The following is an open letter to the University of Washington community from UW Student Jamie Schwartz and the UW Chapter of Students Supporting Israel.
Dear University of Washington Community,
When I applied to college, I chose to apply to universities with communities I would be proud to be a part of. The University of Washington stuck out as an institution of integrity and diversity which is why I have been grateful to be a student at the University of Washington for the past three years. But recently, my Husky pride has been shaken in response to my shock that ten academic departments and organizations are sponsoring a campus event with Steven Salaita.
This summer, the University of Illinois rescinded an offer of employment to Salaita in response to his Tweets about the conflict between Israel and Gaza. While most of these Tweets were controversial at best, some were blatantly anti-Semitic. Many people and universities have shown support for Salaita exercising his right to free speech; however, sponsoring an individual who spreads hatred and bigotry undermines our institution's celebration of diversity and stifles healthy Husky debate. It doesn't take long to research his name and see why this individual should not be afforded the privilege of addressing our community. Many of my colleagues have expressed concerns to me regarding Salaita's misleading and unfair accusations against the state of Israel—but this is not what disheartens me most. Rather, it is his deliberate and shameless hate speech that I find unacceptable.
While most of his Tweets were controversial at best, some were blatantly anti-Semitic.
While I could write pages listing such examples, I will mention two here that I believe to be indisputable examples of his malevolence: On May 6th, 2014 Dr. Salaita posted on his twitter account that Israel's independence "equals sustenance of the European eugenic logic made famous by Hitler." Israel is an incredibly diverse country of people from different countries and of different religions. This statement by Salaita is not merely historically erroneous, it attempts to taint the integrity of the Jewish State and its existence by unfoundedly equating it to a regime that proudly dictated a systematic genocide which killed most of my family. I will not remain silent while my university sponsors a speaker who spreads such fallacies as truth.
Another example of Salaita's maliciousness can be found in a post from July 19th, 2014. Salaita posted: "Zionists: transforming 'antisemitism' from something horrible into something honorable since 1948." When I read these words, I was appalled. This is outright encouragement of hatred against the Jewish people. His statement and intentions are perfectly clear—the existence of the State of Israel has made hating Jews, not only acceptable but, to use his word, "honorable". Since when is discrimination of any form something to be proud of?
This is outright encouragement of hatred against the Jewish people.
This begs the question, why is our University sponsoring a talk that is supposed to contribute to our culture of academic integrity, accuracy, and legitimacy from someone who outwardly misrepresents facts, delegitimizes peoples, and encourages hatred? Where is the line between encouraging freedom of speech and abetting an individual who preaches grotesquely inappropriate language in the public sphere? Is this the kind of educator the university should invite to speak? Steven Salaita is not an exemplary educator. By associating with him, the university not only relinquishes its academic integrity, but also condones a man who honors bigotry.
I understand that some departments may have co-sponsored this event because of an interest in academic and intellectual freedoms in the university system. While I wholeheartedly support this cause, the advertisements for the event give no indication that this is the sole issue Steven Salaita will address. I believe that Salaita has proven that his stance on the Middle East is virulently and deliberately inaccurate, and if he is to mention the current situation in the Middle East on Monday, he will be allowed to continue spewing hateful and unbalanced untruths.
With this in mind, in the spirit of free speech, diversity, and integrity, the UW chapter of Students Supporting Israel would like the University of Washington to encourage and facilitate dialogue by inviting a speaker who is a proponent of Israel to come speak alongside Salaita on Monday. We know many people waiting and willing to open a dialogue, and we urge you to contact us.
The University of Washington is better than this.
We, the members of Students Supporting Israel at UW, are calling on the University to consider this letter and its implications. The University of Washington is better than this, better than Steven Salaita, and we owe it to ourselves as academics and humans of conscience to speak out and stand up against such hatred and discrimination.
Jamie Schwartz and Students Supporting Israel-UW