Michael Ratner: The International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice and Israeli War Crimes
Michael Smith: Bounce Back from the Policies of Israel Affecting Free Speech in U.S. Universities
University of Illinois Chancellor Wise Going Forward with Salaita Appointment to Board of Trustees Vote
Last month, the University of Illinois rescinded the job offer to Professor Steven Salaita, who wrote controversial social media posts about the war in Gaza. This raised serious concerns under established principles of academic freedom. Professor Salaita was basically dehired from the American Indian Studies program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign because of his statements on social media criticizing Israel’s conduct of military operations in Gaza. We reported recently on Law and Disorder that scholars from law schools around the country came out with a very strong letter condemning the decision of the University of Illinois to dehire Professor Salaita. Email the Board of Trustees
- Professor Steven Salaita until recently was a tenured professor at Virgina Tech, and was well known in English departments across the country and also among scholars who worked in colonialism and post-colonial studies. He developed a really rich body of work thinking about Native American rights, native people’s rights in the United States and connecting them to Palestinian rights in particular internationally.
- Read Professor Katherine Franke’s second letter here.
- He was a sought-after scholar and was hired by the University of Illinois in their American Indian Studies program, in a process that started last fall.
- The department unanimously voted to give him an offer and this summer the university started to get pressure from outside donors, some of their alums and advocacy groups to not finalize the offer because of some tweets Professor Salaita sent out over the summer related to the Israeli attacks in Gaza.
- The emails to the chancellor were released, showing that six-figure donors had seen those tweets or learned of them and said, you cannot hire this guy or I will withdraw my future giving to the universities.
- So, the chancellor let Steven know that she was not going to finalize his offer even though they already negotiated his teaching schedule, he’s already rented an apartment, they had already negotiated his moving expenses.
- Right now he has no job, no income, nowhere to live.
- It’s the most recent iteration of what has been a rather well-organized, well-financed campaign in the United States in particular to purge the academy of scholars and even graduate students who are doing work that is either sympathetic to the idea of Palestinian sovereignty or rights or critical of Israeli state policy, particularly the occupation.
- It was so obviously a violation of the fundamental right of academic freedom.
- I’ve only learned of his scholarship as a result of this campaign and his termination from the University of Illinois.
- I explain to Chancellor Wise in the letter that I sent, that not only will I not come to the university to speak in an official capacity, but I will come to Urbana-Champaign and meet off campus with faculty and students and members of the community about these issues of academic freedom.
- Their strategy has been to portray any criticism of Israeli state policy or any criticism of political Zionism as uncivil or as a form of hate speech, but more importantly to appeal to a civility norm. That it’s not nice. That it creates an unwelcome learning environment for students, particularly Jewish students.
- To see Chancellor Wise parroting that language, and for Chris Kennedy to parrot that language, says to me that they’ve been reached by these organized operatives from the outside about how to message this termination.
- I don’t believe there is a civility norm at stake here, and I think we actually shouldn’t have one in a university setting. We ought to take on uncivil ideas, ideas that are troubling, that are uncomfortable, and unpack them in thoughtful scholarly ways.
- As these emails are coming out under the Freedom of Information Act Requests over the last few days it’s quite clear that civility is not what underwrote the decision to terminate him. It was really outside pressure from donors.
Guest – Katherine Franke, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law; Director, Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia University. She was awarded a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship, and is among the nation’s leading scholars in the area of feminism, sexuality and race. In addition to her scholarly writing on sexual harassment, gender equality, sexual rights, and racial history, she writes regularly for a more popular audience on the Gender and Sexuality Law Blog. Franke is also on the Executive Committee for Columbia’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender, the Center for Palestine Studies, and teaches at a medium security women’s prison in Manhattan. Her legal career began as a civil rights lawyer, first specializing in HIV discrimination cases and then race and sex cases more generally. In the last 25 years she has authored briefs in cases addressing HIV discrimination, forced sterilization, same-sex sexual harassment, gender stereotyping, and transgender discrimination in the Supreme Court and other lower courts.
In June of this year, the United States sent more troops to Iraq and carried out airstrikes to stop the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as ISIS, into the Kurdish capitol Erbil. However, a more complicated situation has developed in Syria. The U.S., western European, Saudi, and Arab Gulf policy is to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which is also the goal of ISIS and other jihadis in Syria. ISIS’s membership is between ten and seventeen thousand. We talk today with veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn about his new book The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising, about the origins of ISIS. We’ll also talk about the role of Saudi Arabia in the larger picture and in funding part of the Sunni terrorist groups, which was exposed by Wikileaks.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has turned into the new caliphate in western-northern Iraq and western Syria, came out of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
This organization that was linked to Al-Qaeda but not formed by Al-Qaeda after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is very anti-Shia, Sunni fundamentalist, and extremely violent.
What makes it so effective is its a mixture of religious fanaticism and military efficiency.
Some of the senior people of ISIS are former security officers and Special Republican Guard officers from Saddam Hussein’s time.
ISIS is led by a core of people who fought the U.S. in Iraq, fought the Iraqi Army after 2003, and then after 2011 fought in Syria.
So, it’s quite an experienced group.
It had been growing stronger in Iraq over the last 3 years. It launched a series of campaigns, one of which was to break its members out of prison.
It had taken over quite a lot of territory in Iraq then it moved into Syria.
It’s present in both countries, but its main effort was in Iraq this year.
It always had strength in Mosul, even though the Iraqi Army was in theoretically in charge, but it would still levy protection money on people, maybe as much as $8 million a month. I know contract men there paying half a million dollars a month.
- Its final take over was swift and devastating. I can’t think of an example in history when 350,000 men in the Iraqi Army, 650,000 police simply disintegrated under an attack from under 3,000 ISIS fighters.
- What really changed was in 2011 when you had the uprising in Syria, primarily the Sunni Arabs of Syria. Iraqi politicians said it would spill over into Iraq.
- The U.S. and its allies to a substantial degree were responsible for this. They backed the uprising against Assad, even when it was apparent in the last 2 years that Assad wasn’t going to go.
- Wahhabism is the Islamic variant practiced in Saudi Arabia.
- There’s always been an alliance over the last 300 years between the preachers of this very puritanical, fanatical, violent and bigoted variant of Islam and the House of Saud.
- What they believe is not that much different from what ISIS believes. It’s very anti-Shia; the Shia are seen as heretics worthy of death. It’s anti-Christian, anti-Jewish and deeply intolerant.
- Without the policies of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, there wouldn’t have been a 9/11.
- Bin Laden was part of the a Saudi elite.
- Rather amazingly, the Saudis were let off scot free.
- Kuwait has been a major financial supporter of the jihadis; so has UAE, so has Qatar, the gulf monarchies as a whole, and so has Turkey.
- The problem with Obama and the U.S. is they have to decide what side they’re on. In Iraq, they’re supporting the government against ISIS, they’re supporting the Kurds against ISIS.
- But in Syria, the main opponent of ISIS is the Assad government, but the U.S. policy is to weaken and displace that government.
- In a way, the U.S. policy actually assists ISIS.
Guest – Patrick Cockburn is currently Middle East correspondent for The Independent. He worked previously for The Financial Times. He has written three books on Iraq’s recent history as well as a memoir, The Broken Boy and, with his son, a book on schizophrenia, Henry’s Demons, which was shortlisted for a Costa Award. He won the Martha Gellhorn Prize in 2005, the James Cameron Prize in 2006, and the Orwell Prize for Journalism in 2009.