Steven Salaita, the academic whose offer of a job at the University of Illinois was rescinded last year after several of his viciously antisemitic tweets were widely exposed, has filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging breach of contract and violation of his free speech rights.
The suit was filed Thursday against eight members of the university's board of trustees, several of its top administrators, and unknown donors whom Salaita said put pressure on school officials to rescind his job offer, the Chicago Tribune reported. Salaita seeks reinstatement to the position he was offered last October teaching American Indian Studies, as well as compensation for "violations of his constitutional rights, including free speech and due process."
During the war in Gaza last summer between Israel and Hamas, Salaita fired off several antisemitic tweets that drew anxious comments from parents and students at the university, as well as donors. "I wish all the f***ing West Bank settlers would go missing," read one, posted after the kidnapping by Palestinian terrorists last June of three Israeli teenagers hiking in the West Bank who were subsequently murdered.
Another declared: "Zionists: transforming 'anti-semitism' from something horrible into something honorable since 1948."
At the height of the Gaza conflict, Salaita asked: "At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV wearing a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anyone be surprised? #Gaza."
A two-page statement Thursday from the University of Illinois regarding the lawsuit said it will "vigorously defend" against the "meritless claims" in Salaita's complaint.
The university went on to say that Salaita's job offer from the school was "at all times subject to the ultimate approval of the Board of Trustees" and that "at no time was Dr. Salaita hired as a faculty member."
Some of the content of Salaita's complaint was reported on the Electronic Intifada, a US-based antisemitic website that campaigns for the elimination of the State of Israel.
"The University administration, facing pressure from wealthy university donors, fired Professor Salaita for his political speech challenging prevailing norms," one excerpt from the complaint stated. The "wealthy donor" highlighted by Ali Abunimah, the Electronic Intifada's editor, was Steven N. Miller, a member of the board of Hillel, the Jewish student social and religious body described by Abunimah as "a pro-Israel advocacy group."