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Aug 09, 2014 03:35 AM EDT

Pro-Palestinian Professor Loses Job Over Anti-Israel Tweets


Dr. Steven Salaita, a pro-Palestinian college professor at the University of Illinois, has lost his tenure position after he posted anti-Israel tweets about the war in Gaza.

In October 2013, the University offered Salaita a tenured position in the American Indian Studies program. On August 1, 2014, Chancellor Dr. Phyllis Wise terminated his appointment.

Wise's decision to block the appointment might have been triggered by the messages posted by Salaita on Twitter.

An excerpt of those messages:                            

"#Israel's message to #Obama and #Kerry: we'll kill as many Palestinians as we want, when we want. p.s.: f--- you, pay me. #Gaza"

Another post reads, "Only #Israel can murder around 300 children in the span of a few weeks and insist that it is the victim. #Gaza #GazaUnderAttack."

Baher Azmy, the legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, described the dismissal as a violation of First Amendment rights.

"He resigned from a job that gave him tenure, the pinnacle of academic achievement, with the expectation that he would have tenure at the next university and it was taken away in an unlawfully retaliatory way for his political views," Azmy said, wptz reports.

In a surprising turn of events, University spokeswoman Robin Neal Kaler defended Salaita's freedom and right to tweet his views during an interview with local newspaper The News-Gazette. Neal Kaler then said that faculty possess a wide range of scholarly and political views and the school supports the freedom of speech rights of all their employees.

Plus, the University were well aware of Salaita's controversial views and opinions at the time of his appointment.

Azmy said that in fact it was his opinions that earned him the position at the University in the first place. Salaita believed that the principles of academic freedom would allow him to share his views without fear of criticism or retaliation.

Cary Nelson, a longtime English professor at the university and a past president of the American Association of University Professors, feels that Wise took a right step in terminating the offer.

"I find many of his tweets quite loathsome ---as well as sophomoric and irresponsible," Nelson said. "While universities need to study all positions on an issue, even the most outrageous ones, I see no good reason to offer a permanent faculty position to someone whose discourse crosses the line into anti-Semitism."

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