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University Of Illinois Professor Apparently Loses Job Over Anti-Israel Tweets

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Steven Salaita/Facebook
Steven Salaita/Facebook

An outspoken critic of Israel's role in the latest conflict in Gaza appears to have had his job offer at a major university retracted due to his tweets and public comments on the matter.

Steven Salaita, previously an associate professor in the English Department at Virginia Tech, was initially offered a position with the American Indian Studies program at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, but Chancellor Phyllis Wise has since blocked his appointment, Inside Higher Ed reported Wednesday.

The university declined to comment to Inside Higher Ed on why Salaita's appointment was blocked when typically a post like his, having already been made public, would only require the formality of the school's board of trustees' approval before being confirmed. The university has also not responded to a HuffPost request for comment as of publication date.

Reports by Inside Higher Ed and the Daily-Gazette indicate that Salaita's anti-Israel tweets on the conflict in Gaza, which had recently received some media attention, was the reason why the author's offer of employment was rescinded.

The American Association of University Professors' Illinois committee on Wednesday issued a statement describing the professor's words as "strident and vulgar" but also "an impassioned plea to end the violence currently taking place in the Middle East."

"Speech that is deemed controversial should be challenged with further speech that may abhor and challenge a statement," the AAUP statement continues. "Yet the University of Illinois cannot cancel an appointment based upon Twitter statements that are protected speech in the United States of America."

However, Cary Nelson, an English professor at the University of Illinois and the former president of the AAUP, appeared on HuffPost Live Thursday (embedded above) to address the controversy, saying his would-be colleague had "stepped over a line" with not only the tone but also the content of his comments on the Gaza conflict. Nelson said that he supported the university's decision.

A university spokeswoman had previously defended Salaita's hiring to the News-Gazette, telling the newspaper late last month, "Faculty have a wide range of scholarly and political views, and we recognize the freedom-of-speech rights of all of our employees."

Meanwhile, a petition calling for Salaita to be rehired by the university has been signed over 7,400 times as of Thursday afternoon.

Below are some of Salaita's tweets on Gaza:

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