a long (very long) essay about Salaita’s transition from professor to school bus driver. It is bittersweet but not acrimonious, and it gracefully describes the job of school bus driving as a position of care, responsibility, and importance. Along the way, he reflects on the circumstances that drove him out of academics. Here are a few representative paragraphs, followed by my observations.  . . .

P.S. To read the rest of Prof. Steven Lubet’s post at The Faculty Lounge, click on Steven Salaita’s New Blog Is Worth Reading.”