Victory: Palestinian teacher defeats Israel lobby smears

Sheffield Hallam University has dropped its investigation of Shahd Abusalama, an activist and assistant lecturer who was falsely accused by Israel lobby groups of anti-Jewish bigotry.

Abusalama was also offered a more secure contract at the university, which is in the north of England. She has resumed teaching her classes.

The university suspended Abusalama from her position on 20 January amid a smear campaign by supporters of Israel. Administrators launched an investigation following a complaint over her social media posts which criticized Israel and its state ideology Zionism.

But following a massive support campaign and public outcry, the university reinstated her on 27 January.

Abusalama did not initially accept the reinstatement offer, demanding that the investigation be dropped first, as it was prompted by malicious smears.

The university still has not yet released details on who – or which groups – filed the complaint against Abusalama.

However, on Thursday, Abusalama was told by university administrators that they would not be proceeding with any investigation, and she returned to teaching.

Precedent

The win sets a precedent for Palestinian scholars and activists who are regularly targeted by Israel lobby groups that seek to destroy their careers over criticism of Israel’s human rights violations, or because they reject its Zionist political ideology.

It also greatly undermines the impact of the IHRA “definition” of anti-Semitism, which is regularly used by Israel lobby groups to smear and censor supporters of Palestinian rights by conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish bigotry.

Representatives for the University and College Union stated that Abusalama “has been wholly exonerated of the false charges of anti-Semitism, brought under the IHRA definition which is unfit for purpose.”

On Wednesday, the UCU branch at Sheffield Hallam University passed a near-unanimous motion to defend Abusalama and to call for a moratorium on the use of the IHRA definition as part of the university’s disciplinary process.

Though the fight continues over the IHRA definition, the defense from Abusalama’s union, legal team and supporters worldwide “made me feel able to go to meetings with university official[s] and claim the role of the accuser, not the accused, and WINNING!,” she wrote on Instagram.

“The support was incredible and you all made it tolerable having to go through such travesty of justice.”

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Congratulations to Shahd Abusalama and all who supported her in defeating the Zionist smear. To the Electronic Intifada, please keep us informed regarding David Miller's ongoing fight to regain his post at Bristol University after being sacked for NOT being an anti-Semite. You read that correctly. He was targeted by the Israel lobby, investigated by the university, cleared of the spurious charge of antisemitism, and then fired. Anyone who can make sense of that deserves some sort of Lewis Carroll Award.

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The allegations, and those making them, have to be put in the public domain; and if they were unreasonably misconceived; then significant redress is required. Otherwise, those making such defamatory claims, will feel free to continue to smear; particularly if as it seems in this case, there was an orchestrated conspiracy; potentially involving registered charities and establishment lobby groups who need to be held to account.

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).