University settles with anti-Israel professor

University of Illinois to pay $600,000 plus legal costs to professor who lost his job offer over a series of anti-Israel tweets.

Ben Ariel ,

Anti-Israel demonstration (illustration)
Anti-Israel demonstration (illustration)
Flash 90

The University of Illinois will pay a professor who lost his job offer over a series of anti-Israel tweets $600,000 plus legal costs, under an agreement trustees approved Thursday, reports The Associated Press (AP).

The agreement settles Steven Salaita's lawsuit against the university with the school admitting no wrongdoing, the university said. Salaita will not be hired and his legal claims against the university in federal and state courts will be voluntarily dismissed.

In the summer of 2014, weeks before he was due to join the faculty the university’s American Indian Studies program, Salaita wrote a series of incendiary tweets regarding the war that was going on at the between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

One tweet likened Israel's defenders to "awful human beings" while yet another suggested it would be no surprise if Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu "appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children."

The tweets spread and before long were reported on by local media. In response, the school revoked its offer to Salaita. A month later the Board of Trustees voted against his hiring.

In a statement Thursday quoted by AP, Salaita said, "This settlement is a vindication for me, but more importantly, it is a victory for academic freedom and the First Amendment."

Trustees approved the agreement 9-1, according to the news agency. The no vote was from Trustee Timothy Koritz, who said he felt the decision not to hire Salaita was correct.

The school's total payment will be $875,000, university spokesman Tom Hardy said. The amount includes $600,000 plus $275,000 in attorneys' fees. However, Salaita's attorney Maria LaHood said legal fees amount to less than 30 percent of the $875,000.

Urbana-Champaign campus interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson said that the amount is significant but less than what the university would have paid had the case gone to trial.

"The university believes that reaching a settlement with Dr. Salaita is the most reasonable option to fully and finally conclude all of the pending issues," she said, according to AP.

Following the incident, Salaita was appointed as the Edward W. Said Chair of American Studies at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon.




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