Freedom Center Shillman Fellow Sues Censorship Award Winner DePaul University

Israel-hating faculty and students persecute Dr. Jason Hill.

Dr. Jason Hill, a philosophy professor at DePaul University in Chicago and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, filed a lawsuit on April 20, 2020 against DePaul University for its outrageous attempt to silence him with defamatory accusations, demonization and intimidation. The lawsuit, filed in the Circuit Court in Cook County, Illinois, arises from a Faculty Council resolution passed last year condemning Professor Hill for his writing of a strong pro-Israel op-ed published in The Federalist. Dr. Hill’s op-ed article is entitled “The Moral Case For Israel Annexing The West Bank—And Beyond.” The lawsuit also names interim provost Salma Ghanem and Scott Paeth, a professor of religious studies who led the campaign for the passage of the resolution when he was serving as the president of the DePaul Faculty Council.

Dr. Hill, a tenured professor, was not fired – this time. But his persecutors denied him due process, trashed his reputation, harassed him, and attempted to chill his future expression of opinion on topics considered too controversial for the snowflakes on the DePaul University campus. Dr. Hill’s complaint seeks an award of damages to vindicate his contractual and due process rights, clear his name, and compensate him for the pain, humiliation, and mental distress that the defendants inflicted upon him with their censure resolution and other actions.

Dr. Hill’s complaint alleges that the defendants “have subjected Dr. Hill to unlawful racial discrimination in that as an African-American they expect him to adhere to the opinion that African-Americans whose ancestors were slaves must view the Palestinians as an enslaved race and the Israeli government as a slave regime.” He was singled out, the complaint says, as “the only member of DePaul’s faculty ever to have been subject of a Faculty Council resolution for publicly expressing opinions of any sort, much less regarding actions of the Israeli government concerning Palestinian residents of the territories in the West Bank and Gaza.” According to the complaint, Dr. Hill suffered a loss in the number  of classes he was assigned to teach and in the number of students enrolled as “the intended result of the unfair campaign of harassment against him.” He also received “anonymous threats of physical violence that DePaul has refused to punish or meaningfully investigate.”

Dr. Hill’s apparent “sin” leading up to the Faculty Council’s censure resolution was offending certain DePaul students and faculty members with his opinion, considered heresy on leftwing campuses, that Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians in their decades-old conflict are morally and legally justified. Dr. Hill opined that “Israel has the moral right to annex all of the West Bank (even Area C) for a plethora of reasons.” He correctly pointed out that Israel won control over the territories after it successfully defended itself against an attack from Jordan. “There can be no such thing as legitimate ‘Palestinian Territory’ in a geographic region legally seized in a defensive war instigated by a foreign aggressor,” Dr. Hill argued. The Palestinian leadership “has rejected all plausible peace offerings from Israel, preferring instead war and destruction.” Dr. Hill repudiated the fallacy of moral equivalence between Israel’s advanced democratic culture and the Palestinians’ “regressive” culture of terrorism, corruption, and “authoritarian forms of governance subject to none of the checks and balances that characterize Israel’s Knesset.”

The Israel haters at DePaul University engaged in scaremongering in response to Dr. Hill’s article. They organized massive campus protests against Dr. Hill, chanting, "Professor Hill, you can't hide! / We know you want genocide." The DePaul chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) organized a rally at which its student president, Jinan Chehade, accused Dr. Hill of “calling for the ethnic genocide of Palestinians.” Assistant Director of Religious Diversity at DePaul and the Muslim chaplain on campus, Abdul-Malik Ryan, showed up and exclaimed that Dr. Hill was “openly calling for a group to be exterminated.”

Students also circulated a petition calling “upon the administration to censure Professor Hill for his heinous statements against marginalized communities.” The petition claimed that Dr. Hill’s article created “unsafe and uncomfortable spaces for everyone, especially Palestinian and Muslim students.” In short, the students were reprising the kind of pressure leftists have used in the past to bar conservative thought leaders from speaking on the DePaul campus.

Meanwhile, the Students for Justice in Palestine and other students held their anti-apartheid week against Israel on campus two weeks after Dr. Hill’s article was published. They expected DePaul to respect the right of pro-Palestinian activists to attack Israel with blood-libel. All the while, they demanded that Dr. Hill be condemned for writing in support of the moral case for Israel’s annexation of the West Bank. And the pro-Palestinian activists got what they wanted.

The DePaul Faculty Council obliged the student Israel-haters by passing its censure resolution on May 1, 2019. The faculty resolution was filled with baseless accusations, including the malicious falsehood that Dr. Hill’s article “promotes racism toward Arabs generally and Palestinians in particular” and “advocates for war crimes and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian populations of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.” The faculty resolution condemned “in the strongest possible terms both the tone and content of” Professor Hill’s article. The resolution claimed the article “failed to exercise adequate concern for accuracy, restraint, or respect for the opinions of others.” It urged Dr. Hill “to seriously reconsider his positions on these issues, to take cognizance of the perspectives of other scholars on these issues, as well as the real harm his words have caused to students and other members of our community.”

