Steve Salaita, Sept. 9, 2014. (AP/Seth Perlman, File) (AP/Seth Perlman, File)
Steven Salaita

“[He] has a track record of making harmful, dangerous, and antisemitic statements, ranging from antisemitic blood libels to defending Hamas,” says the campus Hillel.

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

Jewish students at Virginia Tech are outraged that antisemitic speaker Steven Salaita was invited to give the keynote address at an upcoming campus event.

Salaita, who is of Palestinian and Jordanian descent, left academia after numerous antisemitic and anti-Israel comments and social media posts surfaced.

He is scheduled to address the 2022 Graduate and Professional Student Senate Research Symposium on March 23 at the Blacksburg, Va. campus.

A petition circulated by the VT Hillel called on the organizers to drop Salaita, arguing that he “has a track record of making harmful, dangerous, and antisemitic statements, ranging from antisemitic blood libels to defending Hamas’s actions of targeting civilians.”

It also stressed, “Providing Steven Salaita with a platform to speak goes against Virginia Tech’s values and creates an environment in which Jewish students are likely to feel unwelcome and unsafe on campus.”

The petition also noted, “Salaita was denied a tenured position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign because of the antisemitic posts and comments and had to change careers because no university would hire him.”

Salaita’s Controversies

Steven Salaita formerly taught at VT, first courting controversy in 2013 by authoring a contentious essay in explaining why he didn’t endorse the slogan, “Support Our Troops.”

Later that year, Salaita accepted a tenured position to teach American Indian studies at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign. But before he was scheduled to begin teaching in 2014, war broke out between Israel and Hamas following the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers. Salaita posted hundreds of tweets sharply critical of Israel, including some that crossed the line into antisemtic rhetoric.

Among the most incendiary during that war:

• “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the f***ing West Bank settlers would go missing,” after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas.

• “There’s something profoundly sexual to the Zionist pleasure w/#Israel’s aggression. Sublimation through bloodletting, a common perversion” also in 2014 during that Gaza conflict.

• “Only #Israel can murder around 300 children in the span of a few weeks and insist that it is the victim.”

Salaita tweet

(Screenshot)

• “At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised?”

• “Zionists: transforming ‘antisemitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.”

• One tweet written in the form of a dialogue said, “Will you condemn Hamas? No. Why not? Because Hamas isn’t the one incinerating children, you disingenuous prick.”

The furor over those tweets led the UIUC chancellor Phyllis Wise to rescind the offer. Salaita sued, and the university ended up settling for $875,000.

Controversy followed Salaita to the American University of Beirut where he had been recommended for an open position as director of the Center for American Studies and Research in 2016.

AUB President Fadio Khuri cancelled the job search claiming there had been conflicts of interest and procedural irregularities by the search committee. But students and faculty claimed Salaita was being persecuted for supporting Palestinians. He was instead offered a position teaching American studies. But Salaita left one year later when AUB declined to offer tenure.

Since leaving academia, Salaita has continued to write and make speaking appearances. In 2019, he tweeted that he was making a living driving a school bus. He continues advocating for the BDS movement, especially academic boycotts of the Jewish state.