Wise, University of Illinois guilty of violating Illinois Hate Crimes Laws in Salaita firing?
By Ray Hanania
A “Hate Crime” occurs when a victim is intentionally singled out because of his or her identity. Isn’t that what happened this week to Dr. Steven Salaita, a Palestinian professor who was fired because he criticized the government policies of a foreign country, Israel?
Salaita, a well-known and highly regarded writer and author in the American Arab community, was fired from his teaching job at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana this week after receiving complaints that Salaita had criticized Israel, a foreign country, in his Twitter posts over Israel’s conduct in the the war in the Gaza Strip.
Salaita had just left Virginia Tech and moved with his family to take a position as an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in the University’s American Indian Studies program when the discriminatory action against him was taken.
Like all Americans, Salaita has the right to express his opinions. And when those opinions involve a foreign government, he has an extra right of protection from personal attacks and racist libel. Yet, because his target was the government of the foreign country of Israel, he has been singled out for retribution for that criticism, because he is Arab making those attacks.
Racist defenders of Israel continually attempt to equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. It’s a false argument that is embraced by many, including Cary Nelson, the pro-Israel former national president of the American Association of University Professors (2006-2012) who is defending Salaita’s firing. But Nelson does what most anti-Arab haters do and he twists the facts and transform words and phrases from criticism of governments, politicians and military wars into one asserting falsely that the attacks and criticism are meant against “Jews.”
The charge of anti-Semitism has been so frequently used by pro-Israel groups to respond to justified criticism that the claim of anti-Semitism is losing its edge and meaning. It’s become little more than a tool of hate rather than a defense against hatred.
Fortunately, a growing number of Americans and institutions are seeing pro-Israel activists for what they are, people who place a foreign country above the best interests of America. The Illinois AAUP Committee A issued a strong condemnation of the firing of Steven Salaita by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Click to read that statement. And, these champions of American free speech and civili rights can turn to Hate Crime laws to prosecute these individuals and educational leaders for their misconduct. The person being blamed for Salaita’s dismissal is Phyllis Wise the Chancellor of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Wise should be charged with committing a hate crime if in fact she ordered the dismissal purely on the basis of Salaita expressing his views criticizing Israel.
Nelson has argued in the past that boycotting Israel, which advocates argue is a form of legitimate protest, “violates Academic freedom.”
Like other anti-Arab racists, Nelson attacks Salaita’s support of the Boycott movement against Israel. Again, do I need to remind you that Israel is a foreign country that has been accused of committing the same war crimes that were committed by the former Apartheid government of South Africa? The debate over Israel, the foreign country, and Israel’s government conduct is a legitimate debate and Americans should be allowed to debate it.
The Illinois Law, adopted in 2010, is clear on what is a hate crime. Click here for an overview of Hate Crimes laws nationwide.
Here is the text of the Illinois law:
(720 ILCS 5/12-7.1) (from Ch. 38, par. 12-7.1)
Sec. 12-7.1. Hate crime.
(a) A person commits hate crime when, by reason of the actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or national origin of another individual or group of individuals, regardless of the existence of any other motivating factor or factors, he commits assault, battery, aggravated assault, misdemeanor theft, criminal trespass to residence, misdemeanor criminal damage to property, criminal trespass to vehicle, criminal trespass to real property, mob action, disorderly conduct, harassment by telephone, or harassment through electronic communications as these crimes are defined in Sections 12-1, 12-2, 12-3(a), 16-1, 19-4, 21-1, 21-2, 21-3, 25-1, 26-1, 26.5-2, and paragraphs (a)(2) and (a)(5) of Section 26.5-3 of this Code, respectively.
(b) Except as provided in subsection (b-5), hate crime is a Class 4 felony for a first offense and a Class 2 felony for a second or subsequent offense.
(b-5) Hate crime is a Class 3 felony for a first offense and a Class 2 felony for a second or subsequent offense if committed:
(1) in a church, synagogue, mosque, or other
building, structure, or place used for religious worship or other religious purpose;
(2) in a cemetery, mortuary, or other facility used
for the purpose of burial or memorializing the dead;
(3) in a school or other educational facility,
including an administrative facility or public or private dormitory facility of or associated with the school or other educational facility;
(4) in a public park or an ethnic or religious
(5) on the real property comprising any location
specified in clauses (1) through (4) of this subsection (b-5); or
(6) on a public way within 1,000 feet of the real
property comprising any location specified in clauses (1) through (4) of this subsection (b-5).
(b-10) Upon imposition of any sentence, the trial court shall also either order restitution paid to the victim or impose a fine up to $1,000. In addition, any order of probation or conditional discharge entered following a conviction or an adjudication of delinquency shall include a condition that the offender perform public or community service of no less than 200 hours if that service is established in the county where the offender was convicted of hate crime. In addition, any order of probation or conditional discharge entered following a conviction or an adjudication of delinquency shall include a condition that the offender enroll in an educational program discouraging hate crimes if the offender caused criminal damage to property consisting of religious fixtures, objects, or decorations. The educational program may be administered, as determined by the court, by a university, college, community college, non-profit organization, or the Holocaust and Genocide Commission. Nothing in this subsection (b-10) prohibits courses discouraging hate crimes from being made available online. The court may also impose any other condition of probation or conditional discharge under this Section.
(c) Independent of any criminal prosecution or the result thereof, any person suffering injury to his person or damage to his property as a result of hate crime may bring a civil action for damages, injunction or other appropriate relief. The court may award actual damages, including damages for emotional distress, or punitive damages. A judgment may include attorney’s fees and costs. The parents or legal guardians, other than guardians appointed pursuant to the Juvenile Court Act or the Juvenile Court Act of 1987, of an unemancipated minor shall be liable for the amount of any judgment for actual damages rendered against such minor under this subsection (c) in any amount not exceeding the amount provided under Section 5 of the Parental Responsibility Law.
(d) “Sexual orientation” means heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality.
(Source: P.A. 96-1551, eff. 7-1-11; 97-161, eff. 1-1-12; 97-1108, eff. 1-1-13; 97-1109, eff. 1-1-13.)
The Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan should immediately investigate the actions of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and apply the state’s Hate Crimes laws in defense of a professor who has been singled out not because of his political views but because his political views have targeted the foreign country of Israel and because the victim, Steven Salaita, is an American Arab.
The twisted writings of individuals like Cary Nelson should also be reviewed as possibly violating the State’s Hate Law provisions also because they distort, twist and falsely portray legitimate political arguments into arguments of racism, religious hatred and “anti-Semitism.”
The most disturbing aspect of the racist attacks against Steven Salaita is that the viciousness of using the term “anti-Semitism” to denounce a critic is so widely used that it includes anyone who is Arab and who has criticized Israel. The point is that Israel’s defenders attack anyone who criticizes Israel irregardless of whether the attacks are vitriolic or driven by anti-Semitism or not. Their goal is to suppress and prevent and deny any criticism of Israel.
In doing so, these extremist defenders of the foreign country of Israel are in fact undermining the civil rights movement and weakening the fight against real racism, real anti-Semitism and real religious bigotry and discrimination.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and political columnist. He is the managing editor of The Arab Daily News www.TheArabDailyNews.com.)
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