Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 11th, 2014

Don’t Bring up Occupied Palestinians in Polite Company? Or break the rule of civility?

In the US, and especially within the US Palestine solidarity movement, the biggest Israel-Palestine news since Gaza Genocide 3.0 (which, with Palestinians dying daily, whether from the effects of the siege or horrific wounds leftover from the attack, makes this genocide ongoing), is the unceremonious un-hiring of Professor Steven Salaita from the University of Illinois on the ostensible basis of his impolite presence on social media.

Salaita was hired by the University of Illinois’ American Indian Studies department, based on his contribution to the emerging field of comparative indigenous studies.

He was going to provide scholarly expertise on the comparative situation of colonized peoples in North America and Palestine.

As a result of his un-hiring, for example, Salaita notes that his “family has no income, no health insurance, and no home of our own. Our young son has been left without a preschool. I have lost the great achievement of a scholarly career: lifetime tenure with its promised protections of academic freedom.”

Heike Schotten (Ma’an News Agency) posted this Oct. 6, 2014

Incivility: On not Bringing up Occupied Palestinians in Polite Company

The short version is this:

Salaita, a tenured professor at Virginia Tech, signed a contract with the University of Illinois and had his new job all but in hand. Two weeks before the start of the semester, he was informed by Chancellor Phyllis Wise that she would not be forwarding his case to the Board of Trustees for approval.

Subsequent sleuthing revealed big donor pressure on both Wise and the Board to un-hire Salaita, with threats to turn off the money spigot unless he was removed.

Shockingly, Wise and the Board caved in.

This disgusting turn of events is one big pile up of injustices that is dizzying even to contemplate, much less sort through or analyze.

Just off the top of my academic head, this decision:

• Evacuates tenure of any real meaning.
• Renders Salaita unemployed in the near term and likely unemployable in the long term.
• Thumbs its nose at the Department who vetted Salaita’s hire.
• Disparages the knowledge, qualifications, and judgment of U of I faculty.
• Privileges the demands of wealthy donors over faculty expertise, institutional integrity, and shared university governance.
• Makes a complete mockery of academic freedom.

These are only the most obvious problems.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the next level of injustice, however — which isn’t about the ostensible “civility” Salaita was accused of lacking on Twitter.

It is rather about the content of his tweets, which were less impolite than they were critical of the Israeli state and its latest armed incursion into the Gaza Strip, a one-sided act of military aggression that resulted, most crudely, in the death of over 2,100 Palestinians (a full fourth of whom were children) and 11,000 injured.

And those donors?

They are supporters of Israel, who didn’t want someone with Salaita’s particular political views teaching the next generations of students at their alma mater.

To date, there has been plenty of attention paid to civility, the justificatory fig leaf for Salaita’s firing.

According to David Palumbo-Liu, civility is for suckers. Put a bit differently, Vijay Prashad notes that civility is the new term used by those in power to demand capitulation and compliance.

And yet this case is not primarily about speech, or academic discourse, or the upholding (or restricting) the freedom and civility of either.

The un-hiring of Salaita is part of the larger, national-level campaign being waged on US campuses against critics of Israel, be they faculty or student groups.

It is, in other words, part of the McCarthyist silencing tactics of the Israel lobby to curtail political critique on college campuses.

As Jakeet Singh has recently pointed out, there is another level of injustice to which we have been inattentive in the Salaita affair: systematic racism and colonialism.

Singh argues correctly that the targeting of Salaita, as well as the department where he was to teach — American Indian Studies — replicates and perpetuates racist and colonialist structures of civilizationalism, paternalism, and white privilege.

Prashad notes that Salaita’s tweets were deemed “uncivil” because they criticize a government that the US and its power brokers favor supporting. Were he to have tweeted critiques of Russia, say, or North Korea, the story would likely be different.

And yet, there is a reason that Salaita was critiquing Israel and not Russia or North Korea.

Salaita was hired by the University of Illinois’ American Indian Studies department, based on his contribution to the emerging field of comparative indigenous studies. He was going to provide scholarly expertise on the comparative situation of colonized peoples in North America and Palestine.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, the most-discussed aspect of this case as well as the least-discussed — civility, on the one hand, and race and indigeneity, on the other — are related.

It’s not simply that a scholar of color is being targeted for being “too angry,” or that a critic of Israel is being targeted by the Zionist lobby, or that “civility” is being used to justify the neo-liberalization of the university and perpetuate colonialism (although it is all of these things).

It’s also that these are in some sense interchangeable.

“Civility” is the sharp end of this particular spear of racism and colonialism, which drives the targeting of Salaita in particular and critics of Israel in general.

Indeed, the effects of U of I’s actions actually replicate those of colonization and dispossession.

