Court orders release of Palestinian feminist scholar arrested in Jerusalem

Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian

An Israeli court ordered the release of Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, a renowned Palestinian feminist scholar, on Friday after she was arrested at her home in Jerusalem’s Old City the previous day.

Shalhoub-Kevorkian, a professor in the faculty of law at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, was released by the court “on condition that she attend an interrogation and sign a financial guarantee,” according to Adalah, a group that advocates for the rights of Palestinians in Israel.

Israeli authorities reportedly accused Shalhoub-Kevorkian, a Palestinian from Haifa who holds Israeli citizenship, of incitement to terrorism over comments she made during an interview on the Makdisi Street podcast.

The police claimed in court that Shalhoub-Kevorkian had engaged in “serious incitement against the state of Israel by making statements against Zionism and even claiming that Israel is committing genocide in the Gaza Strip.”

The police, which are under the authority of far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, noted Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s “significant influence” and said that they found posters in her home “portraying IDF soldiers as an occupying army.”

During a court hearing, the state’s lawyer pointed to Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s factual descriptions of Israel’s use of lethal force against Palestinians, and the withholding of slain Palestinians’ bodies, which are returned to their families in degraded conditions, as examples of professor’s dangerousness.

The state lawyer also raised suspicion that Shalhoub-Kevorkian has ties to Defense for Children International-Palestine, a respected Palestinian human rights group that is among several such groups engaged in international advocacy declared as “terrorist” organizations by Israel.

During the arrest, according to Adalah, police confiscated the feminist scholar’s “mobile phone, computer, documents and books by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.”

After a magistrate court ordered Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s release, “finding no merit to their claim that she is dangerous and should remain in detention,” according to Adalah, the decision was upheld by a district court that rejected a police appeal.

Criticism of Zionism criminalized

Adalah said on Friday that “the police’s arguments clearly show that the arrest of Professor Shalhoub-Kevorkian is unlawful, targeting her research, academic work and opinions critical of Israel in international forums.”

Hassan Jabareen, the professor’s lawyer, said that Shalhoub-Kevorkian had been questioned about her published academic work.

Jabareen “said that this was the first time that an academic in Israel had been questioned about a published academic article, and that these were old articles that have been taught for years,” the Tel Aviv daily Haaretz reported.

The transcript of the magistrate court hearing on Friday shows that Jabareen also said that this was “the first time in 25 years that Israeli police stand before a court and presents, as one of the grounds for detention, that the defendant harshly criticizes Zionism.”

He added that “it is also for the first time we hear since the [International Court of Justice’s] decision on the matter of genocide that Israeli police argue before the court that criticism on the matter of genocide is grounds for arrest.”

Fear and violence

During the 90-minute interview on Makdisi Street published in early March, which can be viewed above, Shalhoub-Kevorkian describes the heavy atmosphere of severe colonial repression suffocating Palestinians in Jerusalem, including in the Armenian Quarter of the Old City where she lives.

She also discusses how Palestinian bodies were pulverized by the thousands while US President Joe Biden repeated lies about beheaded Israeli babies – atrocity propaganda used to manufacture consent for Israel’s violence in Gaza.

She grounds her comments in her opposition to violence against women and children waged in the cause of Palestine.

“Don’t misunderstand me … I was talking to all my friends saying ‘not in my name,’” Shalhoub-Kevorkian says about her reaction to the stories that came out of the 7 October attacks.

“I will never allow anybody to touch a baby, to kidnap a child, to rape a woman, this is not in my name and I will never accept it as a Palestinian, because all our lives we fought for the dignity, for life, for the wholeness of a human, and not the opposite,” she says.

Later in the interview, she discusses how despite the destruction wrought in Gaza, Israel is not powerful and describes Israelis recoiling in fear when they hear her speaking Arabic on the street.

“They should be afraid,” Shalhoub-Kevorkian says, “because criminals are always afraid. They cannot dispossess my land, they cannot displace my people, they cannot kill and not be afraid, so they better be afraid.”

“This is why they are afraid, because they cannot look us in [the] face,” she adds.

These comments, which were presented by Israel’s police as incitement to terror, establish that Israelis’ fear stems from the mistreatment of Palestinians, implying that Israelis will never achieve security through violating the rights of another people.

“The power they have is the power that the global community is giving them,” Shalhoub-Kevorkian explains. She adds that “a global political movement” is needed to stop the “vicious criminals” in Israel’s leadership.

“Just abolish Zionism,” she says of Israel’s state ideology that drives the genocidal violence shattering Palestinian bodies in Gaza.

“It can’t continue … It’s criminal. Only by abolishing Zionism can we continue, this is what I see,” she adds – comments also cited by Israel’s police.

Asked about a UN report on sexual violence on 7 October, Shalhoub-Kevorkian says during the Makdisi Street interview that she reads it as “shaming the state of Israel,” because it’s exploiting women for political aims.

She says that sexual violence against women “always happens in wartime” and “shouldn’t happen.”

