Freedom of speech is part of the cornerstone of our democracy – one of our country’s most precious values. And while “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it,” Voltaire’s principle does not shield speech against challenges and consequences, especially if the language is laced with hate, blatant falsehoods and a call for murder.
Last week self-proclaimed intellectuals, progressive organizations and anti-Israel (dare I say anti-Semitic) groups welcomed to numerous Chicago college campuses Steven Salaita, the infamous professor whose job offer from the University of Illinois was rescinded after tweeting hate-filled rhetoric against the Jewish State and of course “Zionists.”
Salaita, a former tenured professor at Virginia Tech, has become the darling of progressive academia and the anti-Israel movement, portrayed as a victim of Jewish influence and power whose First Amendment rights have been trampled.
But just as you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded movie theatre, can a professor employed by taxpayers and in a position to influence impressionable young minds, take to social media and advocate for the murder of thousands of people?
"You may be too refined to say it, but I'm not: I wish all the (expletive) West Bank settlers would go missing," Salaita tweeted. These remarks came after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered.
As Northwestern University law professor Steven Lubet recently reminded civilized society in a Chicago Tribune editorial, “He once retweeted a vile suggestion that journalist Jeffrey Goldberg ought to get ‘the pointy end of a shiv.’"
Rational people will conclude this is a man driven by hate. His tweet, "Zionists: transforming 'anti-semitism' from something horrible into something honorable since 1948,” leaves no doubt that Salaita’s preoccupation with disdain for Jews renders him unfit for the teaching profession.
His supporters either tend to have an anti-Israel agenda or don’t belong in the aforementioned rational people category. This would explain why his audiences at the University of Chicago and DePaul University appreciated his newly created blood libel, that during Israel’s recent bombing campaign, “ice cream freezers weren’t stacked with popsicles or sorbet, instead they stored the bodies of dead children.”
Not a word uttered about Hamas’ use of schools, hospitals and civilian residences to store weapons and rockets or its use of women and children as human shields. I wouldn’t expect anything more from a rabid academic who explained to the audience that civility is “repressive” and “evokes colonial violence.”
As expected, Students for Justice in Palestine co-sponsored his tour ... along with ... wait for it – The Gay Liberation Network.
It’s almost impossible to comprehend. An LGBTQ rights organization is backing an individual who inveighs against a society, Israel, where Gays enjoy more rights than in the United States, instead favoring a culture that would imprison, torture and very possibly execute LGBTQ persons or even those accused of being part of that community.
But anti-Israel activism is unique in its bedfellows and lengths to which detractors will go to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish State.
Just as Students for Justice in Palestine does nothing to improve the lives of actual Palestinians – ignoring the true apartheid imposed on these people in Lebanon and Syria as well as the corruption, deplorable living conditions and abuse they must endure under the rule of the U.S.-deemed terrorist group Hamas in Gaza – many in the gay community shun the “safe haven” reference to Israel as a a political ploy called “Pinkwashing,” described as “the disingenuous invocation of LGBTQ rights by Israel.”
But as the BBC reported in 2003, “gay Palestinian men are risking their lives to cross the border into Israel, claiming they feel safer among Israelis than their own people.”
But when it comes to exploiting a situation that demonizes Israel or reinforces the old canard of Jewish control and blood libels, does it matter if Palestinian children are being used as human shields or gay Arabs are put through unspeakable torture before execution?
Or are they simply martyrs in their ultimate goal of vilifying and eliminating the Jewish State?
Miller is a contributor to the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity. He serves as principal of Pauliegroup LLC, a Chicago-based new-media and political consulting firm.