It was not my intention to continue blogging about the Salaita case, but one of the comments to my original post really calls for an extended reply. To summarize the OP, I agreed that the University of Illinois should not have rescinded the job offer to Salaita, but I criticized his defenders for soft-pedaling the anti-Jewish sentiments in his tweets. I also pointed out that the Illinois AAUP committee had gratuitously endorsed Salaita’s political views by pointing out that the U.S. State Department (in one instance) agreed with him. John K. Wilson, one of the authors of the Illinois AAUP letter, apparently thought he was refuting me, but his comment unintentionally proves my very point. I will explain in greater detail after the jump (on the assumption that many readers are by now more interested in David Frakt than in Steven Salaita).
Lest there be any doubt that Wilson has become Salaita’s ideological advocate, and not simply a defender of his rights, his comment went on to sanitize Salaita’s most vicious tweets. For example, he says that the image of Benjamin Netanyahu wearing “a necklace made of the teeth of Palestinian children” carries no anti-Jewish insinuation because it is “unlike the traditional ‘blood libel’ myth.” Well, yes, the necklace meme is a creative new twist on the old charge of ritual child murder, but that does not make it any less repulsive. I am willing to assume that Wilson is merely naive about anti-Semitism, but it is ineffably sad that such a well-educated person cannot recognize it when he sees it.
It is unfortunate, to say the least, that the Illinois AAUP committee members, and now Wilson in his comment, have chosen to endorse -- or vindicate -- Steven Salaita’s views, rather than simply defend his right to speak. In doing so, they may have left the principle of academic freedom weaker than they found it.