Letter to the Editor: Steven Salaita’s visit promotes division in Guilford’s community

While I, some of my peers, a few Guilford faculty and staff are attempting to create a safe campus climate for all students, I am sorry to hear of a campus event that is a step backwards in our efforts to make Guilford a more inclusive and safe place for Jewish students. This event will create walls and divide the student body at Guilford to an extent that I do not care to see.

On Tuesday, Feb. 3, Steven Salaita will be speaking at Guilford. He is sponsored by the English Department, the peace & conflict studies program, Friends Center, the women’s, gender & sexuality studies program and Students for Justice in Palestine.

“A Palestinian-American author and scholar, Salaita was recruited by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Department of American Indian Studies,” reads the Guilford website. “In July, just before classes started, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis Wise ‘dehired’ him because he posted tweets critical of Israel’s bombing of Gaza. The tone and language were deemed ‘uncivil.’”

To say his tweets criticizing Israel were merely “uncivil” is a mischaracterization.

“Zionists: transforming ‘anti-Semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948,” read one tweet.

“At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anyone be surprised?” read another.

“You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not, I wish all the f—— West Bank settlers would go missing,” he tweeted after the kidnapping of three teenage Israeli youth.

To Steven Salaita’s sponsors, I mean no disrespect, but I need to say this: We can do better than this man. We deserve better than an anti-Semitic, spiteful voice on our campus. Over the past few months, we have strived towards understanding and kindness to others, towards compassionate listening and careful words. We have made great strides. So why give the podium to a man who conducts himself in such a disgusting, outrageous manner? And unapologetically? Why choose a speaker that divides us rather than unifies us? Having this man on campus will make students uncomfortable and will create more walls than you can possibly imagine. I am not against having a variety of different speakers on campus. However, this is a radical loose cannon who will do nothing to create a healthy discussion.

I am disappointed and disturbed by Salaita’s visit, and I hope the College can avoid hosting such antagonizing speakers in the future.

L’shalom (towards peace).