Oh Those Who Pass Between Fleeting Words
|It never occurred to me that our lives, until then so closely interwoven could unravel and separate over a thing like that... If
we’d understood that back then—who knows?—maybe we’d have kept a tighter hold of one another.” - Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
Since my father was a general and I served as a soldier in the IDF terrorist organization, people often ask me how is it that Israeli children who are raised in a Western style democracy become such monsters once they are in uniform? The detailed answer can be found in my book, The General’s Son due out in February 2012, but the short answer is this: Education – Racism requires a mindset that is fashioned by education. In order to rationalize and justify the ethnic cleansing the Israeli education system portrays Palestinians as culturally inferior, violent and bent on the annihilation of the Jews, and at the same time, void of a true national identity. Palestinian national identity is but a figment of some anti-Semitic imagination.
Israeli children are educated to see the Palestinians as a problem that must be solved and as a threat that must be eliminated. They can go through life, as I did growing up in Jerusalem, without ever meeting a Palestinian child. They know nothing of the life or culture of Palestinians who quite often live only several hundred meters from them.
And yet, there is a reason that Salaita was critiquing Israel and not Russia or North Korea. Salaita was hired by the University of Illinois’ American Indian Studies department, based on his contribution to the emerging field of comparative indigenous studies. He was going to provide scholarly expertise on the comparative situation of colonized peoples in North America and Palestine.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, the most-discussed aspect of this case as well as the least-discussed — civility, on the one hand, and race and indigeneity, on the other — are related.
It’s not simply that a scholar of color is being targeted for being “too angry,” or that a critic of Israel is being targeted by the Zionist lobby, or that “civility” is being used to justify the neoliberalization of the university and perpetuate colonialism (although it is all of these things).
It’s also that these are in some sense interchangeable. “Civility” is the sharp end of this particular spear of racism and colonialism, which drives the targeting of Salaita in particular and critics of Israel in general.
Indeed, the effects of U of I’s actions actually replicate those of colonization and dispossession. As a result of his un-hiring, for example, Salaita notes that his “family has no income, no health insurance, and no home of our own. Our young son has been left without a preschool. I have lost the great achievement of a scholarly career: lifetime tenure with its promised protections of academic freedom.”
It is difficult to ignore the bitter irony of a Palestinian American becoming homeless and destitute as a result of Zionist lobbying efforts to un-hire him.
And yet, it isn’t even ironic. After all, “irony” implies an outcome that is surprising or unexpected."
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