As a result of his un-hiring, for example, Salaita notes that his “family has no income, no health insurance, and no home of our own. Our young son has been left without a preschool. I have lost the great achievement of a scholarly career: lifetime tenure with its promised protections of academic freedom.”

It is difficult to ignore the bitter irony of a Palestinian American becoming homeless and destitute as a result of Zionist lobbying efforts to un-hire him.

And yet, it isn’t even ironic.

After all, “irony” implies an outcome that is surprising or unexpected.

It seems, rather, that Salaita’s homelessness and de-instatementare simply appropriate, simply what Palestinians deserve.

In some sense defined by refugee status, what happened to Salaita is simply what happens to Palestinians. Indeed, Salaita has become a refugee once more, academically unaffiliated and without a physical home for himself and his family.

In his very scholarly existence, in other words, Steven Salaita is an exercise in incivility.

Not only is he Palestinian himself, and thus a member of a group already considered savage, backward, and in need of a lesson in “making the desert bloom.”

But if “civilization” is understood as having been brought into being through the settlement of North America and the North American (not to mention Israeli) academy, then surely to draw attention to this illegitimate foundation by engaging in comparative indigenous studies is to question the very basis and legitimacy of civilization itself.

When that interrogation comes directly from the mouth of the “savage,” you can be sure that the result will be, by definition, “uncivil.” Its words — their content no less than their tone — will be anathema to civilization, synonymous with its annihilation.

The day of the iniquitous Board of Trustees vote (which, strangely, took place, despite Wise’s insistence it would not), Salaita re-emerged on Twitter. He tweeted only once, stating:

A whole book could be written on the profundity of this statement — about its implications for identity, affect, Palestinianess; for privation, withdrawal, and loss more generally.

But one thing seems sure: the defenders of civilization have acted to preserve its sanctity from the threat of savagery and destruction.

There is no question, then, that far from having finished, the ugly machinations of “civilization” — dispossession, dispersal, silencing, and removal — continue apace, whether in the ruins of what is left of the Gaza Strip or the elite ravages of the neoliberal American university.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect Ma’an News Agency’s editorial policy.

Heike Schotten is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she teaches political theory, feminist theory, and queer theory (her work is available here).

She has been active in the Palestine solidarity movement since 2006.

Mirrored from the Ma’an News Agency


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Steven Salaita Speaks About His Termination

Big Fish, Little Pond phenomenon: Never listen to the prevalent common sense

Big fish eats little fish, and the smaller the pond the quicker the trapping.

And when you are accepted in an Ivy League university, and your “intelligence level” (IQ test scores and other tests) is in the third tier of the all the admitted students, and you lack the required character for the long haul, then you drop before graduating.

You keep comparing your “performances” with the brighter students.

And you end up switching university and discipline and you graduate as lawyer, accountant, tax expert… anything but your “dream field” of study.

You were capable of graduating in your dream field, but you selected the wrong kind of universities.

It is Not the program, the professors or the courses offered in the Ivy League universities that generate “geniuses”: It is the bright students graduating from these universities who are.

You still make plenty of money, but how happy is your life?

Innate intelligence can be downgraded by diseases, sicknesses, harsh conditions, inhospitable situations… that alter the necessary characters required to improve your intelligence level.

For example, you cannot reach a satisfactory level of smartness if you lack this stubbornness of doggedly resolving any problem, of solving the easy exercises as well as the hardest at the end of each chapter in math, physics, chemistry, biology… and using paper and pencil for the that matter, and writing down the solution in neat handwriting that demonstrate determination.

And you need this capacity to completely focus during the class sessions and concentrate on the detailed information.

I attended a university that didn’t rank anyway on top of the elite institutions in the USA: It was a Little Pond, not in size of campus or number of students or variety of disciplines and departments, but mainly one of the newer universities that didn’t enjoy “historic” funding of private or State or federal funding in order to set up these rigorous selection processes for applicants.

It is was not a university that had Nobel Laureates and funded Chairs for illustrious professors or recognition to be listed among the Ivy League.

I think there were or must have been many Big Fish in many disciplines and fields of study, but Not in my new field of study called Industrial Engineering. That was in 1975, and this department was a new comer among the disciplines.

When I applied from Lebanon, I didn’t even know what was the program of study or the courses offered. I assumed from the name that it must be a hands-on engineering related to whatever the industry needed from graduates. Even if I had the luxury to have a detailed list of courses, I wouldn’t be the smarter or changed my application.

As a foreigner lacking laboratories, I figured out that this discipline in a developed nation will offer plenty of opportunities for hands-on facilities.

It was Not of this sort by any long shot. Actually the field lacked laboratory or any hands-on facilities. The course materials were indeed more of the same bookish, theoretical and mathematical handling of problems.

