Sheffield Hallam drops investigation into Palestinian lecturer, offers her contract

Shahd Abusalama. Pic: 5Pillars

Sheffield Hallam University has dropped an antisemitism investigation into Palestinian lecturer Shahd Abusalama and has offered her a more secure contract.

Abusalama, from Gaza, had been suspended from teaching following a complaint from unnamed sources.

A Sheffield Hallam University spokesperson said: “After some specific concerns were raised in relation to an individual’s proposed appointment as an Associate Lecturer, we had a duty to fully consider the matters brought to our attention. An appointment has now been made following the conclusion of a robust HR process.

“As a university we uphold the principles of free speech and academic freedom. We are proud that our staff and students come from a diverse range of backgrounds, with a wide range of views and beliefs. We do not tolerate discrimination or hate speech, and are committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive culture for all our students and staff.”

Abusalama took to Twitter to call the decision “a fantastic victory for Palestine.”

She said: “@sheffhallamuni will not be progressing with any further investigation of the malicious smears that have been levelled against me. Therefore, I have been wholly exonerated of the false charges of antisemitism, brought under the unfit-for-purpose IHRA definition. I will also be offered a more secure contract that will afford my employee status at @sheffhallamuni. That wouldn’t happen without your support. so THANK YOU Let’s keep this going on until we see a liberated Palestine.”

Abusalama was supported by her professional body, the Universities and Colleges Union, which passed an emergency motion in her defence. They said her public campaigning against Israel falls entirely within the boundaries of acceptable political commentary.

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They also called for the university to apologise to the Palestinian academic and to impose a “moratorium” on the use of the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

Abusalama is a vocal critic of the definition of antisemitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) which says that harsh criticism of Israel is akin to anti-Jewish bigotry.

Abusalama 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.

On its website Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) says that Abusalama shared tweets defending a first-year student who had made a poster that said “Stop the Palestinian Holocaust” and who was accused by a Jewish student of antisemitism.

Ms Abusalama defended the student by citing Jewish individuals who have made the same analogy, and also wrote: “I understand why a first-year university student used #Holocaust when thinking of Israel’s repeated bombardment of Gaza,” adding: “Maybe she thought she’d garner European sympathy for Palestine by evoking ‘Never Again’ slogan.”

According to the IHRA defeinition of antisemitism, which Sheffield Hallam has adopted: “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” is an example of antisemitism.

Campaign Against Antisemitism added: “She is active in the BDS movement to boycott Israel, the tactics of which an overwhelming majority of British Jews find intimidating, and in the past she reportedly urged people to watch a video on YouTube called ‘Truth About Zionist Jews Talmud,’ which presented numerous antisemitic myths about the Talmud. The video’s description asked ‘Why the Zionist don’t want us to know what’s in Talmud? [sic],’ adding: ‘Why they want the teaching of the Talmud to be known only to Jews.’”

According to CAA, Ms Abusalama wrote on Twitter: “Must watch this video that tells you the truth about #zionist #Jews. They take their legitimacy from #Talmud.” In another post, she reportedly wrote that the “Zionist lobbies control all this for their interest,” adding: “They buy presidents/slaves.”

The video and tweets have since been deleted. Shahd Abusalama says the tweets were written in 2012 when she was writing from under fire in besieged Gaza. For further context read an article by Shahd Abusalama here.

Watch 5Pillars’ interview with Shahd Abusalama here.
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