CHICAGO - The University of Illinois' decision to withdraw a teaching offer to Steven Salaita, who made public anti-Semitic comments on Twitter, is not going away. Next month, LGBT Liberation's Andy Thayer is holding a lecture series featuring Salaita. Groups such as Chicago's CodePINK, American Muslims for Palestine, the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, and the University of Illinois English Department are among those sponsoring the events.
One Washington D.C. media source is pressing Governor Quinn to publicly comment on the university's decision. The issue could be one that determines how Chicago's politically active Jewish and Muslim communities side in the upcoming election.
"Quinn’s silence on the measure has only added fuel to the fire, insiders say, and could become a political liability for the governor, who is locked in an increasingly tight race with Republican challenger Bruce Rauner," the Free Beacon wrote.
The Rauner campaign, which has made it a practice to avoid controversies like this, must consider the controversy a potential political asset because they re-circulated the D.C. story to the media late last week. The story included a statement from Rauner:
“There is a line between academic expression and hateful rhetoric that blames Jews for anti-Semitism,” Rauner said in a statement provided to the Free Beacon. “Salaita crossed that line, and I strongly support the decision made by [University of Illinois] Chancellor [Phyllis] Wise and the Board of Trustees.”
Rauner went on to slam Quinn, who sits on the U of I’s board, for staying silent in the face of anti-Semitic bias.
“What shocks me is that Pat Quinn has been silent on this issue—absolutely silent in the face of hate speech at our state’s flagship university—where the governor has a seat on the board," said Rauner. "This isn’t the first time he’s been silent—this is a pattern of silence from Pat Quinn on a core issue.”
For Andy Thayer, the issues are Israel's influence and Salaita's speech rights. That's why he's organizing the lecture series with Professor Salaita, he told Illinois Review.
"The issues are whether or not one supports the colonial domination of the Palestinian people, and uses censorship of academic freedom to enforce that position," Thayer said.
Rauner's statement about Salaita, and criticism of Quinn, has raised questions about conflicting reports regarding the GOP candidate's religious affiliation.
and in the Jewish matsov.com newsletter:
But those headlines conflict with what Rauner told a Round Lake Tea Party group last November - that he was raised Episcopalian, and failed to mention his current religious affiliation:
"I’m the oldest of four kids. Half-Swedish, Half-German. German Catholic, Swedish Lutheran. My parents argued about it, I was raised Episcopalian," Rauner said. "What are you going to do?”
Media reports have stated that Rauner's wife, Diana, is Jewish.
The Rauner camp has refused to comment on the discrepency, or to clarify the candidate's faith.
Thayer says Rauner's religious affiliation is irrelevant because the Salatia flap is not about religion.
"People of different faiths are to be found on both sides of those issues, and to my knowledge, Rauner had nothing to do with the make up of the current U of I board or its vote against Professor Salaita anyway," he said.
Details about the upcoming lecture series are HERE.