Sunday 03 July 2022

UK university suspends Palestinian lecturer over anti-Israel tweets

A Palestinian university lecturer has been suspended from teaching by a university in the British city of Sheffield over old anti-Israel Tweets.

Shahd Abusalama, an activist and a PhD student from Gaza, was appointed as an Associate Lecturer at the university last month and was expected to start teaching from January 21.


However, she was informed a day earlier about the cancellation of her class while an investigation into alleged antisemitic comments is carried out.


A university official said that an investigation has been started after they received a complaint against Abusalama and until the investigation concludes she won’t be allowed to teach.


The university authorities did not specify the group or individual who filed the complaint that led to her suspension. However, it's suspected that pro-Israel groups are likely behind the move.


Abusalama is a high-profile Palestinian rights campaigner and a vocal critic of the definition of Zionism. This isn't the first survival battle Abusalama has faced. She and her family are refugees – ethnically cleansed from their home in what is now Israel by Zionist militias in 1948. Like all other Palestinian refugees, they are barred by Israel from returning to their original homes.


With supporters and some students rallying to defend her, this dispute looks set to become an intense battle.


Ms Abusalama tweeted: “Family, friends, and followers, I am under renewed attack by Zionist publications protesting my recent appointment as an Associate Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, where I also recently submitted a PhD dissertation on the historical representation of Palestinian refugees in colonial, humanitarian and Palestinian documentary films, from 1917 and 1993.


The Zionist defamation campaign by Jewish News, Campaign Against Antisemitism and Jewish Chronicle joins a historical pattern where the Zionist colonial narrative is consistently privileged over the narratives of the oppressed.”


She added: “I’m shocked that my academic community seems more interested in protecting its reputation than my academic freedom & wellbeing.”


Meanwhile, a letter signed by more than 60 student unions and societies of different universities has demanded that the university reverses its decision and issues a public apology for the harm caused to Abusalama.


The letter reads: “Sheffield Hallam University has now made itself an accomplice in the unrelenting targeting of Palestinian academics and students on UK campuses. Shahd Abusalama has not only been an incredible campaigner, continuing to fight for Palestinian rights despite the intensifying government crackdown on Palestinian activism, she has also been an inspiring figure in the Palestinian community since arriving in the UK.


She has provided immense support for us as students, working closely with many of us as we were beginning to get involved in student activism, and putting our safety and wellbeing first. These allegations are not only a grave insult to Shahd’s character as an explicitly anti-racist scholar-activist, but are a clear attempt at shattering her strength and confidence as a person who speaks outwardly about Israeli war crimes.”


And the Association of Students Activism for Palestine (ASAP) in a statement said: “ASAP is calling for Sheffield Hallam University to reinstate Shahd Abusalama. We condemn the defamatory claims against her which are rooted in anti-Palestinian racism and are a part of a trend attempting to censor Palestinians across UK universities.”

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