In Orwellian fashion, the resolution extolled the virtues of “academic freedom” while painting the equivalent of a scarlet letter on Dr. Hill’s chest for presenting his controversial but honest and well-reasoned viewpoints in his article – the hallmark of true academic freedom. The words of advice in the faculty resolution that Dr. Hill “seriously reconsider his positions on these issues” are eerily reminiscent of communist style thought control.

Interim provost Salma Ghanem engaged in her own Orwellian illogic in a statement she issued after the resolution’s passage. Ghanem quoted Dr. Hill’s words out of context to give the wrong impression of what he was really saying. “At DePaul,” she stated, “we value all individuals equally and are truly disheartened that a member of our own community asserts ‘Not all cultures are indeed equal. Some are abysmally inferior and regressive based on their comprehensive philosophy and fundamental principles—or lack thereof—that guide or fail to protect the inalienable rights of their citizens.’”

Ghanem either lacks basic reading comprehension or is willing to turn a blind eye to the Palestinian leadership’s denial of basis human rights to its own people. Dr. Hill did not say that the Palestinian people should be denied the inalienable rights that belong to all human beings. Indeed, he affirmed in his article the “intrinsic humanity” of all. Rather, Dr. Hill argued that the Palestinian people themselves, not Israel, are responsible for their own decline as a society. They have accepted a malevolent ideology that is the antithesis of “freedom, the basic liberal principles of individual rights, and a free market economy.” Dr. Hill focused on the cultural inferiority of Palestinian society in its current form, which is infused with “kleptocracy, corruption, nepotism, and authoritarian forms of governance.” Furthermore, the Palestinian people, he wrote, “unilaterally accepted” the war of terror launched by Fatah after the 2000 Camp David Peace Summit and have overwhelmingly approved of their terrorist leaders, whether they are from Hamas or Fatah. “No constituted people responsible for the election and appointment of terrorist actors can or should be entrusted with the responsibility of voting,” he wrote.

In short, Dr. Hill was judging the Palestinian people as a whole by their destructive actions, not because of their race or ethnic background. Salma Ghanem and her fellow DePaul persecutors of Dr. Hill created a completely distorted caricature of Dr. Hill’s arguments, which they then used as a strawman to knock down as a justification for the censure resolution

“I won’t be silenced,” Dr. Hill said in a phone interview with The DePaulia, the campus newspaper, following the passage of the censure resolution. “I won’t be stopped, I will continue writing my op-ed pieces, I will continue pursuing my very ambitious scholarly works. So they can issue formal censures or informal censures or whatever they want to call it. It will not stop me and it will not prohibit me from expressing my freedom of speech in any way or form.”

Scott Paeth, the faculty leader who pushed for the resolution against Dr. Hill, tried to square the circle by claiming that the resolution was “primarily about the affirmation of Jason Hill’s academic freedom, while at the same time affirming the Faculty Council’s position that the tone and content of his article were worthy of condemnation.” He added, "I wouldn't call what we did a censure,” which is precisely what it was.

Paeth’s statement rationalizing the censure resolution against Dr. Hill was not only convoluted. It was a classic example of leftwing hypocrisy. Paeth himself wrote an anti-Israel, pro-BDS opinion that he posted in 2015. He should have known that his endorsement of BDS would be deeply offensive to Jewish students on campus who supported Israel, but he wrote it anyway.

Paeth expressed support for a resolution approved by his United Church of Christ “calling for boycotts and divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.” Paeth claimed that Israel’s “once-substantial international legitimacy” would continue to “dwindle” unless it pursued “a just resolution with the Palestinian people” and abandoned “the policy of treating Palestinians as second-class citizens and worse.” In other words, Paeth espoused the Palestinian victimhood narrative. Paeth falsely claimed that Gaza was still occupied by Israel ten years after Israel’s complete unilateral withdrawal and dismantlement of all settlements there.

While claiming that he was not advocating “the wholesale destruction of Israel,” Paeth supported a boycott resolution that advocated using concerted economic pressure in a discriminatory fashion against Israeli Jews. Despite his self-righteous denial of engaging in anti-Semitism, Paeth’s article meets the "3D test" of anti-Semitism - Demonization, Double Standards, and Delegitimization. Yet while DePaul University’s faculty censured Dr. Hill’s strong pro-Israel article, it gave Paeth’s strong pro-Palestinian posting a pass.

“I am seeking justice on my behalf against administrative bodies at DePaul University who have irreparably damaged my academic reputation and sought to deliberately undermine my moral integrity as both a scholar and as a  person,” Dr. Hill said. “I have been singled out for punishment and defamation of character for, among other things, writing an opinion essay in my own name which strongly reflected my moral support for the state of Israel.”

In 2018, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education decided for the first time to award a Lifetime Censorship Award, choosing the one university that “threatens the free speech rights of its students and faculty so often that it deserves individual infamy: DePaul University.” DePaul has shown how much it deserved this award with its outrageous treatment of Dr. Hill for simply speaking his mind.