It turned out that the objective was to spew out new breed of graduates capable of handling the management part in any production and manufacturing industry, like optimizing production, inventory, scheduling, transportation

Even today, I am harassed and hard-pressed to explain what I was trained for or “how I can be of aid” to industries.

I felt there was a lack of brilliant students in my disciplines to look at and emulate. And I let myself drift off to lazy study behaviors.

I guess not many high school students knew of this relatively new discipline and anyway, the connotation was to be desired.

Note: I had graduated with MS in physics. I covered exotic courses such as quantum mechanics, relativity, nuclear physics, solid state, thermodynamics, organic chemistry, all the fundamental physics courses taught for engineers, and the mathematical foundations and basics…

I loved and comprehended most of the course materials, but it didn’t improve my grades, and much less improved the IQ tests scores substantially.

The few courses that I loathed were the methods used to resolving the problems: the methods were lengthy and defied my patience.

I recall that in taking Relativity, the method to solving most mechanical problems was clear, quick and straightforward: It took barely 30 seconds when the classical method required me half an hour.

Causes of Wildlife decline: over 50% in the last 4 decades 

The number of wild animals on Earth has halved in the past 40 years, according to a new analysis.

Creatures across land, rivers and the seas are being decimated as humans kill them for food in unsustainable numbers, while polluting or destroying their habitats, the research by scientists at WWF and the Zoological Society of London found.

If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news,” said Professor Ken Norris, ZSL’s director of science. “But that is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live.” He said nature, which provides food and clean water and air, was essential for human well-being.

The Guardian, Tuesday 30 September 2014

Rubbish dumped on the tundra outside llulissat in Greenland with icebergs behind from the Sermeq Kujullaq or llulissat Ice fjord. The Ilulissat ice fjord is a Unesco world heritage site
Rubbish dumped on the tundra outside llulissat in Greenland stand in stark contrast to icebergs behind from the Sermeq Kujullaq or llulissat Ice fjord – a Unesco world heritage site. Photograph: Global Warming Images/WWF-Canon

“We have lost one half of the animal population and knowing this is driven by human consumption, this is clearly a call to arms and we must act now,” said Mike Barratt, director of science and policy at WWF. He said more of the Earth must be protected from development and deforestation, while food and energy had to be produced sustainably.

The steep decline of animal, fish and bird numbers was calculated by analyzing 10,000 different populations, covering 3,000 species in total.

This data was, and for the first time, used to create a representative “Living Planet Index” (LPI), reflecting the state of all 45,000 known vertebrates.

“We have all heard of the FTSE 100 index, but we have missed the ultimate indicator, the falling trend of species and ecosystems in the world,” said Professor Jonathan Baillie, ZSL’s director of conservation. “If we get [our response] right, we will have a safe and sustainable way of life for the future,” he said.

If not, he added, the overuse of resources would ultimately lead to conflicts. He said the LPI was an extremely robust indicator and had been adopted by UN’s internationally-agreed Convention on Biological Diversity as key insight into biodiversity.


The number of animals living on the land has fallen by 40% since 1970.

From forest elephants in central Africa, where poaching rates now exceed birth rates, to the Hoolock gibbon in Bangladesh and European snakes like the meadow and asp vipers, destruction of habitat has seen populations tumble. But again intensive conservation effort can turn declines around, as has happened with tigers in Nepal.

Marine animal populations have also fallen by 40% overall, with turtles suffering in particular.

Hunting, the destruction of nesting grounds and getting drowned in fishing nets have seen turtle numbers fall by 80%.

Some birds have been heavily affected too. The number of grey partridges in the UK sank by 50% since 1970 due to the intensification of farming, while curlew sandpipers in Australia lost 80% of their number in the 20 years to 2005.

The biggest declines in animal numbers have been seen in low-income, developing nations, while conservation efforts in rich nations have seen small improvements overall. (The same trends were when these developed nations were underdeveloped in the last century, but at a grander scale of total extinction of many species)

But the big declines in wildlife in rich nations had already occurred long before the new report’s baseline year of 1970 – the last wolf in the UK was shot in 1680.

Also, by importing food and other goods produced via habitat destruction in developing nations, rich nations are “outsourcing” wildlife decline to those countries, said Norris. For example, a third of all the products of deforestation such as timber, beef and soya were exported to the EU between 1990 and 2008.

David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK said: “The scale of the destruction highlighted in this report should be a wake-up call for us all. But 2015 – when the countries of the world are due to come together to agree on a new global climate agreement, as well as a set of sustainable development goals – presents us with a unique opportunity to reverse the trends.

“We all – politicians, businesses and people – have an interest, and a responsibility, to act to ensure we protect what we all value: a healthy future for both people and nature.”




Blog Stats

  • 1,522,028 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by

Join 769 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: