Professor Whose anti-Israel Tweets Lost Him His Job Offer Wins $600,000 Settlement

The battle between Steven Salaita and the University of Illinois had become a lightning rod for issues of free speech and academic freedom on campus.

JTA
JTA
Steven Salaita speaking at the Independent Media Center in Urbana, Ill. October 13, 2015.
Steven Salaita speaking at the Independent Media Center in Urbana, Ill. October 13, 2015.Credit: AP
JTA
JTA

A professor whose tenured job offer was revoked after he posted controversial anti-Israel tweets has reached a settlement with the University of Illinois, the school's student paper reported Thursday.

The university will pay Steven Salaita $600,000 to drop two lawsuits and he will “neither seek nor accept employment at the university now or in the future.” The settlement also requires the university, which in the fall of 2014 dropped a tenured job offer after learning of several vitriolic tweets that Salaita posted during Israel’s August 2014 war in Gaza, to pay Salaita’s lawyers $275,000, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported.

“This settlement is a vindication for me, but more importantly, it is a victory for academic freedom and the First Amendment,” Salaita said in a news release issued by his attorneys, the Daily Illini, the university's student newspaper, reported.

A federal judge ruled in August that the university had violated its contract with Salaita.

In July, Salaita accepted a position as the Edward W. Said chair of American studies at the American University of Beirut.

“I repeat: If you’re defending #Israel right now, then ‘hopelessly brainwashed’ is your best prognosis,” was one of the tweets posted by Salaita during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. Other tweets included curses aimed at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and an expression of a wish that "all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing.”

Following the termination of the job offer, Salaita said the university caved to pressure by Jewish donors who threatened to withdraw funding if the appointment was approved. “No donor was involved in the decision not to approve Salaita’s appointment,” a spokesman for the university told Haaretz.

In an interview with Haaretz in December 2014, Salaita said: " I had the suffering in Gaza on my mind throughout the summer. Twitter can be a way of articulating viewpoints and being a conversation with like-minded people. This is also its appeal: When something horrible is happening you hope that somebody out there will read what you are writing and will perhaps make these terrible things stop.”

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