She says the question is whether Israel is allowing the proper collection of evidence and notes the absence of any testimonies from women who say they were raped on 7 October.

“If [sexual violence] happened, not in my name, if it didn’t happen, it’s shame on the state to use women’s bodies and sexuality to promote political agendas,” Shalhoub-Kevorkian says.

Israel blocking UN investigators

Israel is obstructing a UN commission of inquiry investigation into human rights violations during the 7 October attacks led by Hamas.

“So far as the government of Israel is concerned, we have not only seen a lack of cooperation, but active obstruction of our efforts to receive evidence from Israeli witnesses and victims to the events that occurred in southern Israel,” Chris Sidoti, one of the investigators tapped by the UN Human Rights Council, recently said.

Israel typically bans UN experts and other human rights investigators access to the territory it controls. But it allowed entry to Pramila Patten, an official appointed by the UN secretary-general, for a probe into alleged sexual violence earlier this year.

That unofficial investigation presented no new evidence of systematic sexual violence. Patten’s report instead states that her team “was unable to establish the prevalence of sexual violence and concludes that the overall magnitude, scope and specific attribution of these violations would require a fully-fledged investigation.”

Patten’s team was unable to locate any victims or speak with any survivors of sexual violence or rape despite appeals and assurances of confidentiality.

Her report finds there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that rape took place on 7 October based on “circumstantial” information which she claims “may be indicative of some forms of sexual violence.”

Patten’s team saw “clear and convincing information that some hostages taken to Gaza have been subjected to various forms of conflict-related sexual violence,” according to her report, but doesn’t elaborate on the information.

Sexual violence against Palestinians

Meanwhile, Palestinians in Gaza have described sexual violence endured in Israeli detention in recent months.

UN experts stated in February that they had received credible allegations that Palestinain women and girls detained by Israeli forces in Gaza have been “subjected to multiple forms of sexual assault, such as being stripped naked and searched by male Israeli army officers.”

“At least two female Palestinian detainees were reportedly raped while others were reportedly threatened with rape and sexual violence,” the experts said.

Palestinian men detained in Gaza have also been subjected to sexual abuse and torture.

Testimonies collected from released detainees by the UN agency for Palestine refugees, as well as that published by media outlets, indicate that this abuse is widespread and systematic.

During the Makdisi Street interview, Shalhoub-Kevorkian and her hosts discuss the pervasive gender-based violence used against Palestinians during Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza – including the public spectacle of detained men stripped of their clothing and soldiers filming themselves playing with Palestinian women’s lingerie.

The feminist scholar’s arrest over the interview represents a serious escalation. Shalhoub-Kevorkian has been been subjected to harassment for months after signing a call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza published by childhood researchers and students in late October.

Hebrew University suspended the professor shortly after the Makdisi Street interview before reinstating her after coming under international criticism.

The university condemned both Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s comments as well as her arrest, saying “there is no place to arrest a person for such remarks, however infuriating they may be.”

Ussama Makdisi, one of three brothers who host the Palestine-focused Makdisi Street podcast, said that “the arrest and persecution of the brilliant Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian is a testament to her strength and the fear colonial Zionists have of one who engages intellectually and ethically in exposing the nature of their project.”

Hebrew University’s role

Through their podcast’s account on X, the Makdisi brothers, who are all academics, said that they view Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s arrest as “an attempt to silence critique of Israeli state violence in a context of a society infused with open genocidal incitement and discourse.”

They added that they “hold the Hebrew University of Jerusalem responsible for the arrest and detention of Professor Shalhoub-Kevorkian because of its persistent and public repression of her academic freedom, which led directly to today’s arrest.”

Israeli academic Neve Gordon, writing on behalf of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies’ committee on academic freedom, told the president and rector of Hebrew University that a letter they had sent to Shalhoub-Kevorkian in late October has the “capacity to incite both verbal and physical violence against” the professor.

Gordon said that the widespread dissemination of the Hebrew University leaders’ letter “has potentially endangered Professor Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s mental and physical wellbeing and contravenes your duty of care towards her.”

The letter from the Hebrew University heads protests Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s endorsement of the ceasefire call and urges her to resign from her academic position.

The Palestinian academic Nimer Sultany also blamed Hebrew University for Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s arrest.

“They incited the mob against their own employee, twice, since October, briefly suspending her from work, because of her anti-war speech and because of their fanatical support for genocide,” Sultany said.

He encouraged engagement with Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s extensive academic work as a means of showing solidarity with the feminist scholar.




We are regaled by leaders about Israel's modern democracy and her freedoms. Then there is this court, that makes allegations that would not be out of place in a Russian one. Fabricated and outrageous evidence, the arbitrariness the outrageous oppressiveness, all so match the standards of a true fascist police state.
Israel is creating for herself a legacy she will not survive. She is killing herself as she imagines she is growing.


"..posters in her home." I am reminded of the phrase freedom is not free. Dr. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian's integrity, as a professional and academic, is indisputable. Israel is anything but free and it may very well encounter negative responses from the world's population moving forward.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

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Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.