USACBI: Standing with Steven Salaita

USACBI (the United States Campaign for the  Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) applauds the ruling by Federal Judge Harry D. Leinenweber on August 6, 2015 in favor of Steven Salaita”s legal case against the University of Illinois (UIUC). Judge Leinenweber”s opinion rejects the University of Illinois” motion to dismiss Salaita”s case for breach of contract and violation of his First Amendment rights:

The court decision clears the road to proceed with Salaita”s claim that both his job contract with the University of Illinois  and his right to free speech were violated by the University”s wrongful termination one year ago.

Equally important, the decision rejects attempts by UIUC to squash Salaita”s assertion that the University of Illinois attempted to, as Salaita put it last year, create a “Palestinian exception to the first amendment.”  Critically, besides stipulating that Salaita was well within his First Amendment rights in making his tweets, the court stated that the issue of Israel-Palestine is of such significant public concern that it warrants vigorous debate and discussion, and the issue of “disrupting” campus climate was not a valid reason to silence discussion.    

Salaita, who is a member of USACBI’s national Organizing Collective, was fired for criticizing on twitter Israel”s attack on Gaza during the summer of 2014, which resulted in the killing of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including more than 500 children. He has been a prominent advocate of the academic boycott of Israeli institutions and was a vocal supporter of the boycott resolution endorsed by the American Studies Association.

Salaita’s case is an important challenge to the constant efforts to silence scholars and students who express support for Palestinian liberation and the BDS movement and who dare to criticize Israel.

The court’s ruling is also a victory for the mass movement that organized in defense of Salaita and for the academic boycott movement at large.  More than 5,000 scholars endorsed a boycott of the University of Illinois Champaign Urbana in protest of the administration”s firing of Salaita and thousands more signed a petition in support of his academic freedom and against the violation of his employment rights.

On the same day that the federal court decision was announced, UIUC Chancellor Phyllis Wise submitted her resignation, citing ” external issues.” Wise”s resignation is a further indication of that the University of Illinois administration acted against the interest of the university in firing Salaita:

Mainly, though, USACBI applauds Steven Salaita for vigilantly pursuing justice on behalf of himself and others supporting Palestinian liberation.  The enormous personal toll of the firing on Salaita and his family has not deterred him from standing strong in his legal case against the University, and from continuing to speak out for academic freedom and in support of the boycott.  USACBI continues to support Salaita in his legal battle as part of USACBI’s broader commitments to academic freedom and to Palestinian freedom.

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