Martin Kramer blasts MESA and Steven Salaita

Historians in the News
tags: Steven Salaita, MESA




Let’s start with a fact: Steven Salaita is a hater of Israel. Just ask him (via his Twitter feed).

●  “‘Hate’ is such a strong word. That’s why it’s my preferred verb when discussing racism, colonization, neoliberalism, sexism, and Israel.”


●  “Zionist credo: ‘Palestinians hate their children!’ Don’t get it confused. I hate *you*. And you’re no child of mine.”


●  “Lost in the responses to Eric Alterman’s ‘The Israel Hater’s Handbook’ is the fundamental question: what exactly is wrong with hatingIsrael?”


So Steven Salaita isn’t a critic of Israel. Tom Friedman is a critic of Israel. Steven Salaita is a hater of Israel, it’s a title he’s proud to claim, and that hatred runs like a thread through all he writes and says.

Now if you aren’t a hater of Israel, you still might think that Steven Salaita deserves your support—not because of his hatred of Israel, but despite it. Academic life, once famous for its guarantees of job security, isn’t what it used to be, and the way Salaita was “de-hired” by the University of Illinois is the sum of every academic’s fears. If that’s you, and Steven Salaita enters the hall, you might offer up some polite (“civil”) applause, as a gesture of labor solidarity. But if Steven Salaita enters the room, and you rise to your feet in an enthusiastic standing ovation reserved for a true hero, that’s not a gesture of support. It’s an outpouring of adulation, because Salaita has been brash enough to say what you think: what exactly is wrong with hating Israel?

So at this year’s Middle East Studies Association (MESA) conference, on the very first day, I found myself in a standing-room-only audience of Israel-haters wearing MESA badges, who received Steven Salaita with a standing ovation. When I last attended MESA, in 1998, Edward Said got just such an ovation. Said was larger than life. Salaita is smaller than life—an indifferent speaker whose every other sentence ends in “right?”—but he is the anti-Israel, and in the yawning void left by the passing of Said, even a Salaita will do...




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